A cherished home redefined by new memories

In Sickness and in Health: Nick looked as though he might cry from happiness as he sat in his wheelchair in the kitchen

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The Independent Online

Last year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

My dad and my stepmother Helen have lived in their house for 21 years. For the two decades that it’s been home to them, as well as the place where my dad works in the world’s tiniest office, it has, for me, been many different things. As a 13-year-old, it was an amazing place – my bedroom had two windows and I inherited the rose-bud printed curtains from the previous incumbent. So princessy! Once I struck out further into my teenage years, it went from being a haven to some sort of middle-class purgatory. Ugh, the dishwasher where knives and forks had to be put into different compartments. The tyranny of alphabetized everything, from the CDs to the spice rack to the videos. The tedium of regular, home-cooked meals that I had to eat with my folks. The nagging that ensued if I accidentally left a tissue up a jumper that then exploded in the tumble dryer. Had grown-ups no soul? Had they never forgotten to shake their sleeves?

It was the scene of my crimes (drinks-cabinet and light-fingers related), and when I departed/was banished to my mother’s house up the road for good, it became somewhere I returned to for the odd tedious meal and a telling-off about whatever part of my body I’d had pierced that week. My mum’s house became home until I left for university. As I grew up, my dad’s house changed: it got noisier thanks to the arrival of my sister Lucy, then my brother Max, and it became a colourful place courtesy of the mountains of toys that toddlers necessitate. It turned into somewhere much more fun.

Since then, it’s grown, because of an extension that still leaves me going to the wrong cupboard for mugs 10 years on, and been the backdrop to epic family parties, alcohol-drenched dinners and one or two boyfriends. My favourite room is the kitchen, where I can happily sit at the table for hours as family life surges around me and my parents’ friends drop by. Nick used to find the constant flow of people (if not booze) a bit stressful, used, as he was, to a quieter family home. After all, in my dad’s house, if someone several rooms away can’t hear you, the solution is to shout louder rather than move closer.

Recently, their home took on another role. It’s now the first house that Nick has been to for more than a year. It took us three goes to get Nick there, because a motorway trip in a van is tough for him and because we were both brought low with sickness that would have turned the M25 into the lower circle of hell, but we made it. Despite all the times he rolled his eyes in the past about a trip to the in-laws’, this time, he looked as though he might cry from happiness as he sat in his wheelchair in the kitchen. “I have so many memories of here,” he said, head swiveling to take in the spice rack (still ordered with military precision), the family pictures and my dad at the stove. Nick could only stay for two hours, and was shattered when we got back to his room. But I hope that that trip was the beginning of the long journey home.