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Thread: A Journey of life, death, nostalgia and inevitability

  1. #1
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain

    A Journey of life, death, nostalgia and inevitability

    Warning! This thread contains a long, boring, pointless story, and very few jokes. You have been warned.

    It's about a journey. A physical, geographical one, and another lame metaphor for an inner journey. Ugh, bleh! Well, I did warn you.

    But before we start, there was something building up to this journey. Let's start there, and you'll be bored before you know it. The premise is that I live in a faraway country, and that my parents are unwell. My dad had a stroke a few years ago, and my mother is getting increasingly rapidly progressing dementia. My parents live in the very north of Sweden, both my brothers live down south. I live very VERY far away in Scotland. So far, my brothers have been doing all the heavy lifting. The older is managing the numbers, the younger was there a couple of months ago to help them move into a retirement home. They have both been quite active in this lengthy process, much harder for me, 1135 miles away, and Covid hasn't helped making travel plans. But I also have to do my bit. Now is the time.

    When I moved to this faraway country, I got rid of almost all of my stuff, and what little I did keep, I put in a dozen or so boxes, that we shipped up to my parents' house, courtesy of my dad driving a packed trailer. A dozen boxes may sound like a lot to you, but I was 41 at the time, and my whole life was in there. About half of it was 2000 CDs. By the time my dad was 41, he had a wife, three whiny kids, two houses full of stuff and a car. And yet the whole trip he was whining about me having too much stuff. Perspective. I do NOT own 17 different hammers, he does.

    Now, years later, my parents are unwell to the point that they've moved into a care home and will probably never set foot in their house again. Which means it's up to us three brothers to clear it. As explained, I'm the one the farthest away, but I also have the least interest in the stuff. I need to get rid of as much as possible out of my boxes, by any means possible; sell, donate, destroy. I've managed to live 11 years without it, so it's safe to assume I don't need 99% of it. It's the sorting that's the work.

    But even before we get THERE, there's yet another preamble. My younger brother was coming to visit me, in Scotland. He very kindly, for my birthday, got me a ticket to see a band I had never ever seen live, but that I listened to a lot in the 80s and 90s, and he remembered. Very thoughtful. It was by picking apart their songs, instrument by instrument, that I learned how to play keyboards, somewhat. So, in preparation of him coming to visit, I went to clean out the guest room, aka my stepson's room. He has lived with his actual dad for about 8 years, in a town 30 minutes south, so it's mainly been used as a guest room since, for him and others. But then there was Covid, so nobody had been in that room for 2 years. And now... I wish I had. Before. Now, it was crawling with bugs. Everywhere. Each thing you lifted, 20 or so of them would fly off. What the hell..? I'm from the arctic, we don't have this kind of shit, all bugs die from the cold. Turns out, they were moths, never seen those before. I had to clear out the whole room, dispose of my stepson's (limited) wardrobe, and stop to think. They had clearly eaten big holes in everything woollen, including the carpet, but not much else. I was advised to buy a Toxic Poison Lethal Killing Spray of Fatal Death, so I did. It was surprisingly effective. But all this was happening, not days, but A DAY before my brother was arriving, so it seemed wise to not engulf him in the toxic poison cloud of death, and instead put him on the sofa bed. He agreed that remaining breathing was a little preferable to slightly more personal space.

    So we went to the concert. It was surprisingly awesome. I might elaborate on that later in another thread.

    The following day we did local touristy stuff with my stepdaughter, who kindly drove us around the countryside, seeing all kinds of different sorts of rain. Straight down rain, sideways rain, tricky backstabby rain, misty eye rain, we did the whole chart. Oh, and there was probably some greenery and sheep here and there, behind the rain, hard to tell. Probably some hills.

    Early next morning was Travel Day. I'd prepared for this day for months. Months, I kid you not! I have ME/CFS, so it's very difficult for me to think straight, focus and plan ahead, so I had literally been planning and packing for months. This was the time to show if I'd done it correctly. My stepdaughter very kindly drove us to the airport, with plenty of time to spare. I watch the news, I know there are delays to be expected, so we were early. Very early. I had done my homework, and checked in online beforehand, all I needed to do was the bag drop, then the security check and we're off. So, I stood in line for 20 minutes for the bag drop, only to be told that this line was for all airlines except mine, there was a different line, with no sign or indication whatsoever. Grumble. So, I went to the other line. This line was much, much, longer, and MUCH slower. At this point I started wondering why they didn't have one of those machines I've seen at other airports where you just print your own suitcase barcode tag and drop it on a conveyor belt. But no, we had to stand in this line and do it the stupid way. This very, very long line. And very, very slow moving. Moving? Well, for a long long time, it wasn't at all. We all started getting nervous. Rumours started flying around. Will we make it in time? It's getting awfully close. And then, everybody's phones started pinging, including mine. Yep, the flight is delayed. Grumble.

