Packing Up is Hard to Do

June 1, 2009 at 2:36 am (Uncategorized)

It’s just come to my attention that Couchtrip Pete’s comments have once again been languishing in the Spam queue… so for those of you also missing his South African hoorahs, you may find he has been there all along. I’ve rescued his comments from the slag heap, but must remember to do the occasional Spam Raid…

Anyway, it’s Monday. I’m sort of stunned after yesterday’s ten-hour packing and tossing session at Nana’s. It’s the third round, but this was the most intense by far. Llew was able to help me for a few hours, but then he was called into the office (yes, on Sunday) because packing the flat coincided with a big project Llew’s been working on for twelve months going ‘live.’ Left alone, I flatlined into some weird, zombie-like state. Wrapping and packing and taping and marking and sifting and sorting and folding and tossing. It was largely mechanical, I guess because Nana’s still alive, so I’m not grieving per se, but it is quite curious a process for that very reason. It feels a bit impudent going through her things and making these terrible, permanent decisions about what is worth keeping and what is not. Am I making the right decisions? Now her wardrobe is so much more modest, am I keeping the right clothes and shoes for her while giving the rest to her preferred charity? Will she miss items I have relegated to the charity bin? Will I one day be called to account for relieving Nana of the majority of her Imelda Marcos-style collection of shoes? 

And what of old Christmas cards, reams of them, with their dashed signatures and quick updates from persons entirely unknown to me… what on earth am I supposed to do with them? I don’t want them. I don’t imagine Kate wants them, either. And Nana, well, she’s got no use for them at all, not to mention no room. So out they’ve gone. Or at least out they went until I was suddenly plunged into despondency about it all, rescuing a random clutch from the ‘OUT’ pile only to practically hide them from myself, surreptitiously sliding them into the ‘IN.’ I could see it was ridiculous, but suddenly it seemed important not to throw them all away. 

I’ve kept Nana’s estranged only daughter’s strange and stunted communications (such a sick and cold person, my so-called mother, so sad, really, that I almost feel sorry for her), and old cards written by my missing siblings, the same ones who, much like their mother, haven’t contacted Nana, to the best of my knowledge, since 2002-2003. And yes, there are photos of my beautiful younger sister at her Year 12 formal – wow, what a knockout she was that night. Show-stopping. She looks so stunning it’s shocking. And what happened to her, to us? Oh, my mother. That old chestnut. She spread her poison and killed the bonds between us all with such determined vigour, such appetite, that the branches of our family tree atrophied and died. And there is no way to make a dead thing live again. Among Nana’s things there’s a photo of my mother as a young girl, an old black and white, and I found myself looking at this sweet and pretty young lady, marvelling at and lamenting the ugly, so ugly adult she became. But I cannot, would not, throw any of these still precious things away.

I have cried several times going through all these keepsakes alone in my nana’s flat. There are, of course, many photos of my young, vibrant niece, at the beach, at home, at Granddad’s, on her eighth birthday, and again on her fourteenth. Looking at that last photo yesterday, on the eve of the sixth anniversary of her death, I looked at her beaming face, and the number 14 on her final birthday cake, and I sat on the side of Nana’s stripped bed, and I bawled then as I am bawling now. Rest in peace, lovely girl. 



  1. Litlove said,

    Poor Di. Have a virtual hug {{{{{Di}}}}}.

    People’s stuff is so awfully poignant, and it must be hard coming across all the detritus of a sad family history. I don’t know the story of your family, but it seems to me that you must have been such a ray of light in your nana’s life if she had lost contact with other relatives. What a compensation you’ve been!

  2. Jenny said,

    I love you Di xoxo

  3. Catherine said,

    I don’t know how to do virtual tears, but I have real ones. I hate thinking of you sorting this stuff alone. Say the word and I’m there, darkling, if only to suppy coffee (and cupcakes).

  4. Grad said,

    I think I’d just like to wrap you up in a great big “Mom” style hug right about now, and tell you that everything will be all right…it truly will. (God, I hate with a huge hate what people can do to their children. How they try to shackle them with their craziness). But, rest assured, you made the right choices with respect to your Nana’s things. Most of all, you are preserving her most precious possession – her relationship with you..her lovely, awesome and talented granddaughter.

  5. Lilian Nattel said,

    What a difficult task, what a sad day. I’m so sorry Di. (((((((hugs))))) if okay. My own family history is a sad one too–my heart goes out to you. I’m glad you have Llew and your sister Kate and the darklings.

  6. kate4samh said,

    Kate is also glad to have Di, and Nana is too.

  7. doctordi said,

    Thanks, everyone. It was never going to be easy, was it? And the timing… well, this time of year is a blur of nightmares and saturated sweats anyway, because of the anniversary, so it’s almost fitting that this is happening now too.

    And thanks, Kate. I’m glad to have you too. You’re the only person in my life who knows, who can truly understand, how I feel about our family in all its many shades of shit. But things grow where turd goes, and here we are, sisters always, friends still. I’m always wishing better, happier times for you, with all my heart.

  8. Charlotte said,

    Beautiful writing. I had a tear too.

  9. doctordi said,

    Everyone goes through so much in the course of a life, and I am fall-down grateful not to be doing it alone. Thanks, everyone.

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