Monday, November 21, 2011


The house that I visited this weekend is not my grandparents' house of my childhood memories.
It is not the house where I remember long afternoons in my nan's kitchen learning to make jam.
Not the house where we played in a baby bath of water in the backyard in the summer holidays
because there had been a shark sighting at the local beach.
Not where we sat for hours watching Saturday morning Loony Tunes cartoons with my pop
who always laughed more often and more loudly than we did.

They moved here after I had left home.
This is the house of my adulthood visits.
This is the house where I brought my boyfriend to visit; then my fiance; finally my husband.
Where we announced the imminent arrival of great-grandchildren.
Where we brought the new babies to visit.

This is the house where my nan started to slow down.
Where she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Where I visited with my baby girl before Nan went to hospital for the last time.
Where family and friends came to remember her on the day of her funeral
over a plate of food, a glass of wine and a mutual mourning.

That was nearly 4 years ago.

My pop was younger than Nan.
Even when she was in the best of health,
he took on extra chores in their lives
than perhaps you might expect in a marriage born of their generation.

He was very stoic during her illness and her death.
And afterwards.
He did not want to talk about his feelings
Perhaps he didn't feel comfortable in doing so
but to this day, we still seem to be waiting for grief to surface,
for some recognition that his mate has gone,
for some acknowledgement of the importance
 of Nan's presence in the majority of his life.

I have thought this to be a reflection of the generation that he belongs to.
But perhaps it is just who he is.

But he is fading.
To me, it appears to be happening so quickly
but perhaps that is because my visits are once a year
and I miss the subtlety of changes seen with frequent contact.

The changes aren't physical.
Pop's capabilities to move about are good, even great,  for a man in his early 80s.
But now the garden is untended;
 hobbies and outings have been set aside.
His days stretch into a routine of newspaper reading and Solitaire playing,
the television a constant background noise.

He ventures to the supermarket as needed,
the newsagent to pay weekly for his paper delivery,
the petrol station more rarely.
To shops that are a ten minute walk away
but are never walked to.
He always drives.

The house is scattered with objects that I have known as long as my memories exist.
Nan's presence is still there but only as
 an occasional possession and displayed photos.
The house doesn't smell like her anymore.

There are shelves stacked with objects that wont be touched or used,
or remembered again
until there is reason for the house to be cleaned out.

There are cobwebs in the once well-used kitchen cupboards.
There are out of date calendars on the wall and on the fridge.
There are rooms that remain unused and unopened. 

Even with a now evident deterioration of his short term memory
and an inability- or perhaps a disinterest, an apathy- to maintain the house and yard,
 Pop is ferociously independent and determined to stay put.

His partner in crime is not his widowed brother who lives only a few minutes away.
Their time shared is rare; there is no renewed comraderie born from the mutual loss of their partners.

His best mate is the grumpy and intolerant cat that he and Nan adopted
from disinterested neighbours years ago.
She relies on him for an ever-present bowl of food and comfortable, warm places to sleep.

He relies on her to give him someone to talk to,
someone to care for.
Something that he lost with Nan's passing.
She gives him a reason to stay close to home.

I leave each visit with an ever increasing heaviness in my chest.
I feel that I am watching a once bright life fade to grey.

I don't know if there is a longing in Pop for more than he has
or whether he is truly happy.
I am someone who can understand some enjoyment of solitude
but there comes a point where I crave contact, interaction, conversation;
some acknowledgement of my being.

I feel blessed that my children will remember, not only their grandparents,
but also their great-grandparents from my side of the family.

And, just as I sit in his lounge during a family visit
and I wonder at where his life will take him from here on in,
I feel gratitude to see him sit with his young great-grandkids
and watch those same Loony Tune cartoons.

Whatever else has passed him by in the 35 years since I sat and watched cartoons with him.
he still laughs at them more than the rest of us.
And that is something to be treasured.


Tanya said...

There's a lot to be really treasured in that whole lot Tas, despite the inevitable decline in your pops health and the sadness that goes with that. I love it that he's a cartoon watching pop and great pop!

Kelly Casanova said...

That is a lovely tribute, I feel it so important to be grateful for the people who pass through our lives yet leave such a mark.

quilary said...

You've written a very moving story of your relationship with your Pop. I feel the sadness that you express, but also the tenderness of your memories and the care you have to let him retain his independence...and a great laugh is always a happy memory.

Unknown said...

Tas thanks for sharing, your writing is very warm and loving.

Tania said...

Oh love, I have a lower lip wobbling after reading that. My Dad wanted to clear away Nana (Eunice) and Pa's belongings - "send 'em to the charity shop!" he said. But I couldn't. Now I have boxes stashed in corners and I can't send 'em away because the contents of those boxes smell exactly like arriving at my grandparents house every Saturday for a strawberry sundae.

Karen said...

Smell is such a strong memory trigger and sound - the sound of his laughing takes you back years Tas.
Such a sweet tribute you have written to your Pop.