Nanna – and the family home

Columnist Peter Leith continues his Aspects of Ageing series of true short stories with this poignant telling of ‘what’s best for Nanna’.

Five decades earlier, she and her shearers’ cook husband had, quite literally, built their own home in a working class, inner suburb of the large city.

The house had been built in fits and starts when he returned from weeks, or months, of working on a shearing contract or when the arrival of a new baby necessitated further extensions.

A devout couple, they had six children, three of each kind, and the house was both being built and extended at the same time.

Despite its constantly evolving design, the finished house was both visually pleasing and a very effective family home, and all six children had learnt a lot about living and working together.

As the children left home, they started to worry about mum and dad “living on their own in that big house”. With the very best of loving good intentions, they completely failed to realise that, with their children gone, the family home that they themselves had built was a critical and essential part of their parents’ lives.

The lifetime of hard, manual work had taken its toll on the health of Nanna’s husband and it was not many years before he died and Nanna was left alone in the old family home.

With the best of intentions, the sons and daughters alike, and their spouses, urged her to move into some place where she could be ‘looked after’ or at least, downsize to a smaller, easier-to- care-for home.

With the best of intentions, all of them failed to realise that the home she had helped build and lived in most of her life was her life support mechanism.

Finally, they persuaded her to let them move her into a very comfortable, even luxurious, aged care home where they could “visit more often”.

The families even clubbed together to buy her a smartphone so that they could all keep in touch with her more easily.

As she often did, she smiled gently and thanked them for their concern.

She never told them that she had great difficulty seeing and hearing, let alone using, the smartphone … and died three years later.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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