31 January 2021

My father now answers the phone with "And who is calling me?" and when I say my name and my greetings, he repeats my name, aha, Sabine on a Sunday, he calls out, and tells me his latest temperature and blood pressure readings. He has well and truly survived the covid infection without any of the expected symptoms. We proceed in the usual manner, he talks, I listen. This is his clever way to cover up the fact that he can no longer really hear what I say. When I make an attempt at conversation, shouting, whatever, he ends the call. Lately, he has begun to thank me for calling before he hangs up, which is most startling. I believe it's purely out of caution since he may not be entirely sure who has called him. Just to be on the safe side, could be someone else, someone important, not one of his children.

Many thanks for all the wonderful comments to my last post about decluttering. You have given me much to think about. The ideas of a bonfire send off was most appealing and I spent a few early morning hours setting the scene, but my family rejected my - already quite elaborate - proposal point blank as it would unnecessarily increase our carbon footprint. 

I have therefore handed over all my grandmother's letters, the ones she wrote to her children during the WWII years, to R for scanning. He has taken to it with great gusto, archiving by year and month. He just informed me that the letters from 1943 - 1945 appear to have been handled and folded many more times than the ones after 1945. We speculate about how many people may have read them and where and when. R wants to find secret codes, suspects that my grandmother attempted to convey secret messages to her two adult children, one a medical student working in field hospitals,  the other about to desert his unit before walking home across eastern Europe. I don't agree, this is not a war movie.

Here's hoping that his enthusiasm will not fade when I open the next steamer trunk.

Earlier today, we distributed another batch of books across the city's open public book shelves (?) or cases (?) whatever you call it. A friend had warned me that my books would not go to readers but that these places are "raided regularly by mean characters with the intention to sell donated books on the black market". Yikes! or rather, good luck, fellows! Whatever it takes.

It has been raining and snowing, today the rivers has bursts its bank. Not much but enough for headlines. On our way back from the book drop, we looked through the hectic wiper business into a grey and cold Sunday afternoon. A few more weeks, we reassured each other. 

There's some good info on this song here.


  1. I envy you and your decluttering enthusiasm. I periodically try. It just never seems I go far enough.

  2. Your father reminds me of some other men I have known who appear to be immortal and thus convince themselves they are.
    I'm sad you can't have a bonfire. Even a tiny little fire? Just enough to create ashes from paper?
    Spring will come. She always does.

  3. Love the idea of scanning old letters. I hadn't thought of that. We're still picking up and dropping off books at the little corner public libraries that have sprung everywhere. I think we'll start dropping off more books than we have gathered. The music you chose is so beautiful.

  4. Huh. If someone needs money badly enough to steal and re-sell books or anything else I've donated, more power to them.

  5. my mother died of the cumulative effect of TIAs, her brain dying a little bit at a time, giving over to dementia. she was a smoker and would not quit, even tried to get people to smuggle cigarettes in to her when she became unable to go get them herself. eventually she could not speak and the last few phone calls I made to her were frustrating, did she know who I was, did she understand what I was saying? I stopped calling. my sister though was a better child than I even though her relationship with our mother wasn't any better though perhaps less contentious.

  6. Hmmmm...I missed your decluttering post! I feel the same way about the free bookshelves. I don't care if someone re-sells the books. More power to them.

    It's so strange when parents age and we can't communicate normally anymore. I'm in that situation with my mom, although in her case it's not her hearing but her verbal skills that are the problem. (Well, and dementia. I'm not sure what she even understands.)

  7. Should the well run dry (No sign of that, I'm glad to say.) you might devote two dozen words to describing what the sonic effect would be in removing the accents from the song title and the singer's name.

    Especially the singleton cap O. This is no idle request. Much of my Skyped singing lesson, yesterday morning, was given over to vowels-that-are-difficult-to-sing. Particularly O and U (with and without unlaut).

    Attention to detail pays off. As you have shown by rendering your Dad's speech modes (and non-speech modes) exactly. Sometimes the old ones make it difficult for us to love them (I speak as an old one myself) and the reasons deserve examination. Reasons are also proof someone is listening.

    1. Ha, you have arrived at one of my pet subjects, the fada.
      More here: https://www.bitesize.irish/blog/our-fada/

      Try typing it, next challenge.

    2. As for the German Umlaut (ä, ö, ü), most English speakers get it wrong, thinking that somehow it applies to a plural or, worse, sure, why not, just put these silly dots on all the a, o and u in any German word. It'll do somehow and if not, what a laugh.
      (If your keyboard cannot cope, we always accept ae, oe, and ue.)

      Where to begin? Just accept that we have these three extra letters (plus the ß) and try to live with it. Ever looked at Danish, Norwegian or Islandic letters?

  8. Ó in Irish Gaelic translates as "of, from, by, since" and may have a variety of meanings. In connection with a (male) name it means "son" or "son of" or even "grandson of".

  9. I rather love R's imagination!

  10. Whatever your father's other issues are, with which I'm unfamiliar, I can tell you from professionally working with adults and older people with hearing loss they can deny (as my husband did) and the behaviors they muster compensating for it can be defensive, illogical and frustrating. An individual's disposition can sometimes only worsen. Pretending they hear when they don't merely makes a bad situation worse but sometimes it takes an unrelated professional to help them become more amenable to developing beneficial adaptations -- but that's an approach that isn't always possible for families. Talking on the phone is especially difficult and an older cousin became unwilling to make the effort. More recently a contemporary old classmate who renewed our friendship after decades complains of the challenge so rarely talks with me but would have me write her frequent long letters. I told her I'll respond anytime she writes me but she doesn't like to write either. Unfortunately, she hasn't learned to use a computer.

    Your decluttering seems to be progressing quite well. Good for you!

  11. Elderly parents can be hurtful. I remember my mum, without her frontal lobe holding her back, saying the most hurtful things. I remember being so angry with her for getting old, knowing she would one day leave me. And she did, as parents do.

    My hubby wants to scan mum's old documents as well. We'll see if he does. Either way it's fine with me.

    Hope you are well.