Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Saying goodbye all over again

I'm writing this through a haze of tears.

The last four days have been very difficult.  Actually, difficult doesn't even come close to how hard it's been. Today we will close the door of my parents' house for the last time.  The house is being emptied of 40 years of belongings and memories and it's hard to accept that this will be the last day we'll be able to go inside.

We've spent the last four days packing and sorting, and trying to decide what will go where. And it's not just Dad's things it's Mum's too because when she died Dad didn't want anything moved or taken away, and so it's now that we're having to do this doubly hard task. It's been like losing both of them all over again and my heart feels so tight in my chest and the sobbing comes in big, sweeping waves.

The house was completely full of their belongings, our belongings. Every room was crammed with stuff. Mum was a voracious reader, she always had a book on the go and it's been heartbreaking packing her books up and finding the makeshift bookmarks with her distinctive handwriting on them - lottery numbers, shopping lists, people's phone numbers.  Just deciding what to do with those pieces of paper, that were just scraps used as temporary bookmarks, has been horrible.  How do you throw these little mementos of a much missed Mum away?  

As we slowly emptied the house we found things that had been there all along, hidden and private, and now for our reluctant eyes.  A letter written to Mum and Dad by my brother not long before he died, telling them how much he loved them; a birthday card made by Dad and given to Mum when times were hard - he made it out of some leftover wallpaper and wrote his own corny verse, but she loved it enough to keep it for all those years; cards written to Nana and Grandad; old photographs of a smiling and barely recognisable family; handwritten recipes; some of my favourite childhood books with my name written in my best joined up writing inside the front cover. A lifetime of one family.

When the wall clock with its steady tick-tock was silenced and taken off the wall it completely changed the atmosphere of the house, and I thought that was probably the saddest I would feel.  But nothing prepared me for coming back to the house after taking some things to the charity shop, and standing in the dining room feeling the echoes of times gone by.  I could almost see Mum bustling about in the kitchen with her pinny on, baking, cooking, making cups of tea. I imagined Dad singing while pottering in the garden and going in and out of the shed.  I went upstairs to check the bedrooms for anything left behind and saw Dad's worn blue slippers in his now empty bedroom, placed exactly where his bed used to be. That sight will stay with me for a long time.

Today I feel like a crumpled mess.  I miss Mum and Dad so much, and when we close the front door for the last time it will become so final. I just didn't realise how hard it would be.