Old Wine In New Skins

A man is never a hero to his valet, and a child is rarely an adult to its parents. This has many advantages but also a few drawbacks. I, for example, am rapidly approaching the grand old age of 72. A very pleasing number, 72: a pronic number, with lots of qualities and associations so you can come at it from a host of different directions.

However, my mother having attained the happy prime number of 97, still looks down on me from her 4 feet 10 inches as the wayward daughter who WILL NOT LISTEN. Oh, we get along very well, and she is a lovely person to be with, not really a control freak, and I have to admit that she is usually right. Also, I am here only as a temporary measure as long as she needs assistance. So I do have to remember my place in the pecking order. I have often seen friends and family hiding a grin as Great-Great-Grandmother tells Great-Grandmother what she’s done wrong, and proves the adage incorrect that “nobody can spank grandma”.

This has come to the fore in the last few days because of my bedroom carpet.

Now you have to understand that when my father retired at the age of 65, my parents spent quite a large sum of money on having their house rewired, central heating put in, a new kitchen installed, new carpets laid and the whole place re-decorated inside and out. That, they smiled contentedly as they surveyed the whole house made new, will see us out. And as far as my father was concerned, it did.

However, nobody – least of all my mother – expected that she would live to this great age. For the last ten years, the house has been fraying around the edges. My mother has acknowledged this but maintains that it’s hardly worthwhile spending much on replacing worn-out things, as “I won’t get the use out of them and you don’t want them.” Still, as curtains were disintegrating daily and loose covers getting holier-than-thou, she did let herself be persuaded to have new ones. Cut-price, of course, though they had to be good quality: full price would be a waste of money.

Our argument that she deserves to have a pleasant, comfortable home in her last days falls on very deaf ears. She wants her home to look exactly as it has for the past 30-odd years, with the colour scheme, carpet and wallpaper patterns she chose then, and her familiar furniture and ornaments around her. There’s no question of redecorating. The upheaval would be too traumatic. So we try to keep things as neat as possible and gently replace each small item as it dies. And, in some cases, larger items such as the central heating boiler, which exploded on Boxing Day 2011. Or a new mattress for my bed when I came out of hospital. Also, of course, the transformation of the front garden into a paved forecourt.

The latest of these “deceases” is the carpet in my bedroom. I don’t know how long it has been there, but even Mom admits its time has come. She surprised me a few weeks ago by saying that we ought to replace it, but I know by now that when she says that, she doesn’t mean “replace it now”. It means … some time. Then last Friday she saw an ad in the local paper for an incredible price reduction in a clearance sale, of an attractive all-wool carpet. She showed it to me, with the fatal comment, “That would look nice in your room.” I pounced. I marched off to the shop and ordered it. Free delivery and fitting, too!

“When can you bring it?”

“Day after tomorrow.”


No, we need to empty the room and Mom has to get her head round the idea first.

“I’ll call you back on that. Probably in about 2 weeks will be convenient.”

I also need to mobilise extra troops, because I’m not allowed to lift heavy things or put strain on my abdominal muscles, so that meant roping in the long-suffering grandchildren to shift furniture and it had to be a time that fitted in with their busy schedules. Bless them, they responded with alacrity. That’s settled, then, and I can now start to declutter and put the stuff that isn’t heavy into the spare room.

Experience has taught me that I have to get the General’s approval before I can start manoeuvres. We were discussing procedure yesterday and my mother was starting to get a little agitated at the thought of all there is to do, and where is everything going to go, etc. etc. I tried to calm her by saying, “Don’t worry about it – you can just sit back and let me get on with it.” No, that didn’t calm her at all: she doesn’t have a very high opinion of my capabilities. I need supervision.

“Look,” I said finally, feeling a little exasperated, “It’s MY bedroom!”

“Yes,” she responded tartly, “And it’s MY house!”

We are going to have some fun in the coming two weeks!


10 thoughts on “Old Wine In New Skins

  1. I just know you’ll be like that one day !. I will…given up on my daughter and her untidiness but this is my place and I shall defend my right to hold on to what I want to do to it!!! I too am approaching 72 and am enjoying getting bolshi , it’s all good fun ; ) x

  2. How wonderful to be 72 and to still have your mother! My mother is 86 and still full of beans. However, I do not think that I could ever actually live with her again. Well done you for doing that.

    • I thought I, too, was grown up and had flown the nest! But I’ve always promised her that she wouldn’t have to go into a home as long as I can take care of her.

  3. Pingback: This Old House … | catterel

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