    So, eventually, me and my brother made it to the gate, apparently with plenty of spare time. No update of the schedule change on the screens. Grumble. So we waited. Mildly amusing to get a call to the gate 20 minutes after we supposedly had already left, according to the monitors. Well coordinated, as-yet-unnamed-for-legal-reasons-airline!

    This of course meant, that at the halfway point of Amsterdam, where we were to change flights, we arrived late. We should have had a good two hours to spare, and time for a casual lunch, but no. We had to run like idiots across the whole damn airport. My suitcase did not run. This meant that after arriving at our destination, I spent two days wearing the same clothes. Just in the nick of time, two hours before my train leaving, my suitcase was delivered. It must have had a much more exciting adventure than I had.

    Then, the overnight train. The cheap version. Six cramped bunk beds in one tiny compartment. Always too hot, and you know that at least three people are gonna snore. Me probably being one of them. However, this time it wasn't so bad, apart from the heat. I woke up at about 4 am, got up, wandered up and down the corridor for a bit, went to the loo, had half a pint of whisky, and bam! Asleep until 8am. Surprisingly uneventful, I was expecting a long protracted torture session of intolerable heat and snoring. But I survived.

    Arriving now in the town where I was born, some 50-odd years ago. Except it wasn't. The town I knew wasn't there anymore, it had moved.
    In the most literal sense. The houses had physically moved. The train station I arrived at was not the one that was there last time. No, this is not the movie Dark City, this is a small town being slowly engulfed by the local mine, and the whole town has to move, house by house. Some parts of the town centre are still intact, but many houses empty. And there are lots of empty spaces where houses used to be, but have quite literally been lifted off the ground and carted down the road a few miles to a new location. Others will just be pulled down and destroyed, new ones built to replace them. It's a very eerie feeling walking around a town you SHOULD know so well, but is now... oddly empty. In the mid-stage of being moved elsewhere. It feels like you're in the first five minutes of a zombie movie, before everything kicks off.

    The upside of being a pessimist is that since you always assume the worst, you get pleasantly surprised when things actually work. The free bus from the new temporary train station dropped me off at the central bus station. As I was standing there in the rain, tired, with a heavy suitcase, confused, and thinking about taxis, a bus pulled in. I hopped along to ask the driver where he was going, and fortunately exactly where I wanted to go, and I could pay the civilised way, by contactless. Well, that went smoothly. If I'd have been an optimist, I'd have been pissed off with all the things that had gone wrong so far, but instead, I felt rather upbeat. It's the small things.

    So, after a short walk from the bus, I arrived at my parents' house. The house I lived in for 14 years, from age 5 to 19, when I could at last escape from this tiny little faraway town. Back then, this town really felt as if it was slightly off the edge of civilisation, in the middle of nowhere, and completely cut off from the rest of the world, and living here, all I ever wanted to do was leave. The happiest day of my life was when I moved to another town, five hours south, the nearest bigger town. But that's another story for another time. This story is about the house. And other things.

  2. #2
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain

    99C!

    So there it is. The house. It's been empty now for a couple of months, and I expected it to have been broken into, and stuff nicked. But no, everything seemed to be intact. My key still worked. It was an odd feeling, coming in to the house, empty. It's a small, timber frame, two level house, with 3-4 bedrooms, depending if you count before or after rebuilding some rooms. Every time I've come back to visit, my parents have been here, but now they were not. The last time I slept alone in this house, I was probably 16, so... 1988-ish? Some things had changed. I was last here two years ago, just before Covid broke out, in fact I had to book an earlier flight to get back to Scotland and got there just days before lockdown #1. Back then, my father was slowly recovering from his stroke a couple of years previously, so a few things had already been changed. Their bedroom was now on the ground floor. Mother's tailoring workshop had been moved upstairs into what was previously a guest bedroom, and 30-odd years ago, my room. Now there had been more changes.

