Thursday, 16 April 2009

The Ideal Home

It's been 23 years since my husband and I last moved house, but when my eldest son left home, last summer, it suddenly occurred to me that we were entering a different phase in our lives and it was possible that, in a very short time, we could once more be enjoying the dubious pleasures of house hunting.

We haven't made a habit of moving house since our marriage in 1976 and, when we were looking for our first property, we didn't have many requirements. We were both living and working in the Midlands, before we married, so our choice was limited to something we could afford and which was within reasonable travelling distance of our places of work. We finally found an old bungalow, which needed a fair amount of modernisation, but we lived there happily enough, until my husband was promoted 4 years later, when we were obliged to move a bit further south.

We were a little more discerning, when we were searching for our second property. It was difficult to find the sort of house we wanted, however, at a price we could afford, because we were moving into a more expensive area. On this occasion, we were again looking for an older, detached property, but with 3 bedrooms and a decent sized garden, in a village location, preferably with fields beyond. After endless searching, we eventually bought a neglected Baptist manse, which met most of our needs, but required a lot of repair work, before we could move in. Our mortgage payments doubled in size, as a result of buying the property and we spent a lot of money on renovations during the 6 years that we lived there. Our 2 eldest sons were born during the first 5 years that we spent in the house, but, by the time Middle son was 12 months old, I had set my sights on moving to a nearby country town. I had tired of village life, feeling that the whole family would benefit greatly from the wider range of activities and facilities available in a small town.

This time we were looking for a more modern detached family home, with as much space as we could afford. We were aiming for 3 receptions, fitted kitchen, cloakroom, one en suite bedroom, 3 further bedrooms, a family bathroom, double garage and a front and rear garden. When we finally managed to buy the house we had set our hearts on, we stayed put and, for the last 23 years, our home has truly been ideal. I shall be sad to leave the house where we have raised our family and made so many memories, but it will be too large for us, once the rest of our family has moved out, rendering the running and maintenance costs disproportionate for just 2 people.

Our requirements for our next ideal home, will be vastly different from the last. We don't yet feel ready to consider a complex for the over 55s, with House Manager, communal gardens, on site laundry, security door entry system and emergency call facility. We will, however, almost definitely be seeking out either a 2 bedroomed bungalow, or a house boasting a ready fitted Stannah stair lift and a downstairs toilet. A walk in shower room will be an absolute necessity, as will extra large windows to the front of the house, so that I can keep an eye on local goings on from behind my nets. A courtyard style garden, no bigger than a postage stamp, will also be high on our list of priorities, plus a garage big enough to house 2 mobility scooters, or one mobility scooter, with sidecar. Does anyone manufacture those? That's a missed business opportunity, isn't it?

The position of the house will be much more important this time. Views from the front of the property will hopefully include a pedestrian crossing, a couple of bus stops and a double decker bus at regular intervals of no less than 10 minutes, in each direction. Views to the rear should include the local Health Centre and hospital, which needs to be no more than 2 streets away. The house should be within easy reach of an extensive range of amenities such as the Co-op, Boots, Specsavers, the post office, the library, an NHS dentist (OK, now you know that I'm winding you up!), a hearing aid centre, a shampoo and set, a hostelry and the Crematorium.

We won't be considering any property, which stands at the top of a hill, at this juncture of our lives, as we feel that it would be too problematical. Whilst we feel sure that the trip down to the Cock and Bull, on our mobility scooters, would be a speedy delight, the return journey, after one snowball too many, could be meandering and tedious in the extreme, particularly if we roll down the other side of the hill, before I've managed to retrieve the front door key, from the bottom of my capacious shopper, and insert it, carefully, into the lock.

Finally, there is just one more requirement for our next ideal home, which I haven't yet mentioned. It simply must be within easy tottering distance of a cash machine, due to the fact that I am seriously looking forward to spending my children's inheritance.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A Difficult Choice

Doc didn't c me bt saw nurse insted, they already given me usual injection 4 bloodclots - 1 that have been havin al wk, but he asked em giv me notha 1 much stronga! So just had that, gdnite mum + sleep wel, love Middle Son X.

