In passing I told him I would pop in a few days before and do a bit of packing up and clean out some cupboards in preparation. In reality we took a trailer and did a massive clean out, taking a heap of stuff to the tip and to be recycled. My father's motto is 'waste not, want not'. I guess a childhood in post war Italy where poverty is your reality stays with you in some form or another. My father finds a use for all things; he saves, recycles, reuses, makes, fixes and keeps, just in case. I don't think he has disposed of a plastic bag or a piece of string in the last 20 years, there were boxes of the stuff neatly folded and stored.
We invented a game, "guess what is in here?" and we were continually surprised. At the very back and the very top of the laundry cupboard was a huge old Bushells tin (5 litres), 30 years old, never opened and yep full of loose leaf tea. (my father pilfered it from the Hydro when he worked in the kitchen, there is many a story about what else ended up disappearing from that place). There was also a box of white paper, neatly folded, the stickers giving the price for salami and ham bought at the deli ten years ago. At least that came in handy to wrap up crockery from the kitchen cupboard.
Gloves were required in the pantry, too many bottles and packets half used and out of date. There were margarine containers of unknown dried herbs from his garden, we couldn't take the risk that some of them hid a certain plant he had grown and dried that some people like to smoke. I did keep the many bottles of preserved and pickled produce - I think that should be safe enough.
The cupboard in the spare room was full of bottled tomatoes, pickled onions, relish and some other bottles with uncertain contents. There were shelves of home made grappa and liqueur (and the shed contained a different alcoholic treasure - 2 cans of commemorative Cascade Beer from 1982). There were boxes and boxes of flagons, glass jars and bottles, a home brewers or preservers paradise.
His wardrobe contained shirts from a time when brown and purple were 'in', there were fifty year old shoes from Italy (this is good leather, expensive, they still all right, says he) and we rescued a 30 year old pair of black dress shoes, ("for when I kick the bucket"). There were a multitude of plain white t-shirts, also nicked from the Hydro.
The bathroom cupboards were a bit scary (how many tiny left over bits of soap do you really need to keep and surely you don't need to reuse toothpicks). The biggest surprise was a margarine container full of some liquid and a plate with several false teeth. No one could have guessed what was in that one!
There was an eel trap in the back yard and a rotisserie spit in the garage. Perhaps the greatest treasure though was a small packet of documents, neatly wrapped in a plastic bag (of course) hiding at the back of a drawer; original identity papers, passport and old photos from the time my father arrived in Australia, some 55 years ago.
With the hardest part done, moving day was relatively straightforward. My father coped well with our 'little bit of packing up and preparation' done beforehand. When he began rescuing things from the Op-shop pile we knew we had done the right thing keeping him out of the loop for the big clean up.
Next week there will be a gardener, cleaner and carpet cleaner to work their magic. Then it will be settlement and then it really will all be done...