I was talking today with somebody who lives in Christchurch and has actually only recently moved back there. They have built a new house in the subdivisions that have grown on the old Sunnyside Hospital site. This was a hospital that dealt with the mentally ill and elderly. This set me off remembering again and reflecting on my memories of childhood in Christchurch. My grandmother was admitted to Sunnyside as an elderly woman who was beginning to suffer from Dementia, not that I really understood that at the time. She was in two clinics over the time she was there, and I would visit regularly with my mother and father. I was youngish at the time (10-15) and I did not really ever reflect on how hard this must have been for my mother to see her parent this way. I got a taste of it myself in my mother's final months, when she moved into a resthome with my father and required a lot of care. It haunts me to think that I was not actually able to be there for her during this time, as I was living in Auckland. I only saw her once in the home, she was miserable and I think felt that she had been betrayed by us for not keeping her out of a resthome and looking after her.
Anyway, I digress. Sunnyside was a magical place for a young boy. Tree lined roads with grass around. A great place to wander on a summers day while Mum and Dad were in with Nana. When I did go into see my grandmother, she frequently thought she was at work. We would talk to her about how things were going and get an update on the cleaning etc. These places don't really exist anymore I guess, but it was strange to be in this big room, full of people living out the end of their lives in some dream. Much later (in my late teens) I found myself back at Sunnyside when my first girlfriend's older brother was admitted with what turned out to be Bi-Polar. It somehow felt a different and more scary place that time round.
Before my grandmother was placed in Sunnyside, she lived in Richmond in this marvelous old house which had been divided into two flats. The places is actually still there (or at least it was before September). I have not been back to check since the earthquakes. It had a great backyard with two lovely current bushes (red and black). I loved getting to stand there and eat the berries fresh from the bush.
On days I was sick from school, my mum would bike over to her mothers house with me on the carrier. It was a lovely ride and I enjoyed the time with her. On a lovely spring day there was nothing better than getting to go over there with my mum and spend time wandering around the garden. The bike ride took us through Dallington, an area that has been very devastated by the earthquakes in Christchurch.
My grandmother's funeral was held at the chapel at Sunnyside. Long gone by now, I am sure. I remember sitting up the front and actually crying. It was really my first proper exposure to grief and death and even then I was very removed from it. I never saw a body until my own mother's death some 20 years later. I felt kind of guilty that I cried, as my paternal grandmother had passed away a few months earlier and I did not cry at all. She was an angry woman towards the end, and I had developed no great love for her.
All those memories from a conversation about Sunnyside. I am enjoying reflecting on the past.