    As I walked around, I could see small ramps for each threshold, so that dad could get his walker frame over them. Handles screwed to the walls in several places. The bathtub removed, now instead a large shower, with wall handles everywhere. 13 boxes of adult diapers. Latex gloves and sign-in sheets for the care staff that would visit. I'd seen this before, back when my wife had cancer, we did the same in our flat. The heating had not been on, so it was about 16C in almost every room. I went upstairs to the big bedroom and decided I'd sleep there, it was slightly warmer, and would get sunlight in the mornings. I dropped off my stuff, and went out.

    Strange how your perspective changes, if you go back to a place you used to know when growing up. The neighbourhood was more or less the same, all similar houses, tiny differences here and there. But it all felt... smaller. Now, I've been back many times since leaving town over 30 years ago, but this time, it felt even smaller than usual, like everything had shrunk by about another 5%. Or maybe I just got fatter. When I was a boy, it felt like it took forever to walk to school, which in reality would have been about 15 minutes. Now I could do it in 8-9. Next to the school was the nearest supermarket, and a pizza place. I figured it was a bad idea to shop hungry, so I had a pizza first. This, the most average small-town pizza place, nothing remarkable whatsoever, was infinitely better than any pizza I've ever had in Scotland. I don't know why you can never get a decent one, there's always at least two things done wrong but usually five, whereas here, even in the most backwards little village they can do them at least 4/5 stars. Then again, I have very little respect for the culinary abilities of the British, having lived there for 11 years, they really can not do food properly unless it's been made by immigrants from some faraway country they invaded or enslaved. Don't even get me started on British sausages, the most truly awful... well, I won't start that rant now. Yet.

    Happy with the pizza, I went shopping, and stocked up on some basics to survive the next couple of days, before I could do a proper shop. I walked back to the house, a slightly different route, to spot any minor changes in the area. Back in the house, with food in the fridge, I collapsed on the sofa. The TV was gone. This was not a surprise, I knew it had been moved to the care home, it just felt like there was now an empty void in the room where it used to be, the focal point. The last time I had lived without a TV was probably... 2003-ish? When I lived a summer in my parents' run-down cottage, thinking it might help my sleep disorder to be away from technology, and spend my days chopping down trees the old-fashioned way, with a saw and an axe and nothing motorised. It was a nice summer, but didn't impact on my sleep disorder.

    So, what then? No TV? Well, if you're a northerner, and you've lived abroad, one thing you will definitely miss is a good hot sauna. When I grew up, we had a sauna every Sunday. Only once a week, to save on the energy bill. The very first thing my dad did in 1977 after we moved into this house was to build a sauna. It still works. Last time I was here, I noticed they'd replace the old stove with a new, more efficient and hotter one, and I found out the hard way. Let's see what it can do now! Ok, so it's a Friday, but dad's not here to tell me to save on the energy bill, so I'll fire it up! And man, it felt good! A hot sauna, a couple of cold beers, just feeling all that stress and travel dust wash away... I went in and out a few times, getting it hotter and hotter until I could no longer stand being in there for more than two minutes, and I kid you not, I got it up to 99C. I very nearly boiled. It's good to be back!
    "Ninety percent of everything is crap." - Theodore Sturgeon
    "Sturgeon was an optimist." - me, just now
    System Shock 2 Walkthrough

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    It was sure long, but not boring! What an interesting tale, it made me have feelings.

    Also, I reckon, if you had any programming skills, you could make a pretty good narrative adventure type game based on your story.

  4. #4
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    It's not done yet. It's gonna be much longer, and WAY more boring. Stay tuned, or rather, for your own personal sanity, don't.

  5. #5
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain

    Inevitability

    All things considered, I slept fairly well. It felt strange being alone in a house. When I lived here, I was never alone, and since I moved out, I always lived in flats, with neighbours just a wall or floor away. Now, I could jump up and down and scream like an idiot if I wanted to, and nobody would hear me. Or so I thought, until the neighbour's lawnmower woke me up. I guess sound is still an issue. It's just a timber frame house after all, not an impenetrable fortress or a soundproof underground bunker.

