It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post and it’s not because I was kidnapped by emotional baboons outside Nando’s. My in-laws Phil and Shirley were getting ready to move down from Birmingham to Bricket Wood after 40 years in their home. In between travelling up to help with practical stuff and dealing with solicitors, estate agents and other incompetent people that never call you back, life got a bit hectic. Once they were here it became insanely full on and as I’m sitting here now it’s with a heavy heart as Phil sadly passed away 9 days ago, just eight weeks after making the move.
I was going to write a standalone post earlier about the big move but that seems a bit redundant now so instead this will encompass both the exodus from Birmingham and the subsequent sad events of the last few weeks. Like the Tarantino classic Kill Bill, there’s just too much to say for one post. Before you carry on I suggest you read my post on the Miracle of Moseley here. It will give you some backstory and make reading this even more emotional.
If you can’t be bothered to click on the link (cough, cough, lazy) here’s a quick re-cap: accident in Israel, broke hip, pneumonia , 7 weeks in intensive care, almost died, back to England, 3 months in hospital and recovery home, parkinsons and dementia worsening, talking rubbish and hallucination 24/7, skin and bone, can’t walk. Shirley brought him home, 24 hours later talking normally with no memory of previous 6 months. Slowly recovered and finally walking again aid free. Miracle.
I do also feel the need to explain that this might be a bit like the film “Life Is Beautiful.” Never seen it? It’s a comedy about the holocaust. Woah, hold on a minute. Before you write in anger to the Daily Mail, Points of View (is that even still a thing?) and your local MP give me a second. I know that sounds totally inappropriate but it’s a beautiful film. In the midst of sadness and tragedy there can still be joy and laughter. Seriously, just watch it and you’ll understand.
Phil’s hallucinations did return and some days were better than others. At first it was alarming and upsetting but then the general consensus was that you had to laugh otherwise you’d cry. Our brains and imaginations are mind blowing. What else can explain the following scenarios that Phil felt were real:
There was another Shirley who was having sex with people on the sofa in front of him and then marrying someone else.
Unknown and unscrupulous people were using devious methods to secretly extract his DNA. This included the use of secret cameras and doors hidden throughout the house that somehow obtained said DNA when he wasn’t looking.
He’d been arrested for various crimes including murder and was now either awaiting trial or in prison.
People were trying to take the house away from him by forging his signature.
There were a group of people in the room with him all the time, plotting against him and talking non stop so he couldn’t hear the TV.
Actually I do feel a bit bad as it was this last one that led to them moving down to St Albans. Long before his accident and illness we wanted them to move down to be closer to us. Phil’s answer was always, “Shirley can move down when I’m dead, I like my card nights, Lodge evenings and my golf here.” Fast forward a few years and the imaginary people were talking loudly in front of Phil one day when we were there. He asked me if people do that in St Albans. I reassured him that they don’t and that was it, he agreed to move so he’d have some peace and quiet. Again, before you judge, all the reasons for him not moving were no longer part of his life. Due to this and the strain looking after him was causing Shirley I didn’t feel too guilty about taking advantage of the situation and his wandering mind.
After looking at most of the available flats and bungalows in Hertfordshire over a year we finally found the perfect home for them. A new build flat in Bricket Wood, five minutes from us. Over the next few months it slowly took shape and Phil and Shirley starting preparing for the move. Myself and Rachel spent time with them helping to clear 40 years of life in Moseley and after what had seemed a lifetime of waiting it was almost moving time. I went up a few days before the move to ensure it all went smoothly and to sort out the final preparations. This involved one whole day on the phone to everyone from Lloyds Bank to SKY to solicitors and so many more. My favourite part was when ringing up as Phil to be told, “Wow, you sound really young for 80!” “I get that a lot,” was my stock answer and worryingly I got away with it every time.
Actually, my favourite part was the 112 minute call to Lloyds Bank to authorise a small transfer from Phil and Shirley’s account to their solicitor. Having the patience of Job doesn’t do it justice, Mother Theresa would have told them to stick it up their backsides and get a life. Seeing their friends coming in / phoning throughout the day to say goodbye reminded me what a huge undertaking this was for them. That evening, their last in the house Rachel grew up in, we sat down to eat pizza surrounded by empty space. It was a bit surreal and felt really emotional. When me and Shirley said goodnight to each other in the hallway we hugged. Both of us semi conscious and temporarily brain dead.
It was the first time I had spent extended time on my own with Phil and Shirley and it felt really special. Shirley is normally so unflustered and splits her time between looking after Phil, cleaning and trying to force feed me copious amounts of frangipane and Amaretto biscuits. Seriously, she’s such a feeder and I’m so weak with it. To be fair, her frangipane and everything else she cooks are amazing. You try turning it down, it’s impossible. For once it was nice to see her not in total control and the calm presence I was used to. I guess it made me feel a bit better about being all over the place myself!
The next day we said goodbye to the house and that was it. By 4pm they were in the new flat surrounded by lots of boxes. They’d finally made it and to top the whole experience off, Phil did something I hadn’t seen him do for two years, he laughed a proper Phil laugh. Since his accident he had just about managed a small smile but as Shirley sat on his lap, they tickled each other and there it was, that big smile and laugh from the old days. Even in the empty flat with just 43 boxes for company it seemed like home already.
That’s it for part one and as with Kill Bill, you now know how part two ends. Please don’t let that put you off. Amongst the sadness there are some lighter moments and it’s also about celebrating his life and embracing the stages of life. I’ll leave you with “Bob Geldof” and you can see what that means next time.
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