But time does heal, you know? Recently, I went through some boxes of things which belonged to Mum and Dad and which have been in storage for years. The first time I looked at them, I was unable to part with anything as every single item held such fond memories. Last time I went, I found something I’d been looking for and was able to allocate other ‘precious’ things for the charity shops and another pile for the skip. Progress indeed. Some boxes remained untouched.
So many times I’ve grieved and not just when I finally lost such wonderful parents. When Mum and Dad had to go into a home, thankfully for them after 55 years of marriage, at the same time, I grieved for the loss of all that was familiar. Visiting their home without them there was strange, painful and empty. Going through their things was an intrusion. It just wasn’t right when they were still with us. We had to sell the house to pay the nursing home fees and the feeling of loss was all-consuming. I had a recurrent dream about going home and finding strangers had taken over and being powerless to get them out. My daughter, then just 8, was quietly traumatised saying, “That was my special place”. I encouraged her to talk to Mum as they were so close but she replied, “I can’t, she’ll be too upset”. I had a word with Mum and, on our next visit, I saw them sitting cuddled up talking – Spring and Autumn – and my heart ached as I knew they were sharing the pain of losing their ‘special place’.
A month after moving into the home, Mum said “It’ll be a different life, but we’ll make the best of it”, not being one to see anything but the light. Little did she know that within a week she’d go totally blind with no warning, not even being able to distinguish light from dark. True kindness showed itself in the form of a doctor at the Eye Clinic who stayed after clinic ended, desperately lasering her eyes to try to preserve some vision; the doctor, Mum and I stayed in the clinic long into the night. Another bitter blow for her and, again, I grieved for the loss of her sight. I was so distressed that she wouldn’t be able to see me anymore, or see the children growing up – how selfish was that? As we sorted through a lifetime’s treasures at home, I found little letters I’d written and cards I’d made as a small child which had been saved and travelled around the world in our packing cases. I could no longer ask her about our old family photos. Daughter, being resourceful even then, decided she’d do concerts as Nanny could hear and many times we trundled in with her violin (she was learning at school) and hot bacon sandwiches, Mum’s favourite.
The treasures in storage are specially significant. My brother had everything in his rented house in Manchester until he moved abroad, when everything went into storage. One day, I had a call to say that the warehouse had been broken into and all our furniture stolen, boxes unpacked and rifled through and pictures strewn everywhere. I felt violated and so angry that Mum and Dad’s possessions had been ransacked; we’d let them down. Two early photos of my grandparents had been stolen. I say photos but the very first ones were more like paintings as they were finished by hand. This was particularly sad because I never knew them but, in the picture of my Grandmother, she’s wearing a necklace which I was given on my 21st birthday and which I’ll pass to my daughter on hers. I planned she’d have the picture as well.
Overwhelmed by an explosion of feelings when I heard that news, I was thankful Mum and Dad wouldn’t know. That’s why every single thing left and which I reclaimed is so precious. But it hurts to see what’s left of 55 years together stored in boxes, each piece holding such special memories. And because of the desecration which took place in that Manchester warehouse, I feel very protective towards what’s left.
Yes, I know we’re speaking of inanimate objects, but each little piece speaks to me, either of happy times or the home that was always so welcoming. And yet, little by little, I’m healing and starting to let go. It was a real pleasure to send some kitchen treasures to Liverpool with daughter when she started Uni last September; she’s living in self-catered halls and somehow it feels like Mum’s watching over her. Watch this space, I’m getting there . . .