Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Grandpa's place

 Hi There.

Today the boys and I helped my parents empty out my grandpa's flat. He is 93 and is no longer confident living by himself, so has moved to an assisted living type place, where all his needs are taken care of, cooking, cleaning, washing etc.

My grandpa is a funny old dear, he has lived in the same flat for the past 30 years, lived very frugally, with a definite routine to his days.  He has lots of funny little habits. We think he kept hold of every piece of mail that had come through his hands. All the birthday cards we made him as kids, every receipt he ever received, every bill he ever paid, every letter he ever got, every piece of wrapping paper, he had stashed away somewhere in his little flat, mum even found a letter she wrote him on her honeymoon 43years ago!!

It was kind of nice seeing our family history all stored in this place, like a little slice of our lives as seen through his eyes, and what we all mean to him. It was also quite confronting and difficult to disassemble his life down to the bare bones of what he can take with him to his new home. Not very much at all.

A few photos, some clothes and his glasses and hearing aid batteries, and a few other odd and ends with sentimental value.  His big stamp collection, put together over so many years will be divided up between his 3 children. Pretty much everything else was surplus to requirements, his furniture, all his meticulous records and papers, all his kitchen stuff, all his paints and painting supplies, all his handiwork (he liked to make things and improvise and fix stuff up), no one needs it in our family. In this material world, all our homes are already overflowing with the accumulation of our own lives.  
What do you do with all the stuff gathered through life, things that have meaning and hold memories, but are not really needed anymore, it is not rubbish, it is just someone else's lifes collection. 
It was difficult to sort through it all, and fascinating at the same time.
The boys were kept busy, discovering little tins full of this and that squirrelled away in the back of cupboards, stuff from the 'olden days' when every thing was kept 'just in case'.

Some new people in the flat above needed some book shelves, so we helped them out with grandpas shelves.  Over the day we managed to empty out the flat till all that was left was a few indents in the carpet, and the cracks in the walls were plain to see.  I am sure the owners will be doing some renovating before it is leased again.

We took some things to the op shop, who picked through the boxes and only took what they wanted.
It was hard rubbish collection time in the area, so a lot of things went on the nature strip, we had a lot of things go to new homes while we were bringing other things out, so at least some things will have another life.

I am glad grandpa wasn't with us today, I think I would hate to see my life's possessions having to be dealt with so practically.  He would have found it very hard to watch and I know my mum found it a hard job to do.  Some parts of getting old are really not nice.

I just had to save his table and chairs and their great retro vibe, the table has a cheery yellow laminex top in the same pattern as my little red table, and needs a bit of restoration work.  The chairs are in bad shape, but I think they will look great with some new upholstery and a bit of love. Something that will always remind me of my grandpa, and he will be able to check out what I've done when he visits.I also kept a selection of his tools and a lovely old carpet bag type overnight bag that I grabbed from the skip, I can give these things a new life and make them useful again.

So that is that, the end of an era, of a life of independence, I guess this time will come for all of us, it has made me quite reflective though.  Sorry for the slightly down tone of this post, it has been a bit of a confronting day.
I have to remember that although all his stuff has dispersed, he is still around to visit and chat with, and I must make more effort to see him while I can.

Hope you all are having a good day!!


  1. this is such a moving post, it's funny how people's habits are of collecting things...and seeing what matters to them.

    it sounds an emotionally draining task, I hope you are all well.

  2. My sister's and I had to do this for our Mum earlier this year. It certainly underlines what is 'necessary' and what isn't I suppose. But we didn't find it too sad. Mum is 95 and was ready for her move to assisted care. She had lived in the house for over 60 years and memories were palpable. The house has been sold recently and I think we will all feel it when it is demolished to make way for units.