    I walked out to the garage. My older brother had spoken the truth, he had moved my old bicycle to here from the cottage. After pumping the tyres and a squirt of oil, I had a vehicle again. I can move! However... I'm old now. Before I moved to Scotland, I never had a car, or a driver's license, I had a bike. That was my transport vehicle. Growing up I was cycling in a hilly little town where it was always somehow uphill and wind in your face, and when I went to university down south it was flatter, but still windy. By the time I was 40 I had the legs of a wrestler. But no more. I do own a bike in Scotland, but it is not a very bike friendly place where I live, they're trying to improve it but it just isn't as easy to go anywhere. So, I've withered. My massive strong legs have now shrunken down to only two steps up from you average (bleh) motorist. So, now, I do struggle uphill against the wind, and I'm reminded of how bloody old I am. But I manage. Eventually.

    And what I managed to get to, eventually, huffing and puffing, was the care home. This was the first time I got to see it, and my parents in it. My mother was elated to see me. I always got the impression I was her favourite son, probably because I was so adorable and didn't make any trouble. But that's another story, my younger brother is a much nicer person than I. I didn't tell them I was coming, because with her dementia, she always thinks I'm coming. Every time we talk on the phone, she thinks I'm travelling to meet them, and I have to explain yet again about Covid and travel restrictions. She thinks my brothers were there just yesterday, or are coming tomorrow, even though it's months in the past or future. At first, when you talk to her, she might seem normal, but when you ask a question you realise she's not really there, she's in 1956, or 1968. She would say she's just going to the shops. Ok, fine, normal..ish, except she doesn't have to, the staff will get what they need. But no, she was just on the phone (not connected) with her sister-in-law to borrow one of her horses, to ride to the village, to go to a shop that closed in 1973. And nobody has ridden a horse to a shop since before she was born.

    Both my mother's parents had Alzheimers. Both my father's parents had Alzheimers. This is my future. This is what I'm heading to. It is inevitable. I have to plan for this. One day, this will be me.

    My dad is another matter. Whenever I would phone home, I would only speak to mother, he wasn't interested in speaking to me, and vice versa. But over time, as she's gotten worse, we've started to talk more. After his stroke, he speaks very slowly, slurred, and his hearing is very bad, but his mind is still there. My mother's isn't. So, oddly, now when they're in a care home, I've grown closer to my dad in a way that I haven't been since the 1980s when we used to work together. Or rather, he'd yell at me for not doing things right. His lifelong project was to rebuild an old cottage, and we kids had to help. We all had to pitch in. When other kids went to sunny summer holidays in Mallorca, we were carrying bricks or holding planks. I was there the longest, I helped put the roof up. But that was 30 years ago and it's still not finished.

    So, I left the care home, full of new and confusing emotions. It was pretty much what I had expected, but I'd still need a bit of time to process what was going on there. Intellectually, I've known for a long time that this is the path that we've been heading, but emotionally I still haven't quite caught up. My mother's decline has been quite rapid, only two years ago she was quite clear and sensible, with occasional hints of dementia, but now, she's all dementia with no signs of clarity beyond a minute or so. Her younger sister had a very rapid decline and died within a year and a half, she's already past that, and older, so we can all see where this is going. Question is, will it happen while I'm still here, or when I'm a thousand miles away and can not come back for the funeral? Every time I see my parents now, it feels very much like this might be the last time I'll see either of them alive.

  6. #6
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Over the next few days, I visited my parents at the care home. Sometimes my mother would remember I had been there the previous day, sometimes she'd react as if she'd not seen me for years. My dad was mostly bedridden, or needed help to get up on his walker. He complained about his beard getting too long, but I could not find his razor. The next day, I brought my trimmer, the one I shave my head with, and trimmed down his beard. It was probably the first time in my whole life I touched his face. It felt very close and intimate, as if we were bonding. I then found his electric razor, in a cupboard where it shouldn't have been, and used it for the finer points.

    We were never a very emotionally open family. Not once, not ever, have I ever seen my parents hug, or even touch, or say a kind word to each other. I have never seen them express emotions towards each other. I can not remember ever touching my father beyond perhaps a handshake every ten years. My mother would hug me when I would visit, but other than that, we were stereotypically northern. I had to learn how to relate emotionally to other people elsewhere, I made a point to be more emotionally open than the way I grew up. So when I say I touched my father's face, it was a very strange experience. I could see by the look in his eyes that this was unusual for him too, but that he appreciated that I made the effort to shave him. To me, doing basic care for someone was not a new thing, I took care of my wife when she had cancer, I wiped up her vomit and faeces, I fed her and cleaned her and walked her to the bathroom. I knew how to do this, and he seemed surprised that it didn't phase me to shave him, while I was thinking I've seen much worse.

