The desired price was achieved and my Mum is relieved that it’s another thing taken care of. See, my grandfather, affectionately known to us all as Papa, entered an aged care facility a few months back when the onset of Alzheimer’s began to rob him of the ability to live alone. And since then there’s been a fair bit to organise and finalise regarding finances, furniture, assets etc. And yes it’s great that these tasks are sorted and nearly over and done with, but to me, it’s the end of an era and I’m feeling sad.
Papa is 89 years old, has a heart of gold and is my hero. He’s the kindest, gentlest, most loving man I’ve ever had the privilege to know, little own, the honour to call my grandfather. Throughout my life, despite my Dad always being there for me, Papa has been a second father. He’s supported me in every way and was a rock for my mum as she did her best as a single parent.
We lost my Nana back in 2003 and Papa had lived alone in the house since then, cooking, cleaning, gardening and shopping for himself, all the while maintaining an active social life and being there for his daughters and us grandkids. While he definitely missed Nana, he only mentioned her occasionally and, I think, just adopted the old school attitude of ‘getting on with it.’
From the years prior to Nana passing I have so many happy memories of she and Papa and the rest of the family at their home. I can’t believe how quickly that time has passed and how things have changed so completely.
BBQ’s on the lawn under a tree and singing along to Nana’s Rolf Harris records. Drinking way-too-strong Nesquick out of the orange Ned Kelly cups and playing gently with Mousey Brown; the ancient ragdoll mouse that always sat on Nana’s spare bed. They’re just the small things, but gee, right now amid my melancholy nostalgia, they seem big. Over time, they’ve become big I guess.
I know I’ll always have the memories created during the years at number 31, the red brick house with the bull nose veranda, but today the tangible link to those memories was somewhat deleted. I know it will still be there to drive past whenever I feel like it, but it will be weird. Different people will be inside, doing different things, creating different memories. Some houses are just that – buildings in which people are housed, but this house has always been more than that to me. It was a home away from home and a place I always felt relaxed.
The last time I saw my Nana was in the house – I’d dropped around unexpectedly one evening to borrow some shredded cheese. (That was back in the days where the supermarket closed at 5:00 most weeknights and I’d found I was out of Coon only after I’d started cooking dinner.) When I arrived, Nana was sitting in her green chair in the front room watching tele, which in her last few years of life was often where you’d find her. As usual, she had a half-eaten bag of Minties stashed down the side of the chair and I caught a whiff of them as soon as I walked in. I’ll never forget how nonchalantly I said my hello’s, asked for some cheese, kissed them both goodbye and left. I think it was just a few days later that Nana died in her sleep there at home, and that last encounter with her became not so run-of-the-mill after all.
More recently, in the months leading up to Papa gaining a place in The Lodge, the aged cared facility that happens to be located just over the side fence of the house, I started thinking about the fact that this day would come. The day when the furniture would have been sold or divided up between the family, the clothes and odds and ends donated to charity, the photos packed into boxes and the family and living rooms filled with our talking and laughter for the last time. I thought I’d be ok with it.
Turns out I’m not.
Turns out, I want to turn back time and embrace it all just once more. Experience it all again with knowledge of what today feels like. The saying really is true that you don’t appreciate things until they’re gone. But that’s the thing about the end of an era – it’s final and unforgiving in its conclusiveness.
So given that I can’t turn back the clock and revisit it all, from now on, I’m going to do my best to remember that there’s a lot more ‘eras’ in my life that will come to an end eventually and that I should embrace them and appreciate them while they are here and still occurring.
For now, I think that’s all I can do.