Saturday, 13 August 2011

There is no door

on my uncle's bedroom. There was when he bought the strange little house. There were swing doors of the sort you see in a Western saloon in an American cowboy movie. My uncle had them taken off so he could see the patio leading to the garden.
Inside the bedroom there is a double bed. His bedclothes are grey, green, silver and black. He liked to think he was in twenties, not his eighties.
There is a bedside table. His personal alarm is still there - something else to be dealt with. There is a reading lamp. It has the brightest possible globe and no lampshade, a sign of his failing eyesight.
There is a chest of drawers. On top there is a hairbrush, although he ceased using a hairbrush some years ago. There are some old prescription glasses he has not used for at least eight years. There is also a picture of one of his children, my deceased cousin. It is a nice picture which captures my cousin's personality. My uncle has never managed to come to terms with my cousin's death. I can only try to imagine what it must be like to lose a child rather than a parent or a partner.
There are two wardrobes. I open the first one reluctantly. I know that some of his clothing has already been taken to the nursing home. This was the best of his clothing, the clothing that was considered by one of his carers to be the most suitable. It must have been difficult to find things. My uncle was an eccentric dresser. He wore clothes more suited to a teenager - but even a teenager would have been embarrassed by some of them. His wardrobe was filled with wild trousers, ferocious t-shirts and fiery sweatshirts. He was an angry man and it revealed itself in his clothing, especially his scant summer shorts and string vests.
I know the nursing home will not allow him to have what they consider to be "dangerous" footwear. He will not be able to wear the scuffs or the plastic garden shoes. My sister, a physiotherapist, has been trying to get him to wear something a little more sensible for years. Now he uses a walker and it is generally considered unsafe for him to move around alone. He has, among his many other health problems, diabetes and heart disease. His extremities, especially his feet, are purple rather than pink.
I dump all the shoes in one of the garbage bags I have brought with me. I can sort them out at home. I do the same with all the clothing there and move on to the next wardrobe where I repeat the procedure. I clear the dressing table. There is another wardrobe in what would once have been a dressing room and I do the same there. My uncle liked to buy clothes.
The friend who has come to help brings the wheelie bin into the bathroom. I empty the entire contents of the cabinet, apart from three sealed packs of pink tissues, into the bin. I do the same in with the "small" bathroom at the other end of the house.
Our friend has dismantled the computer and the sound system. They are being stored elsewhere. He has taken some quite valuable paintings and two valuable rugs from the wall. They are being stored elsewhere too.
The friend who drove us there is checking the gopher, setting it to fully charge the battery and ensuring that it is in good order. He used to work for the company who sold it so he knows about these things.
We move the wheelie bin to the kitchen. I throw out the last few things in the refrigerator - all past the use by date. I move on to the food cupboard and throw out anything past the use by date. The rest is packed to be given to charity. I do the same for the additional food cupboard in the laundry.
There is alcohol in the house. We leave it there. The person who house sits will be welcome to it.
I have given my father the job of clearing one small cupboard of his brother's personal papers. They are old papers. The new papers are in the filing cabinet and the other two men have already wheeled that out and taken it to the house where things are being stored.
"Don't read what's there," I warn my father, "Just pack it in the box."
Of course he cannot do that. It is all too much for him. He had insisted on coming but it has upset him deeply.
We were going to get the man who does the gardening to make up a couple of pots with scented plants for my uncle. Instead I give my father the pots and send him out into the garden with the suggestion that he knows what to do out there better than any of us. He nods and goes off almost cheerfully. Putting plants together is better than pulling papers apart.


JO said...

Oh Cat what a crap time you are having. You write this so starkly - but piling anyone's lifestory into binbags is heartbreaking. Hope you are ok.

Anonymous said...

You okay Cat? Your father said you went down again today. Have you checked the bookshelves...there are a couple of Japanese art books there - worth a lot and probably should be removed before house sitter moves in. Chris

catdownunder said...

Thanks Jo - we are getting there. Dad did not go with us today which made it much easier.
Yes, coping Chris - much easier for us than Dad. And yes, we have found a number of books - and the linen cupboard had a whole shelf of his own artwork, mostly charcoal sketches.

jeanfromcornwall said...

That has to be the nastiest job. I still shudder to recall the misery of sorting out the things when my parents were gone. It felt like wanton destruction, but as an only child there was nobody else to do it. It is emotion that is hard to cope with and includes a helping of anger too. You have my sympathy.

dandelion girl said...

I remember going through this when my Granny was put into a home. My father ended up having to do everything and it broke my heart to see him wandering around the house trying to sort it all out burdened with the guilt of it all.