Living with an aged father is a daily challenge. And not necessarily for the reasons you might think.
Fit, active and alert, my 94yo father is little trouble at all. He does his own washing. (I wash no man’s socks and jocks!) He makes his own bed and occasionally cooks dinner. He puts out the bin every week and jumps on the bus to go and do his Lotto, pick up the odd tin of cat food or bottle of milk. He is great at washing up and actually likes to do it.
Partly deaf and blind in one eye, he powers through life and makes no apologies about it. The most important thing in his life is his cat, Splinter – my gift to him, about six years ago. His first ever personal pet, he is absolutely besotted with that little monster.
What could I possibly find to be not to my liking, with this paragon of a man? He, who adores my mother but who lives with me? Who is revered by all who know him or of him as a man you would love to have as a husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather?
There indeed is the rub! My mother, who is my best friend, hasn’t been prepared to live with him full time for the past thirty years or more.
He was shared between us for quite a while until my husband was ill enough for us to ask my Dad to come and stay with us, full time, so Robbie wasn’t home alone while I worked to support us all. It was about three years before my husband died and that was over ten years ago!
For about ten years, he used to go and spend the weekend away at my Mum’s place, when he would visit with old ladies and play cards and have dinner with my Mum.
Now, most of the old ladies are gone; we live next door to my Mum and our dinner is taken in front of the TV every night.
It’s the sport that drives me mad! I like the occasional game of football, cricket, tennis, golf, bike racing, soccer or watching the swimming, athletics, gymnastics and whatever on TV. My Mum is not so generously minded.
But, please. Dad …. there is more to life than sport. Music, art, drama, literature, travel, movies, even cooking…..
I love you, Dad. But when you surf the TV channels with no regard for the programming, looking for your next sporting fix, I really want to scream. It’s no small wonder I sat up all night after you had gone to bed, to watch Game Of Thrones on DVD and loved it. I would love to share a dragon movie with you!
It’s a small price to pay for the company of a man I really do love. It’s a trivial thing at times when we are nursing one another: he caring for me, me dressing his wounds; us ferrying my Mum about as needed.
But, thankfully I will be in the USA and Canada for most of the Olympic Games.
Meantime, let’s go and check out what’s happening at Wimbledon while the Tour de France stage for tonight powers to the finish, with my Dad riding every pedal push of the way. Let’s see if Roger Federer does win Wimbledon again.
But, don’t forget it was me who sussed out the power board switch had tripped and that was why the air conditioning wouldn’t start up, regardless of how many times you changed the batteries.
Cats! A veritable lifetime of cats: Dim Sim, Muggins, Mao Tse Tung, Ten Sing Tung, Splinter, Amber, Lloyd, Kitten and others. Dogs! WACL, the black labrador, Choti the miniature dachshund and two Pepper dogs, (dalmations who were entirely different from one another) whose consecutive lives spanned more than 30 years.
Did I mention three children and their marriage partners, some stepchildren, lots of grandchildren, my parents and dozens of associated family members? There were cars, jeeps, tractors; a shade house, frogs and frog gardens. Two husbands, too.
Having never done it properly before, at the beginning of 2011 I decided to collate all my printed photos into a set of lovely albums. I bought a matching set of 10 photo albums at Things over the holiday break. These will hold 2,000 photos and postcards and I bought as many albums as I expected to need, so that they will make a beautiful display as well as keeping my precious pictures safe.
While I was at Warren and Lisa’s (cat sitting as usual), I started sorting those I had taken with me (mostly Bali) as best as my memory will allow. T-shirts are a good indication of photos taken at the same event, or the fact that one hotel had a swim up bar and the other did not. A good tip on sorting printed photos is to line them all up on one edge and sort them into groups of pictures of exactly the same size. Photo shops, especially in Bali, cut the pictures so they are just marginally different in size and it is quite easy to get all the photos from one film sorted from the others.
Once I started sorting them, three things became abundantly clear:
- Lots of photos I wanted and remembered were not amongst the ones I had taken with me to sort out while I was cat-sitting at Warren and Lisa’s house, although I could not imagine where they were – since we had recently moved houses. Some of them I really wanted for my stories, too.
- My idea of collating by topic was nowhere near as good as putting them into chronological order.
- I needed more photo albums.
I also needed my old passport!!! Immigration and customs stamps are invaluable when you are sorting old photos.
Over the years, there had been five trips to Bali, with funerals, weddings and visits to the homes of our Bali friends; not to mention my white water rafting and para-sailing while Robbie held the fort and the beachhead. We had regular visits to Sanur, the volcano and the black beach with Jimmy and Mickey from the Bali Bagia, where they would take a day off from work and play “tourist” with us.
My own seven or eight overseas trips – including Hawaii, New Zealand, Las Vegas, Mexico, London and Sabah meant that somewhere I still had loads of photos to find. While there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures on disc, printed photos going back to around 1992 need a good chronology.
I have committed myself this year to also cataloguing many of my father’s photographs of his career in the mining industry of Western Australia and tunnelling in the Snowy Mountains because he has hundreds that need his explanations; his memory is excellent and he is a living treasure of history in this, his 94th year.
I have made the first start on his collection and we were lucky enough to espy a whole box of photographs from our earlier years exactly as I remembered them: stored in a bright gold gift bag – last seen in the shed at Stoneville when we had packed up one more time to flee a summer bushfire. This time, they are safely stored in a big plastic box in my little garden shed.
Last week, after spending about three hours with Dad, I chose the first ten photographs to begin creating a series of stories for this Nana to tell. I will keep bringing them out and putting them into their right order. I think I might need a few more albums, too.