I deciphered my 23 year old son's text speak with a frown instead of my usual wry smile. It was 10.30, on a Saturday evening, in the third week of March and I was concerned about my middle son, who had been admitted to the trauma unit of the local hospital almost a week ago. I wondered what the stronger injection could be. Perhaps one of the hospital doctors had finally taken the initiative to administer some treatment for the suspected blood clot in my son's right calf, instead of waiting for the results of an ultrasound scan, which wouldn't take place until Monday. There was no doubt that my middle son's pain had worsened since the scan had been requested on Friday morning, so it would surely have been a logical step to take.

Half an hour later, I lay in bed on my back, my novel discarded on the bedside table, staring at a 3 stranded cobweb, which had formed between the ceiling and the light shade. I mulled over the events of the past few weeks, not yet ready to turn out the light and settle down to sleep. 4 weeks previously, my 84 year old father had been admitted into hospital, at short notice, to have his right hip replaced. I had travelled up to my parents' house, in the Midlands, the day before he was admitted, so that I could look after my mother whilst my father was away. She was unable to manage alone due to her failing sight and occasional confusion.

After the operation, my father had suffered from low blood pressure and his wound had been slow to heal, so he had spent 3 weeks in hospital altogether. The Saturday before my father's discharge, my husband had travelled up to my parents' house to stay the night and at 6.40 am on the Sunday morning, our peaceful sleep had suddenly been disturbed by a telephone call from our middle son, to let us know that he was in A & E, awaiting an x-ray, because of a suspected broken leg. By mid afternoon, one of the hospital doctors had decided that Middle Son needed to have an operation the following day and would have to stay in hospital for at least a week. Shortly after hearing the news, my husband had left for the hospital, whilst I had remained with my mother, so my only contact with my son, over the next few days, had been by text.

My father had been discharged from hospital the next day and, after a kind offer from Student Son to take over my duties at my parents' house for a few days, I had finally been able to visit my middle son on the Wednesday after his admission into hospital. In fact, after visiting my son and seeing his x-ray, I had felt much worse. I had realised that my family hadn't fully disclosed the extent of the damage to my middle son's leg and it had occurred to me, for the first time, that he might not regain full use of it. I had become even more upset the following evening, when my son had found himself inexplicably suffering increasing and unbearable pain in his broken leg.

I returned to the present once more, my gaze falling upon my bag, packed and ready by the side of the bed, in case I needed to stay with my parents for a further week, after our Mother's Day visit, the next day. I hoped that it wouldn't be necessary, but I needed to assess the situation, once we arrived and to check with my student son, to see how well my parents had coped whilst he had been staying with them. I sighed, reaching out for my book, once more, succeeding, this time, in concentrating upon the plot long enough for my eyelids to grow heavy with sleep.

Mother's Day was a rather odd occasion, in the circumstances. I saw none of my sons in the morning. My eldest son and his girlfriend had visited the previous day, as my husband and I were anticipating a hectic Mother's Day visiting our relatives in different parts of the country. We intended to have lunch with my mother-in-law and my husband's family, in Staffordshire and then an evening meal with my parents in the West Midlands. My husband rang the hospital before we set off to enquire about Middle Son's condition and the Sister confirmed that the stronger injections being administered to him were clot busting injections, so we felt relieved that some action was finally being taken to try and deal with the problem in his calf.

We spent a couple of hours with my husband's family and then continued to my parents' house, as planned. My father was feeling very relieved to be without pain for the first time in 2 1/2 years. His wound had almost healed and he had managed a visit to the local supermarket without any major problem. Student Son reported that he felt that my mother and father were managing well and would be able to cope by themselves. When I told my parents that I was willing to stay another week, if they needed me, I could see that my mother would have preferred me to stay, although she stipulated that I should return home, so that I could be near to my middle son.

After a hurried meal, with my parents, I helped to load Student Son's belongings into the car with a heavy heart. I had decided to return home, but it had been a very difficult decision to make. I knew that my mother had become used to having me around and that she would miss my company and support. When everything was packed away in the car, we said our goodbyes, the slamming of the car doors confirming the finality of my decision. When we reached the main road, I leaned out of the window and caught one last glimpse of my parents framed in their front doorway, illuminated by the light behind them. I raised my hand as we headed off into the night, weeping silently under cover of the darkness, because of the decision I'd had to make.