This is my Thursday. The day I go and do a few things for dad. The day I feel the closest to mum, even though I can’t feel her there. I do a load of washing, vacuum and mop the floors, clean the bathroom; and some days potter in the garden.
As I drive up the hill towards mum and dad’s house, I can feel the sadness flood over me. It’s a heaviness in my chest, a quickening of my breath, a light pounding of the heart and often there is moisture forming in the corners my eyes. It’s a trip that I have done many many times in the 20 plus years they have been there; but since mum has gone, it’s not excitement or joyful wonder that I’m feeling as I go up the hill.
As I round the corner and into the driveway, I need to sit for a moment; pause and take a breath. I gather myself and get my wandering mind in order. The front garden is so full of life, life that mum has given it over the years. Her beloved roses that today are blooming and fragrant, because dad has been tending to them and pruning them and loving them just as she would have. Something that he didn’t have to do before, but now it’s a new skill that he has learnt since mums passing.
I give myself a silent pep talk and put my big girl pants on, get out the car, key in lock and then, bang, this is when it hits me. Deep breath.
The house is cool and very quiet. Dad has gone to work like he does most days, driving cement trucks.
I look through the door into the lounge room where mum would spend many hours in her special recliner. Today it is empty. It was a place where I would often see her needle and thread in hand, stitching something for her current quilting project. If she wasn’t stitching she would be reading or knitting or catching up on TV programs that she had to tape because dad’s car racing was on.
I stand and smell. Nothing. No cakes or biscuits or slices have been baked. No roast has been cooked, or pastries made. There will be no Tupperware dishes sitting on the kitchen bench full of sweet treats, or savoury delights for me to sneak one or a few.
I stand and listen. I can’t hear the whirring sound of mums sewing machine in her purpose built on sewing room at the back of the house. There is no music floating along from that tiny room that holds so many memories.
I take another breath and look around.
I look down at the angel doorstop that has crazy hair and big wings. The drawn on face has faded over time, but the big purple flower with a green heart shaped button is there front and centre.
I look at the hat stand, where hanging are a few hats, an umbrella, and of course mum’s Crows scarf. Always a bone of contention.
I look into the corner of the lounge where mum has proudly hung on a huge painters ladder; the quilts that she made for her mum and dad (my nanna and poppa), for their significant birthdays. Made with so much love, and a few curses thrown in.
I look around at the walls in the lounge room. They are filled with a mish mash of photos, all hung at various heights from various eras of her life. My wedding. My brother’s wedding. Old family photos, old farm photos and photos of the grandkids. A large framed cross stitch that mum finished many years ago of a lady sitting in a rocking chair on an old porch is hanging in between the photos too.
What gets me every time is the photo of mum that is sitting on the coffee table, front and centre. It was the photo that we put on her coffin. It is a photo that reflects mum, what she looked like, how she dressed and an expression that she always wore. Today, dad has a roses from the garden in a vase next to her photo. Something he does whenever they are blooming.
In the passage I walk past a masterpiece. A quilting project that mum and dad both worked on. An adaptation of a photo they took when they travelled to Kakadu. This was the only quilt that dad was adamant that had to stay. The others not so much. I run my hand over it and feel the texture and love that they both painstaking put into this project.
I look into their bedroom. One side of the bed still made up and pillows in place. Dad still only stays to his side of the bed. The box of tissues on mum’s side of the bed remind me of the last day she was home, in bed, succumbing to nausea, and diarrhoea in a colostomy bag that I had to change for her.
Dad still keeps a few trinkets on the tallboy in their bedroom. Her 4 bottles of favourite perfume, a love heart dish that she kept her earrings in, and the heirloom doily that belonged to my nanna.
Dad still doesn’t put his cloths away!
The walk in robe is bare and empty. No bright scarves hanging from the hooks on the wall. No clothes, no shoes, no handbags, all gone, bare.
Through to the living room I go, past the self-mantled shelf with more photos. This one is of Friends. Mum’s friends from quilting and her work. Her besties whom I’ve become close to. The “J” girls – 5 friends with names all starting with J, except mum, she was L. In mum’s last years, these ladies also became very important to me and were a massive support to mum. These were the ladies that helped me when I needed help with driving mum around to chemo, radio and all the other appointments. They would always check in on mum and took her out often. Then there is the photo of her 3 long-time friends that she had since moving to Adelaide. They too because a big part of my life during mum’s last years. Such great friends.
The last stop is always mum’s sewing room. She would spend hours drawing up patterns, stitching, sewing, cutting – all things required to make quilts and other needlework and crafty things. I sit in her chair for just a moment and close my eyes. I can picture the two of us here, chatting away about square fats or fat squares (I could never remember what they were called!), current projects, what she did at quilting retreat or where the next one was. These chats were often done over a cup of coffee or even a glass of wine. There is still sewing “stuff” sitting on the cutting and sewing tables; but the cupboards are now empty. No fabric, ribbon, lace, buttons, zips or patterns, it’s all gone. Now all that sits in those cupboards are the boxes of wrapping paper, gift cards, a box of scissors (about 12 pairs!), a box of tape measures and a shit load of quilting magazines. Mum wanted all of her fabric and quilting “stuff” to go to the group she was part of that made quilts for women’s shelters. What wonderful quilts these ladies in need are going to have.
Pinned to the sewing room walls are still the little things what mum has sewn; the schedule for a quilting retreat that she organised, little dolls that she has made, pin cushions, and dangly things that where gifts to her. All this here to remind me of how much mum loved doing this and how loved she was.
I look out the sliding door and see all the pot plants that mum loved. All still there, none have been moved on. Plants that I have no idea what they are called, plants that dad has now idea either. But we keep watering them, pruning them, re-potting them, and nurturing them. That’s what mum would have done.
This is my Thursday.