LittleSis and Bro-in-law had just moved into their new house when the phone went.
“I know you’re in,” said Ma. “I can see you moving.”
In case you’re thinking that I’m from a long line of mystics (I knew you were), perhaps I should explain that LittleSis’s new house backed onto Ma and Pa’s place. Ma could walk down her garden, across the alley, into LittleSis’s garden straight to the back door. She often did, in fact. As Bro-in-law said, having seen the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding “That is so my life.” We’re not actually Greek. But we do Family.
Little Sis had actually got the house because Ma used to help out the old gentleman who had lived there. She has a good record for finding houses, does Ma, being a first-class networker. So she was my first port of call when, last week, ActorLaddie and I decided that we would try and move to a bungalow.
Big decision. We’ve been in this house for 26 years now. We bought it when GrannieBorders was widowed, adapted it for a wheelchair, and for 23 years she scooted round the ground floor, laying waste the skirting boards, while we hid upstairs. Three years ago, she moved into a nursing home and we spread ourselves. In fact, one of my first thoughts when I was diagnosed in May was “Bugger – we’ve just taken up the ramps!”
As it happens, I’m pretty confident that a cure will reach me before I get to be significantly unsteady on the pins. But the InfantPhenomenon has flown the coop and YoungLochinvar is packing his parachute and hey, it’ll be spring soon which makes you rethink your nesting arrangements.
Now, there are a couple of roads of bungalows nearby – Beech Grove and Rood Close. These could see us very nicely into our graves but they never seem to come onto the market. I put the situation to Ma and she gets her world-domination glimmer in her eye.
“Well, it just so happens that Doris from the Bowls Club lives in Rood Close; she’s the one that went paragliding at the age of 92 but was so light that her glider wouldn’t come down and she landed in the sea. I haven’t seen her for a while – I might just go and wish her a happy New Year.”
Before long we have found out that, although there are no bungalows actually on the market at the moment, quite a few of its elderly residents are on the point of moving out, one way or another.
“Why don’t you make a point of dropping banana skins outside people’s gates as you jog down there?” suggests Bro-in-law. It’s a thought.
“More usefully, you could put a note through their doors asking people if they’re thinking of moving,” suggests LittleSis. “It can’t hurt.”
I spend an afternoon composing a note trying to make it sound friendly without giving the impression that I’m an estate agent in disguise. In particular, I wonder whether to mention the Parkinson’s. I don’t want it to come out all hearts-and-flowers but if I do it might give some credence to us wanting to move to a bungalow. In the end, I do slip in a brief mention, print out a batch and hand them over to ActorLaddie to deliver the next day while I’m at work.
He calls me between classes.
“We’ve just had a phone call from a lovely chap, Jonathon, who lives in Beech Grove.”
“Oh, he’s not moving. He just wanted to wish us luck and say that he’ll keep his ears open.”
“That’s nice of him.”
Fast forward to this morning. I am up to my elbows in compost, trying to give the front garden what DearHeart calls ‘kerb appeal’ when ActorLaddie pops his head out the front door.
“Jonathon’s been on the phone again. He had a word with his neighbour Stan, who has spoken to his mate Jim in Rood Close who says the old lady in the house next door has just moved into a nursing home and her son is about to put the bungalow on the market. Apparently we can go and talk to Jim about it.”
Five minutes later, we are in Jim’s hallway meeting him and his lovely wife Ann. We look round his bungalow to get a feel for the layout and go into his loft room to peek at next door’s garden over the fence.
And it is perfect – just the right size – just the right position – everything. Ann gives us the phone number of old-lady-next-door’s son.
When we call, he’s at work but ActorLaddie speaks to his wife, Pam. She also sounds lovely. Today, everyone is lovely. They’d got our letter and were considering calling us. ActorLaddie and Pam chat for ages. ActorLaddie mentions the Parkinson’s and it turns out that Pam has it too! She’s had it for some ten years now but is doing really well. How spooky is that!
“It sounds like this is meant to be,” says Pam. She’s going to speak to her husband when he’s back from work and they might call us. Possibly tonight. Or possibly tomorrow.
I have the phone by me now. It hasn’t rung yet.