  3. Oh, I forgot to say that, unlike your Grandfather, my mother was a neat freak. She had given heaps of stuff away already. She always said that if she was to die suddenly, she wouldn't want her girls to have to clean up a big mess. LOL

  4. Lovely, moving post.
    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Such a moving post and it really struck me. I visited my Grandmother this week. She is 94 and still lives in her house. My Grandfather passed away 5 years ago and she sort of died the day he did too. She stopped doing anything and became so fragile. She really cannot live by herself anymore but refuses to go into any aid assisted accommodation, and keeps getting rid of any home help my parents get in to make things easier for her. I don't live as close to her as I would like so visiting everyday is out of the question. I found it so hard this week. You remember them when they were full of life and laughter and it's hard to think of them so frail and old. As her only grand daughter, we shared a love of costume jewellery. She had a vast amount and over the years it has all been passed down to me, and it is something that I treasure. It's a very hard thing to do, to go through all their lifes belongings and reduce it to a few bits. I'm glad you all got through the day okay and that you got to have a momento of your grandfather in the table and chairs. We will all get to this......it's very thought provoking.............xxxxxxxxxxx

  6. Ohhhhh!!!!! That brought back so many memories for me -- It took me 2 years to empty the 2 Cottages that used to belong to my dearest Mum when she died. In many ways it was things like the hair rollers with her little bits of hair still wrapped around that I found the hardest to deal with. Enjoy the special times that are left together and then move forward glancing back with happy memories and the sure knowledge that your dear Grandpa was safe and comfortable in his last years.
    Bless you as you remember him in his flat with all his "come in handy" things

  7. So often there is a lack of respect for the old. They are people, not idiots yet they are often treated so. I visit a private home where I volunteer every week because it is where the charity is run. The woman who runs the charity shares her house with an elderly lady who has alzheimer's. She does not lack dignity because the important things left to her and she is cared for in familiar surroundings. She has her dog, who she loves, her beloved garden and home. She is confused at times but she is also evidently happy. Where she at any time to be forced from her home, that would all change. I dread to think how unhappy that would make her. She would be devastated. Her carer is 83 herself and a friend not relative. I think relatives should take more responsibility. To me, it seems like their elderly people although ostensibly loved are considered highly inconvenient. It is often not what a person wants - to be forced to leave their home, but in effect they are given no choice and made to feel like a burden. Just imagine how you would feel, having a parade of strangers talking to you like a 2 year old and not taking anything you want in to account. Even the lady with dementia knows when she is being spoken too like she is stupid. Well she isn't stupid, just forgetful and sometimes confused. That is how we treat the elderly. Carers are often not caring and family members often could not care less. It is shameful. People are so shallow, it is as if the older we get, the more our personalities are seen to fade so we can be treated as non people. Most elderly want to live in their own homes, not all I concurr. We should enable that to happen. Instead, we steal their houses from under their noses, make them pay for the 'care' they receive and hope they just disappear so we don't have to look after them.

    My mother looked after my grandmother who died at 93, she also looked after a neighbour who had no relatives, doing everything for her too. That is what we used to do. We are all so busy we have no time any more. But I think most people are pleased to pass the buck because they just don't care. It's about a lack of humanity. Even carers don't care, they steal and abuse those who should be able to trust in them. We put our supposedly beloved elderly in their hands. We should be doing more ourselves. All of us. We teach people how to treat us. If we want others to treat us well when it is our turn, then we need to set an example and show the love and care we would like to receive.

    This is not a diatribe against anyone in particular I am just shocked at how we treat elderly people - both as a society and on a personal level. We will all get old. Or what is the alternative? Perhaps that would be preferable to some.

  8. I am experiencing the same thing with my parents right now, it is so tough to see a lifetime of memories go away in a day. Thanks you for posting this lovely tribute to your Grandfather

  9. It is hard sorting and disposing of a person's posessions, I am glad your grandpa has a loving family to go through his things and that some of those things will be kept and enjoyed.
    I think your table and chairs are a lovely momento.
    Yes, keep talking to him whilst he is still here and, of course, let him know how much you all love him.
    Carol xx

  10. Beautiful post x It's not easy clearing out a loved ones possessions knowing how much they treasured each and every item. The table and chairs will look great and you will be able to treasure your memories when you sit there. Keep visiting him as much as possible xx

  11. Beautiful post, so touching.

  12. I can relate to this as my dad is now 90 and only just managing to live at home on his own. He had a stroke 3 months ago and doesn't want to leave his home. Luckily my sister and i are able to support him as much as possible, but who knows one day he may be in the same situation as your grandpa. Life is so hard sometimes.....xx

  13. Oh Julie, a difficult time for all of you, but it was lovely to read about your Grandpa .........93 and still living on his own, that's amazing, but definitely time for change.