I plan to write one story a week and trust that we will get them all done. To take notes while I interview him – even though the story may be written later – seems to be the way to go. Sorting our photos of family and work, my Dad and I, our lives spill out before us on the table – a patchwork quilt of memories. It is a good life. One that we can share with our families for many years to come.
About sharing this post: Lesley Dewar is a well known blogger and workshop facilitator who writes regularly on Social Media, marketing and customer service in the category of Business Tips
Her free eBook can be downloaded directly at Networking To a Plan Sharing this article is permitted providing this footnote is not deleted – all rights reserved. (c) Lesley Dewar 2012
Monday Feb 21 – 2011. A day of strange disruptions in Perth.
After a lovely weekend of catsitting in the hills at Chateau de Liswar while Warren and Lisa took overseas friends to Rottnest, I came home mid morning to try and sort out some communication issues with Telstra. A planned Skype conference was deferred and I used Twitter on the iPhone to push my case along with Telstra. With a short window of opportunity in the afternoon, I wrote two of the three stories that had a rapidly closing deadline.
In the early evening, I jumped into the car to drive into Perth for a networking meeting with a group of LinkedIn friends I had been dying to meet for ages. To my absolute surprise, the radio announced that the city was in lock down; a bomb alert had the CBD completely shut down and it was not recommended that anyone try to drive into the city centre.
So, I decided to take the train. The train is about four minutes walk from our home and runs very frequently. I arrived just in time to hop aboard, checked what was happening on Twitter and as we approached the city, I held up my iPhone and addressed the passengers at large – telling them about the bomb threat and that I was getting off at McIver, to walk into the CBD. Central Station was closed, so there was no way of knowing how far past the main station the passengers would be taken before they could get off the train.
Not one other person followed me off the train at McIver. Most people just sat, with a stunned look on their faces. They had no idea what to do. [Read more...]
One of the people you will meet in Stories My Nana Tells is Nana’s Dad – variously referred to as Nono (from when her Mum was learning Italian), Bluey (his nickname all his life) and probably never by his real name, William James Nancarrow.
He is a huge part of fabric of Stories My Nana Tells – as you will learn. Nothing sums up his role in the lives of the people and pets in Stories My Nana Tells better than this letter sent to him in 2005 – from Canada – for his birthday. He is still just the same today – caring, helpful and totally in the thrall of the pets.
Thank you, Dad
Just a quick note before we go up to Montreal tomorrow, because we haven’t forgotten it’s your birthday. You won’t get to read this until well after the event – the pigeons are pretty slow between Canada and Australia at this time of the year. But before we go, I wanted to write and tell you how much you are appreciated and loved. When we phoned you tonight (March 26 for us – March 27 for you) to wish you happy birthday, Colin and Pauline were a bit teary because it has been so long since they have seen you except in photos. And Mum, too.
We are so pleased that Warren, Lisa, Gordon and the rest of the family took you out to Chapel Farm, in the Swan Valley, for dinner. And what a co-incidence that my Nana & Pop lived in that house so many years ago. I used to feel as though I knew that house but didn’t know why. Then, one day when Robbie and I were bringing Mum up to Stoneville for a visit, as we went past the old house, she remarked that Nana and Pop had lived there and when we came down from Big Bell we stayed there.
I knew that I could rely upon my excellent son and his lovely wife to make sure the event of your birthday was not missed. 87 years old, and an old Midland boy, at that. Bluey (William James) Nancarrow.
We are all very indebted to you for the way you help us take care of our families and homes, especially when we want to go away on holidays. Warren and Lisa at Christmas time were away around the world for six weeks. Every day, you watered the garden, through the heat of the summer. Morning and night you either let out or locked up the chooks and the cats.
Amber (she is a naughty girl, that cat) would often keep you waiting until nine or ten at night, before she would come sashaying home and throw herself on the dining room floor.
Neurotic “Kitten”, living behind the TV for six weeks and then coming out on the very last day to let you cuddle her.
You are a wonderful help to me – and have been for years now, even before Robbie died. It is so lovely to be able to plan to go away on holidays or just to stay out overnight at Mum’s and know that you are there to take care of Pepper and Tung. I suppose I will have to come clean at sometime in the future and admit that it is more you taking care of me, not me taking care of my old Dad. After all, it’s you who makes sure I have breakfast every morning at 7:00!
For me, personally, you are good company and a good friend. While we have our moments of disagreement, you have made my life so much easier than it might have been after Robbie died. You take excellent care of the garden and the yard; you are pretty good on getting down the cobwebs and we really do enjoy a good game of footy together on the TV. You fix vacuum cleaners and make excellent rice pudding. I really enjoy our walks around in the bush, while you show me all your new plantings.
Pepper II and Tung have you wrapped around their little toes and it’s so funny to see you pandering to that little, blind Tonkinese cat, who eats his dinner with no fuss at all, where I give it to him, when you are not here. No running about to put it in his sun lounge and all that stuff, when Tung and I are on our own. And Burt will always respond to “Where’s Bluey” with a whistle or two.
A drink or two in the Sawyers Valley Tavern is about your limit and you are always up to being the skipper, which is probably a good thing for me (and Warren, if Lisa is singing with WASO or the Opera Studio) on a Friday night. I might be on the other side of the world, Dad, with one of my excellent sons and his wife, but we all want you to know that you are an excellent father and grandfather and we appreciate and love you very much.
Happy Birthday, Dad (Nono) from your family away overseas,
Lesley, Colin and Pauline
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