    At the house, I started to go through my stuff. Mission one was to FIND all the boxes, nothing was where I had left it nine years ago. Eventually, I found my boxes hidden in a storage room behind boxes and boxes and boxes, and then some more boxes. There were more papers than I remembered. I scanned everything that seemed vaguely important. I've had a lot of medical problems, so there were lots of medical records, doctor's letters, medical benefits papers, all with my name and details on them, and not something I'd want to throw in the bin. A few years ago, someone went through our bins to steal personal data, and used that to try to scam us, and I even now many years later get scammers calling claiming to be from company A that we've not used for 8 years, so, I was very reluctant to release so much very personal and potentially damaging information into the great unknown. I did not have access to a shredder, so I was only left with the options of redacting everything with a black marker pen, which would take me several years, or simply burn it. Burning was easy... ish. I had a plan. But I had to wait for the weather to be halfway decent.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    It's true that you can never go home again. It's there in your memory as true as a sunny day but things change so much. Some forever not for better as McCartney said. I told my daughter that as you age you see two places everywhere you go. I didn't tell her all the ghosts she will carry in her head though. Let her find out the way we all do. Lot's of things old people don't tell you that you find out about eventually. Lots of things for you to find out yet too.

    But I don't mean to interrupt. Keep going. I'm right there with you.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: melon labneh
    Great writeup, thoroughly enjoying the read although I can't help but snicker at the Swede mocking the Brits' food, all the more when it comes to pizza and sausage.

    Going through your old things in an empty house is such a strange feeling of sehnsucht and looking in the face of the inevitable. Yet I've also found it somehow pleasant in the way it allows for closure.

  9. #9
    I come back home regularly since I left in 2006 and around the six-eight year mark was when I noticed the drift, that I was starting to not recognize the city I grew up in. What was your house is no longer your house, it's your parent's house. I lost my dad in March and the first few days in the house were so weird, looking at everything around me and realizing a part of me was gone forever.

    "(It) is gone, and it was so deeply a part of us that we find ourselves with an unknown and melancholic feeling, a feeling new to us: the secret regret of getting old."
    - Saint Exupéry

  10. #10
    SShock2.com
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    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Quote Originally Posted by Briareos H View Post
    I can't help but snicker at the Swede mocking the Brits' food, all the more when it comes to pizza and sausage.
    I've travelled a bit, and by comparison, British food is by far the worst. Almost every other country can do at least a few decent sausages, but Britain said no, we'll ignore all foreign influences, and keep making ours the horrible way. I am in no way claiming that Swedish food is always excellent, we sure have our really terrible foods, like the infamous stinky fermented herring, but sensible people don't EAT that crap because we now have ACTUAL food. But Sweden is a small nervous country, always looking outwards and forwards, to other countries, trying to pick up the next big thing, whereas Britain is so confident in its own imagined greatness it's only looking inwards and backwards. That's not just about food, that's about everything. But that's a whole separate rant I won't get into. Yet. Granted, not all Swedish food is great, but on an international scale of food I'd rate it maybe 6/10, at least we're trying, whereas Britain would struggle to reach a 2/10, because they can't be arsed, thinking this will do. if we ignore the amazing Indian food and other appropriated food cultures. But the above was mainly about foods I've missed that I can't get in Britain. More on that later.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: melon labneh
    I think food cultures deserves their own thread and I don't want to derail yours but I'll explain my snickering. As a foreigner to both, I've found a lot of good and bad food in both places. Both countries have amazing traditional farm products such as cheeses, meats and good locally grown vegetables although limited in range.

    On the one hand I wholeheartedly agree that access to a variety of foreign foods is way more developed and turned outwards in Sweden, with a very lively scene of foreign restaurants and supermarkets, especially in Stockholm. I can find anything I want.

