My mum was a hoarder. Not to the level of those TV shows where people are overwhelmed by towering piles of junk physically taking over every room of their homes but she didn’t like to throw things away ‘in case they came in useful some day. She couldn’t turn away a Betterware salesman without purchasing some kitchen gadget needed or not. She duplicated and triplicated items she forgot she already owned. And she kept every trinket given to her by someone she loved.
Dad’s dementia overtook his natural tidiness and organisation to continue where Mum’s big heartedness and slapdashery left off when she died.
So there’s a lot to do as we’re clearing the flat they lived in for just over 9 years. I’ve done several sort outs for them in that time, including the day they moved in! This will be the final one there and it’s an emotional experience.
5 doormats, 4 travel alarm clocks, and 2 steam carpet cleaners (one never removed from its packaging), along with various ornaments, will be finding their way to a charity shop. Catheter and incontinence supplies have been donated to a local community nursing service. Bedding is off to the Community Store that helps set up homeless people in their first homes and cupboard loads of tinned food to the Foodbank. Leftover laundry supplies, flowerpots, and unused wrapping paper will be put to use by family. Old light fittings, a rusted bathroom stand, a broken picture frame, torn plastic bags, forgotten squares of chocolate, and other rubbish have filled the dustbin to the brim.
But beneath this flotsam and jetsam of evidence of two lives well lived lies buried treasure, precious and of immeasurable value.
Dad had passed on his love of genealogy to me some years back but I found file after file of his investigations into our family history – detailed family trees; numerous birth, death, and marriage certificates; a newspaper cutting about his parents’ Christmas Day wedding; old Boys’ Brigade awards; grammar school records; and a personal account of his own upbringing. The meticulous care and accuracy of recording reminded me of the gift of administration Dad said God had given him.
I found a love letter my mum wrote to him instead of a Christmas card one year. He had kept it carefully filed away with some other writings of hers: a poem about meeting an old friend and recollections on her children written before a wedding and an ordination. Here was written evidence of love grown, tended, and increasing over many years.
There was a dedication inside the cover of an old book, hinting at difficult times he endured, bad behaviour he regretted, and expressing hope for change. This was a more in depth portrait of the young man in the RAF than the stories he had previously told me.
In among the drawers were old notebooks, rather scruffy and nondescript at first glance but, when examined closely, filled with detailed notes from courses and conferences. Here were all the sermons he preached and orders of services he prepared, along with the words of prophecy spoken over him at his believer’s baptism. They all recalled the strong core of faith running through my dad like a place name in seaside rock.
And that’s the inestimable treasure I discovered: in all these mementoes I found my dad again.
He hasn’t been stolen by dementia after all, just buried, hidden by a thick and wavering mist. And he has cleverly left us clues to follow, evidence to find so that we can rediscover him.