As I started for the front door of the house that was once my childhood home, I stopped and turned back. Goodbye old house, I whispered under my breath. At that very moment, a low rumbling echoed all through the house. I stopped in my tracks. Was the house saying its goodbyes to me?
The fuck it was. That is of course complete and utter wank, the only rumbling came from the central heating boiler that hasn’t worked properly since the mid 80s.
There was no dramatic ending and why should there have been? 9 Ham Lane and I had never cared that much for each other and truthfully I’m glad to be shot of it. And anyway the house wasn’t even bare when I left. A mix-up by the clearance people on dates means that it won’t be stripped until this coming week.
That pissed me off more than anything. I wanted to see it all cleared, if for no other purpose than discovering what the hell happened to my green card, lost 4 years ago during a visit and replaced for the outrageous sum of $800. I know it’s in there.
I wouldn’t mind finding some cash too, but the proper spendable stuff not old coinage with King George or Queen Victoria on it. Yes, I’ve become bloody tired of finding antiques. We’ve come across too many things in drawers or the bottom of bags and because of my stupid personality, I’ve turned it into a competition with Miles as to who finds the most valuable, unexpected item. He of course has been leading for months due to being there more often, thus placing extra pressure on me this trip. I knew he wouldn’t look in her underwear drawer and had high hopes for some ancient pendant stuffed inside a big pair of knickers. Oh well.
The harder part of the trip was visiting my mum in the crazy home every day, all the while knowing that we were pulling off this deception. It was tough not mentioning the house for fear that it might spur some hideous moment of clarity about where she was, and where she wasn’t.
Deception abounds in the care home. You have to tread carefully between confirming to one resident that this is where they now live and telling another that they are simply on holiday for a few days. ‘She just popped out for some milk’ is one of the standard excuses given to agitated residents when their family member leaves. At one point a woman called out ‘well tell her to get me some fags too’.
And whenever there’s a lull in the activity program, you can guarantee there’ll be a singalong. Much as I enjoy seeing my mum smiling and joining in, I shudder every time they start ‘Doing the Lambeth Walk’. And there are no filters in that place. If old people can be rude, then old people with dementia can say what the hell they want. Unlike some of the other residents, my mum doesn’t swear or yell. But she did call one of the rather plump staff members a heffalump. She has also taken against the two Scottish women who live there and identifies them as ‘that creature’ and ‘that other creature’.
One of the staff members reassured me by saying that dementia can often change a personality and make them do things they never did before. Being judgemental (and rude) about others is one of the ways a person can change, she said. Yes, it’s so unlike her I agreed, while remembering years of derogatory comments about my friends, visitors, passers-by, the vicar, other people’s dogs, children, the Labour Government and Tony Blair’s hair in particular.
But she’s happy. Blissful ignorance is a good thing.
Oh and one other thing, did you know that the Olympics will be in London this summer. Isn’t that exciting.
But in bigger news, the Queen will be celebrating her diamond jubilee in June, marking 60 years as Queen. Naturally, every Brit will be having a street party as part of the nation’s timewarp back to 1945. And we’re also hoping that Prince Phillip will mark the occasion with a hilariously offensive joke, perhaps about how he fancies a stiff one. And he doesn’t mean knobbing the Queen Mum.