    On the other hand when it comes to local adaptations of pizza or everyman foods, then I'm not sure I can decide who is better. "Traditional" Swedish sausages (from Isterband to falukorv to blodpudding) are just the worst sausages I've ever had, one of the nicest brands I can find at ICA is ironically for UK-style sausages (Taylors and Jones). As for Swedish pizza, it's the same fake pizza that you can find in every European country that is not Italy, but with an accent on particularly exotic variations (of course kebabpizza but also all the ones with fruits or curry). That being said I haven't tried pizza in the UK, perhaps it's worse. And then again, it also very easy to find good Neapolitan pizza in Stockholm.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2002
    Location: 1, Rotation: 0
    Gray, I thoroughly enjoy reading about your nostalgia trip. It suddenly occurred to me how much we have in common - much of what you describe makes me nod in recognition and might as well have been about me. Like you, I'm from an industrial town of almost exactly the same size in the north of almost exactly the same country . We're close in age, and I also have two brothers, although I'm the youngest one. Your description of the lack of displays of empathy and affection in the family you grew up in could have been written by me, and I've been very conscious about being much more open with my own son as a direct result of that experience. Even the house I grew up in was built around the same time as yours. And we both went abroad, married and settled down in a foreign country.

    I also know that strange feeling you get when you return after years of absence to a place you used to know very intimately. A peculiar mix of familiarity and strangeness, lots of impressions and feelings that kind of come rushing back after years of being kept in cold storage. Things you never used to think about when you lived there because they were just the way they always were, and you never had any reason to think about them at all. But then you return years later, and you notice these little things like you're seeing them for the first time, although they are exactly as you knew them, they never changed, but your experience did. Like how in the summer the evening sun keeps creeping northward while sinking ever so slowly hour after hour, without ever really setting below the horizon, which can mess with your feeling of time, at least in the first few days. Or how electricity and phone cables are strung on poles on every street instead of being underground, or how practically nobody ever puts up a fence or wall around their property.

    But I must say that my experience with the food is rather different from yours, because the food here is much better and more varied than back home. I've read stories about pensioners living in Spain saying they miss nothing from home, except for the food. I can't get my head around it. How can you live in the second-best food country in Europe and miss Norwegian food? It boggles the mind. Some time ago, I came up with this idea of what I would say if somebody asked me to describe my home country in one sentence: "Many people visit there for the beautiful scenery - but nobody stays for the food!"
    Last edited by hopper; 24th Jun 2022 at 02:46.

  13. #13
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    A word on the food issues above: the clue is in the thread title.

    And now back to our scheduled programme.

    :ahem:



    In this part of the world, the weather is fickle at the best of times. It took me about a week for the weather to be decent enough for the next phase of my plan. To get on my bike, and ride it down, about 45 minutes, from the small town in the middle of nowhere, to the nowhere slightly outside of the nowhere of nowhere, where the old cottage was. This is where I spent all my summers as a boy. This is where my dad burned all his money. His forever project, yet unfinished. This is where we hated to go, because it meant carrying bricks and holding planks, and getting yelled at in Finnish curse words for not doing it right. All three of us brothers always said we'd never want to inherit this place, with all the memories of an enforced labour camp. But yet, now, my older brother owns it, and intends to keep it. And now that I'm old, I can see why.

    It's a lovely spot. Granted, it's dead centre of the mosquito breeding grounds. It's slightly outside the edge of civilisation. For 11 months of the year, the weather is pretty shit. But for roughly 10 days a year, not in succession, it's almost rather nice. Sometimes. The cottage itself is still a death trap, but he intends to fix that. Eventually. At least twice I've warned him that he might fall into the same trap as dad, and never actually get it done, as has everybody else around him, but he's more practical and pragmatic, and also richer, so it might actually be liveable at some point. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here for three things. Life. Death. Nostalgia. And sausages. Ok, four things.

    I can't remember just how much firewood I've chopped here. Probably several metric tonnes. And most of it is still around me. In that pile, and that pile, and that pile, and in those two piles over there, and the other three on the other side of the cottage. And that other one under the tree. So I think I've earned the right to burn some of it. My brother built a new brick firepit. I'm gonna use that. For two things. Number one, sausages. Yes, those godawful Swedish sausages I've missed so much. They might not be quality food, but they are nostalgia, and the only way to eat them properly is to get that proper black cancer crunchy coating from a real wood fire. Number two, destroy evidence. To burn all those papers with personal information. The doctors' notes, the medical records, the medical benefit details, the appeals, the court details. All that stuff that you don't want to get into the wrong hands. I only call it evidence for comedy value. It's much more boring than that, I just don't want it to fall into the hands of another scammer.