    Working in an aged care facility, I have to say that the residents where I work are vey well treated. We are a not for profit facility (no government handouts, no money wasted) and all the staff are friendly, caring and it's very much like a family. We have daily activities , outings and friendships are forged and I would be more than happy to move in when I got to that age.
    It can be very difficult for families to care for elderly relatives on a daily basis. Our lives are busy and full of to ing and fro ing and it's not a lack of caring that means we have to make difficult decisions at times.
    Like funerals I think we need to plan for the future and let people know what our wishes are concerning our care.

    So nice to have your Grandpas table and chairs, a little bit of history and him. I'm sure his life will continue to be full and rich with family visits, outings and no more worrying about meals, washing, cleaning etc.

    Claire :}

  14. It really is so sad, going through all of life's little pieces. We are going through my Grandfathers house right now, and we realize that we can't keep everything. Just a few memorable pieces that will last. Good luck to you and your family.

  15. This one made me cry a little. I lost my Dad this year and my Grandfathers are both long gone. How hard it must have been for you and you mother to do this. I hope your Grandfather adjusts to his new place and I am glad you still have him in your life. Take care.

  16. I truly feel for you. We had to move my mum into a nursing home just over 2 years ago more or less had to force her to go into one. I hated it. I hated going through her home, knowing that most of it had to be sold and seeing her now with next to nothing of her belongings breaks my heart still.

    It is a very confronting time and one that no one wants to go through but we all do at some point, in some way.

    I wish your family and especially your grandpa all the best in the future. I look forward to hearing how he has settled in to his new home.

  17. What a beautiful post. I had a tear in my eye reading it because I also became the proud new owner of my Nana's retro table and chairs that are almost idential to yours. Sadly she had passed away but I now use her table as my craft desk and I think of her everytime I sit there. Even more special is the fact that she taught me to crochet when I was a wee girl. Take care.

  18. I have to comment on anonymous' comment.
    I totally agree.
    I have been working as an aged carer for 3 months now, and I have developed quite a passion for how our elderly live their lives, and how they are treated.
    They are people.
    Moving into a nursin home at 90 is no less horrible than doing it at 60.
    Being sick and in pain, is no less terrible than wjen you are young and fit.
    Death is as scary at 90 as it is at 30.
    In the past 3 months I've seen some appalling treatment of elderly people. And my heart aches for them.
    I wish I had spent more time with my grandparents.
    And there is a persistent new itch to eventually move back to Adelaide to be near my parents when they get a bit older.
    Both my sister and I live interstate.
    I don't want my parents to only see us a couple of times a year when they are nearing the ends of their lives.
    Lovely, moving post.
    Not sad, just thought provoking.
    Sonia xx

  19. lovely post, it must of been hard on all involved cleaning up his house, I'm so glad you rescued his table it's beautiful. I know I have hung onto a few bits and pieces that my grandfather made, I have even passed one of them down to my daughter hopefully one day she can do the same. xx

  20. your post has touched me intensely as it has obviously moved quite a few others as well! does make you get to thinking, doesn't it? i am far from home with a huge blue 'pond' between and the only way i can get close is pick up the phone... often makes me so sad. the post has put a knot in my throat and a lump in my belly. years don't make it any easier... memories are so precious. they're the only things we have that we can take with us. it must have been horribly difficult for him to leave that all behind... and you all having to clean up his 'life' treasures.
    the table and chairs are wonderful! i can see why you couldn´t let them go. can't wait to see what you do with the chairs!!! the table has such classy legs (woohoo) something definitely to cherish from grandpa!


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