One of the many privileges of caring for an elderly parent is the many memories that come up in conversation. I appreciate that those caring for parents with dementia may not have this particular pleasure. My dear old dad doesn’t have Facebook or even have a smart phone but today my Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago, Dad (then almost 93) and I travelled to Roma.
Dad was parish priest at St Paul’s in Roma from 1962-1969, and describes it often as his and Mum’s ‘happiest parish’. He and mum had a young family, it was a vibrant country town, a beautiful cathedral-like church with a congregation that came from both town and properties outside town. They had good friends in a supportive community.
So it was a lovely surprise for Dad to be invited almost 50 years after he left, to return to Roma to receive the debutantes. Who knew Deb balls were still a thing? I heard him telling the story to someone just today that when he first told me that he had been invited and asked what I thought, my response was an immediate ‘Let’s go!’. As much as I wanted to take Dad back to Roma, I was keen to see a relic from the past – the deb ball not dad’s friends.
As well as receiving the debutantes (that was an eye-opener for me – wow, just wow), Dad had the opportunity to catch up with old friends, and visit many places from his younger days, and of course visit St Paul’s. It is the most beautiful church, and many of my memories are fond ones, even if I was very naughty. The rectory, in my memory, had a verandah that was high off the ground. My memory tells me this because I once cycled off it and busted my forehead. In reality it is about 30cm off the ground. The organ loft in the church, where I spent a lot of time sitting with my mother, was similarly not high off the ground but almost at ground level. But the bottle trees that line the streets of Roma are still the same and just as beautiful as I remember them.
My Dad has the most beautiful smile, and I am sure his smile muscles were aching by the end of the weekend. He still smiles when he talks about it.