    But that's the fire pit, the new brick barbeque. That's new. For as long as I can remember, the old bonfire place has always been about 7 meters down towards the river. It's still there, a ring of stones, a centre of old ashes. I honestly don't understand why the new brick fire pit was not built there, but at this moment, I am very pleased it was not. Nine years ago, this is where me and my wife spent our honeymoon, all two nights of it. We'd incinerate those sausages, melt marshmallows, drink the cheapest beer, and have a tiny sip of her favourite whisky, all by the midnight sun of the arctic, lighting up the massive river behind us. It was magic. She was so happy there. She always said she wanted to move to Sweden. However, that never happened, for several practical and financial reasons. And also because she died four years ago.

    This is the first time since then I've been able to come back. Two years ago, when I was last in the country, I brought with me a small glass jar of some of her ashes, thinking I'd some day get to go here, and spread them where I knew she was happy. But that was as Covid was breaking out, and I had to cut my trip short, and go back early. But now I'm here, and now I can. So I scattered her ashes over the old ashes, probably breaking some law in doing so, and probably the first law I ever broke anywhere. I then put two tiny flags in the glass jar, one Scottish and one Swedish, and a folded up note with the lyrics to Eels: In My Dreams, and I threw the glass jar into the river. For me, this was the way of saying goodbye that I'd wanted to do for four years, but had not been able to do. Until now.

    I went back to the brick fire pit. I ate the sausages. I drank the cheap beer, and her favourite whisky. This is when it hit me. This thread. This is when the idea came to me. Life. Death. Nostalgia. Inevitability. Over here, the new fire pit, that's where I was cooking my food. Life. Over there, the old bonfire ashes, and now her ashes. Death. This whole journey, and everything I'm sifting through. Nostalgia. Seeing my parents in the care home, knowing what's coming. Inevitability. I had a lot to ponder. And also, some badly charred sausages to eat.
    "Ninety percent of everything is crap." - Theodore Sturgeon
    "Sturgeon was an optimist." - me, just now
    System Shock 2 Walkthrough

  14. #14
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Back at the house, I was exhausted from cycling uphill for an hour, and stinking of smoke. It's all fun and games while you're IN the smoke, keeping the mosquitos away, and munching on saturated fat and probably highly toxic badly burned death cancer foods, but now, it's just a stink. Earlier, as I was digging through one of my boxes, I found some old clothes I didn't bring to Scotland with me nine years ago. Sure, now that I had my suitcase happily back from its adventure in Amsterdam, I had two clean t-shirts, but it was more fun to wear something I hadn't seen for years. Now, should I go with the basic black, or the other black, or the grey, or the other grey? No, let's make it fun, and go with the black one with a logo for a long defunct indie record label, and pretend that I used to be cool at some point. The logo glows in the dark!

    But first, a sauna. Inside, cleansing myself, I was thinking, this whole journey is a lame metaphor of cleansing myself from my past. I need to shed the dead weight of nostalgia. I have too much stuff I don't need, physically and emotionally, and there's too much here that I've not touched or longed for or even remembered for eleven years, surely, I can just get rid of it. I need less stuff, not more. I need to move on. That is the plan. But we're not there just yet. There's work to be done.

    What shall I do with all my CDs? What about my old synths, can I be arsed to sell them? Surely, they're from the crappiest era of synths, the mid-to-late-80s-and-early-90s, not old enough to be cool, but too old to be useful. Can I afford to just give them away? I clearly don't need them. I may be poor, but I also can't be arsed to haggle over the tiny amounts they might be worth. Books, well, ironically I fully intend to burn my F451, the others will probably just be recycled for wood pulp, nobody here would want an English version of Mostly Harmless.

    I probably have some form of mild OCD. I always think something might be useful, or necessary, in the future. So, when going through all my stuff, I have to somehow save it for later first. I'm mid-process of trying to FLAC all my CDs, I'm up to F. They're already MP3'd, but, well, you know. All my papers, I scan before I throw out. All my papers. All. That means going through roughly a metre and a half, the last half metre being the aforementioned medical stuff, the rest being harmless yet possibly interesting, for nostalgic purposes. Bleh. Nostalgia. There we are again. I WILL throw this old crap out, I just need to scan it first. Just in case. Old yearbooks. Ranging from high school, through college, through university. Oh look, there's someone I hadn't thought about in 30 years. I fancied her briefly for about two weeks but never spoke to her. That guy I beat at badminton. I also fancied her. And her. And that one. And those. That guy was a jerk. I fancied her. Those three, we worked together one summer when I was 16. Her, I fancied. Her, I actually spoke to, she did NOT fancy me. And so on. Endless pointless crap, but a lifetime of memories. My first kiss. My first girlfriend. My first breakup. All the things that shaped me to be the person I am today. Scanned, saved to disk. Now I can let it go and move on. It's an ending of sorts, but one of freedom rather than sadness. The less I have, the better I feel.

