Today I went with Mum on a road trip up the hill to Kerikeri and back again. She has been trying to get my grandparents house cleared out for them, they have finally sold it and Mum is the one who has been sorting it all out for them. She has the onerous and emotional task of going though all their stuff, deciding what they might still want and what goes in the rubbish or to the charities. So on her last day trip today me and the lads went with her to try to help. We drove three hours each way and the lads were really good. They were patient and funny and kept us entertained all the way. We went to a cafe in Kerikeri called ‘Santeez’ that was gluten and wheat free (said so on the sign outside) and had a yummy lunch. I had a real coffee with real milk. On road trips the rules don’t matter.
Mostly my job was to sit and say what to chuck and what to keep so Mum could just power though. We threw out 11 rubbish bags of an old ladies collected pieces of paper. We hadn’t noticed how hard it was getting for Nana to remember things. Little tiny pieces of paper in all of the drawers with lists and facts on them that she was trying to remember. The family; the daughters and their children and their children – all the names and birth dates. On multiple pieces of paper. Mum has found identical lists of phone numbers – copied in duplicate up to 50 times. Every single letter she had received, every bill, every receipt, every lotto ticket. Mum found SO many combs. I found a drawer entirely dedicated to empty glasses cases. And this is after Mum has been going week after week to clear stuff out.
Anyway. I thought I would have more feelings about the building itself. But it turns out no not really. Nana and Grandad never really imprinted on it. In the twenty+ years they lived there they just occupied it really, and without them there I had no feelings for the space. It still smelled the same, it still ‘felt’ the same. But it is just a building. The people are what matter. The people are who you miss. I took my camera because I wanted to get some pics of the empty house but it was simply to document the process.
It’s funny, when Mum and I have been going through the photo albums we have found endless images of the house and it’s gardens. Her gardens were beautiful but my Nana was/is a terrible photographer. The photos are mainly blurry or composed badly or completely fucking random. But I kinda love that about them. She repeated the act of photographing her surroundings, shooting film after film, getting them developed and then patiently sliding the images in to photo album after photo album. It’s the same bloody photograph over and over again. There’s a million reasons why Nana might have needed to take these photos. Some more obvious than others. Repetition in order to prove existence. As if she needed reminding. And here I was today walking the same path. Taking the same photos. Although mine are in focus.