THE PILE OF STUFF AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS.
What’s the thing you hate most about the one you love?
I saw that book in a shop the other day. The pile of stuff at the bottom of our stairs has, over the past few weeks become part of the furniture. It is not only on the stairs, it has dripped onto the hall floor and when the bathroom door is open, in onto the tiles there too. It has spread out so much that our front door doesn’t open fully and when anyone comes in, it bounces back on them. The lack of floor space means they need to walk lopsidedly, with one foot on the bottom step of the stairs. Mainly, this “stuff” comprises two overflowing cardboard boxes. One is overflowing of books, one overflowing of clothes. The books are amongst whats left of my Dads belongings. He died three years ago.
A lot of these books have been sitting on our shelves until recently and finally it is not so hard to get rid of them. I have admitted to myself that no matter how stuck I am for something to read, I’m never going to wade through De Valera, Long Fellow, Long Shadow, The Making of Modern Ireland or Reflections on the
. I don’t see myself sitting on the beach tackling Virgil’s Aenid or Homers Odyssey in the near future (I don’t see myself sitting on a beach at all with this weather). And there is nothing wrong with giving The Crusades a Short History a wide berth. I know Dad would not mind that I do. Some day soon, I will drop them on the counter of a charity shop with the car parked on double yellows outside. Irish State
The second box is Mums clothes. Mum lives in a nursing home nearby and is in the final stages of dementia. Every now and again her wardrobe need to be replenished and in the box is what I take out of the Home to make room for new clothes. Everything washed in the nursing home is dried in an industrial dryer thus losing colour and shape in record time. In the box are baggy tracksuit bottoms and faded fleece jackets, grey thermal vests and pyjama tops. They all, depressingly, have her name printed on them. I don’t really mind putting all this in the clothing bins in the car park nearby. It’s not a traumatic event but still, I leave it in the hall for a week or so until the moment is right. Things of Mums that I like to keep are things that were hers when she was well. Her pocket guides to butterflies, moths and wild flowers. The Delia Smith recipe book which she covered as if it was a school text. Her brown bread tin. The brown bread recipe in her handwriting. “Mix until you have thick goo” is my favourite line.
So, in these two battered boxes are my parents. On the one hand, it is sad. On the other, it is only stuff. The longer I hang onto it the less poignant it becomes. Books and clothes. That’s it.
As my husband negotiates the roadblock in the hall, uncharacteristically ungrumbly it occurs to me that this is what I love about the person I love the most. Not mentioning anything about the pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs.