Friday, 12 August 2011

Clearing out a house

is never fun.
Today my father and I are going to his brother's house. We need to do some clearing out. His brother, younger by three years, has just been declared mentally incompetent. He is now in a nursing home and will not be returning to the house which has been his home for thirty years. The house itself will be cared for by a house sitter until my cousin can return to Australia and arrange to sell it.
There are things in the house which must be removed however and some of these are, naturally, very personal. This worries my father. He hates the thought of going through his little brother's home and removing anything. He knows it has to be done but that does not make it any easier. For my father all this is an almost unforgiveable invasion of his brother's privacy.
I do not like the thought of doing it but it does not worry me in the way it worries my father. I am another generation removed. I did not know my uncle when he was a child. I did not grow up with him. As a child I rarely saw him. We have never been close. That helps.
I have made a list of things that need to be checked and things that need to be done. We are getting some help from the friend who is driving us there and one of my uncle's much younger friends. My father has read the list, agreed those things need to be done and said he would not have thought of all of them.
To me the list is logical. I thought of the house and "looked inside" each room. I mentally pictured what needs to be done in each room before the professional cleaners come in. It sounds cold, clinical and uncaring but I know it has to be done.
What will be much harder for me will be to look out at my uncle's garden. He designed it. It is a work of art because he was an artist. He designed the extension to the house so that he could see the garden from the kitchen and his living area. He left the door off his bedroom so he could see out into the garden. His work room has glass windows so he could see on to the small patio.
Up the staircase there is another room with a balcony where it is possible to look down on the garden.
The garden dominated his life. When he could no longer do the heavy work someone else came in to help. He has had to leave it behind. There is a garden where he is now living. It is lovely but it is not his garden. He can no longer see well enough to see either of them.
All may not be lost. There are some scented items in his garden. At least two will grow well in pots. There is space for those pots where he now lives. He can have a little bit of the garden with him there after all.


Rachel Fenton said...

You may not have been close to your uncle but your father's grief must be all too tangible. To lose a brother is one thing, to lose a brother and have him go on living as a reminder of that loss must be difficult indeed. Your father is lucky to have your help.

dandelion girl said...

The garden sounds amazing and you don't sound detached and clinical when you talk about it. As Rachel says in her comment, it's hard to grieve for a loved one when they are gone, but still physically there. I think the pot plants sound like an excellent idea. x

JO said...

It is so very difficult going through someone else's things - I think that stems from the way our belongings grow into our own stories. This garden is part of the way your uncle has become the person he is now. And it sounds like a beautiful, living reminder of everything he was.

And the other stuff - your father is part of their stories, maybe, in a way that you aren't. You are in for a difficult few days - hope it goes well.