As of yesterday, my parents’ home – my childhood home – is now defunct.
Mum and Dad moved in to that house 50 years ago this summer, the year I turned 10. It’s changed a lot since then – replacement kitchen, additional downstairs shower room, multiple changes of use of internal and external spaces over time – but still, it’s a bit odd to think of neither parent living there any more.
Dad (who turns 87 on Thursday) now lives in a residential care home – he’s had five strokes and has vascular dementia, so has needed proper nursing care for the last 18 months. Thankfully he is somewhere where he is safe and cared for, he seems happy enough and appears to be settled where he is.
Mum (who will be 81 next Sunday) continued to live alone in the rural home she shared with Dad for all those years, but she too has recently been diagnosed with early stage dementia, so has finally agreed to move from there in to a very pleasant Sheltered Housing development in the nearest town, much closer to Dad.
Her new rented home is much smaller – just one bedroom, a bathroom, and an open plan living room and kitchen – so she’s taken with her what she needs and wants (and whatever will fit) and the rest of the old house and contents have to be cleared and sorted and made ready for putting on the market.
So Mum moved in to her new, self-styled ‘old-lady’ place yesterday, and thankfully slept well on her first night in her new bed. Tomorrow my husband and I will be going out to the old house to look for some necessary documentation I need to complete on Mum’s behalf. And then we can start planning ahead for whatever comes next.
It does feel a bit strange to think of the house not being in our family any more, but neither my brother nor I have ever had any wish to live there as adults ourselves. In our late fifties we each have our own lives, our own families, our own homes. That was Mum and dad’s dream home, not ours. And anyway, it has to be sold to pay for Dad’s ongoing care, and Mum’s new life alone.
I have a lifetime of memories wrapped up in that house, some great, some not so good. But it was our family home. It was where I grew up. Realistically it should have been sold years ago, and Mum and Dad should have moved somewhere smaller and more practical and accessible when their health first started failing, probably about a decade ago.
But instead they chose to sit tight in denial and hold on to the bitter end, insisting that they would both manage to live there independently until they died. However now in their 80s neither are fit to be there any longer, they both now live elsewhere and as of yesterday it falls entirely to my brother and I to sort everything out and sell up for them.
Fifty years of the accumulated stuff of life – paperwork, personal possessions, old photographs, family mementos and memories, toys and teddies. Not to mention all the excess furniture and fripperies, including a full set of my maternal grandmother’s wedding china from the late 1930s kept wrapped up and stored in a box ‘for best’. And Dad’s old army suitcase from when he did his National Service in the 1950s.
Of course there will be some things of sentimental value to other family members that will definitely be kept, but much of what is remaining after everything is sorted out will inevitably be donated to charity. It seems a bit heartless, but what else can we do? Dad doesn’t remember any more, and Mum no longer has any room to keep it all.
I have no idea how long it will take us to clear things away enough to put the house on the market, no idea how I will feel at the end of the day when all is said and done. But right now all I can say is I’m dreading it…
Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Defunct