    Up to a point, obviously, I still need my bloody laptop, I'm not the Buddha. Yet. And the charger, clearly.

    So, for the second time in my life, I'm going through all that I have ever owned, done, written, recorded. I'm trying to shake off the curse of nostalgia, and get rid of as much as possible. But I'm fighting against my own nature as an OCD hoarder, that stuff might come in handy one day. I'm sure it will, as soon as I get rid of it, Murphy's Law tells me so. But experience doesn't. So, I'm taking it in baby steps. 178 data CDs? Well, I can put that data onto a USB thumb drive and throw away the CDs. There. Space saved. And I'll probably never look at that thumb drive, but I still have it. Just in case. That old mid-90s PC that won't boot up anymore? I could salvage the HD, it might have something on it, and I can discard the other hardware. Space saved. And so on. And the next time I go through this process, I can probably throw away all of those things too.

    It's not that I think nostalgia is all bad. It can feel great to have old memories wash over you, remembering some of the best times of your life. But then to let go. What's done is done, it won't come back. Great memory. Let's keep it that way and not try to continue to live in it.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2002
    Location: In the flesh.
    And that's why I like you.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Keep the synths, you never know.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Boring? Pointless? I hung on to every word and failed to fight back the... onions.

  18. #18
    SShock2.com
    Moderator

    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: 100 Rads Bar
    Gray! Always so nice to see one of the really old timers. Loved every word of your posts

  19. #19
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Standing in line in the supermarket, on a hot summer's day, it slowly begins to dawn upon me that it may have been somewhat unwise to wear a t-shirt that had been in a box for 11 years. I'm getting increasingly aware that my deodorant is not living up to its name, and that I now smell as if I've been in a box for 11 years. This will have to be amended.

    Back at the house, I now have to figure out how the new washing machine works. My older brother had a new one installed. Apparently this one has BlueTooth. Seems very useful, if it can remotely hang up the laundry for me afterwards. Otherwise, I fail to see the point, but meh, I'm old and stupid, and five years from now I probably can't live without it. But as I open the compartment for the detergent, there's another clue of my mother's increasing inability. The whole damn thing is clogged with a massive lump of dried detergent. She must have repeatedly crammed too much in, not paying attention. This makes me doubt the cleanliness of everything in the cupboards, and later re-wash quite a lot of it. With good reason. But the new washing machine runs like a dream, I wish I could afford one as nice as this, the one I have back in Scotland leaks and sputters at random moments so you can never take your eyes off it, or you'll drown the downstairs neighbours. Yes, in Scotland, houses are built like it was the 1820s, even though mine was in 1997, and you can't get the bloody floor wet. And the washing machine is in the kitchen. How primitive. But I digress. That is a whole other rant.

    And now, as I walk around the house, I notice more and more signs of my mother's dementia. Out by the garage, I found an oven grating with some sort of black plastic melted right deep into it. Cause unknown. And everywhere are post-it notes, increasingly angry, aimed at people who are not real but she thinks are. Only the two of them lived in the house, but she's writing angry notes to "the people upstairs". Now, the noise upstairs is from the rain on the corrugated aluminium roof. There's nobody upstairs. But when she was a girl, they lived in a flat with bothersome neighbours, who'd stomp on the floor smoke, and curse. So, her notes are about them smoking and cursing. Something that happened 65 years ago. At one point, she was convinced me and my younger brother had been kidnapped by these evil people upstairs, so she phoned the police. The police cleverly phoned social services. They phoned my older brother. He phoned me. I phoned my mother, to assure her I was not A) seven years old, and B) not kidnapped. As I was speaking to her, she knew who I was in the present day, grown-up me, but she was still trying to explain that seven-year-old me had been kidnapped. It took quite a long time to explain that I was fine.

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