The dishes in the sink

Dishes in a sink

Dirty dishes sit
Unrepentant in the sink
Always messy, sigh!

This is not a haiku. It’s just a verse. It could be worse!  As could the post-midnight mess in the sink.  But as the dishes and I glare at each other, I find myself moving from complaint to contemplation. Dirty dishes, I decide, are inevitable, a necessary part of life. Much like the inevitable death of my beloved mother who, unlike me, would never have left dishes to sit in the sink for half the night.

My mother, Kathleen Alice,  passed away on 14th December, 2019, in Cairns, Australia. She was in her comfortable recliner chair, holding my sister’s hand, listening to one of her favourite songs, Isa Lei.   She was 97. Until the last few weeks of her life, my mother seemed to derive purpose and joy from  drying (not washing!) dishes. I need to up my game, take a tea towel out of my mother’s book of life.

114 thoughts on “The dishes in the sink

  1. Brenda Davis Harsham

    I don’t think we ever stop missing our moms. I lost my Aunt more recently, who had tried to step in for my mom all these years. The empty ache is hard to live with. But I feel privileged to have been loved.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Liz. It’s good to see you here. I am sorry to hear about your mother, too. My mother started to become frail about 10 years ago but up until then she loved to travel with my father; mainly visiting family. I miss those times, our adventures together.

      Reply
  2. Karen

    It was a delightful surprise to see that you were blogging but I’m so very sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. It has to be hard being without her but you will always have your memories.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Karen. I hope I can stay the course, or at least some of it. One of the reasons I began this blog was so that I could share more of my life with my mother when she was no longer able to travel to New Zealand to visit me. She used to enjoying reading my posts in the early years of my blog.

      Reply
  3. valeriedavies

    Such a sweet tender and loving tribute to your mother, Amanda, and all your replies to comments.
    I hope your memories sustain you through this time.
    I simply love your dishes. I always use lovely things too, it gives me the emotional strength to tackle the washing up !!!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Valerie. I think the emotional strength from lovely things works with bedsheets and towels, too. 🙂 They still don’t make me love doing the laundry but they make it bearable.

      Reply
  4. Andrea Stephenson

    It’s good to see you back. I’m very sorry for the loss of your mother. Strange the things we derive comfort or enjoyment from – I never dry a dish if I can help it, I leave them to dry on the draining board 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Andrea. My mother had an excellent life, despite her dementia towards the end of it. It was her time but, even knowing that, didn’t assuage all our sense of loss and grief. Your mention of the draining board reminded me that I love my draining board, almost more than the dishes on it. It is a folding bamboo one and the best draining board I have ever had.

      Reply
  5. Clare Pooley

    My deepest condolences to you, Mandy. I am so pleased to see a post from you here; a bright spark in such strange times! I have hardly posted anything in recent years – too many other things to think about, perhaps.
    I too, love your pretty dirty dishes! I do not like the thought of having to wash dishes but once I am doing it I don’t seem to mind the chore so much. I like the transformation process from dirty to clean and then to put everything back in its place. It is comforting to know that your mother could derive pleasure from drying dishes until nearly the end of her life. Life is no life if we can find no pleasure in it.
    With much love,
    Clare xx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Clare, for your kind message. Aren’t these strange times! Even though I don’t like doing dishes, the fact that I can do something so simple and ordinary is a relief, sometimes. Like you, I also like putting things back in their place, just for the sense of order and beauty that brings. I hope you are managing to find beauty and order somewhere in these Covid days. Recently I have enjoyed some of the Morning and Evening Prayers from Canterbury Cathedral; the Dean, with his cats, pigs, and chickens, and beautiful garden settings, is comforting and informative. In his Morning Prayer of 4 Sept , the Dean remembered our earthquake of 10 years ago and the damage it (and subsequent earthquakes) did to our Cathedral.

      Reply
      1. Clare Pooley

        Oh, I do like the Dean and his menagerie! He seems such a nice man.
        Yes, I am managing to find comfort and beauty in a number of things, thank you. I am especially grateful for the countryside round my home and for all our kind and supportive neighbours and friends. Music has been a real solace, more so than my books, because I find it so difficult to concentrate for any length of time.
        Is it really ten years since the terrible earthquake! My goodness! It doesn’t seem that long ago. Maybe because my father died ten years ago on 23rd August and the funeral was on 14th September. That whole period of my life is so clear in my mind.
        Best wishes, Mandy and take care. xx

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I am glad you have the solace of music and your beautiful country surroundings. I struggle with reading, too, as I did after the earthquakes. It was that inability to concentrate or read for any period of time which brought me to blogging! Hugs.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you! You are right. My mother would have smiled at my post. When I began my blog she always read and enjoyed my posts, particularly the ones about flowers. She wrote little poems and stories, letters and diaries, for most of her very long life. She would have made a great blogger.

      Reply
  6. Leya

    So Spring lured you out too – just like all the other beautiful flowers! I am happy to see you here again – even if I have seen you on fb for a while. Such a beautiful and sad start – but, mostly beautiful about life. Your parents were fortunate to have long and meaningful lives. Much to be grateful for. My own parents are now 87 and 85. Mother keeps falling deeper into dementia, but we can still talk and walk for a while. As I am an only child there is much for me to take care of.
    I love your thinking and verse. And dirty dishes you put a pretty spell on…I smiled when you talked about her reaction to hearing her age – my mother says the same thing – adding: “Det känner jag mig inte som!” (I don’t at all feel that old!)
    Wishing you a lovely Wednesday. ♥

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, A-C. It has indeed been a lovely Wednesday. I wish you were here to take one of your gorgeous photos of it, and of the snow-covered mountains. I am glad your mother is still able to walk and talk for a while. My mother’s dementia was pronounced in the last couple of years but it was amazing how much of life she was able to enjoy (except her food; she hated eating!) Isn’t it strangely comforting that when we are old, we may not feel it or know it, just like our mothers ( but hopefully without the dementia )? 🙂

      Reply
      1. Leya

        Yes – I too wish I could visit again. So many wonderful memories with NZ. And I would love to meet you in person -♥ My mother only seems to really like potatoes, but on the other hand she has always loved potatoes. And I agree, what a gift not feeling the years we have! But I hope we will not have dementia – it is a terrible disease.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          It is a terrible disease and especially hard on other family members, like yourself, who are heavily involved with caring for a loved one. I smiled at your mother’s love of potatoes. My mother hated them and my father loved them. I am with your mother and my father; I love potatoes.

        2. Leya

          If we happen to – I will make them the Swedish way and you the NZ way – and then we will make some together in our own, New way ;-D. New Swedish and Swe Zealand, or Swealand and New Zeadish, or…Well, the main thing is us eating potatoes together!

        3. Dina

          Thank you both for sharing your precious memories. Good to read that your mother seemed to enjoy life despite her dementia, Amanda. You are blessed to have both parents alive, Ann-Christine. My mother is suffering from dementia, now living in a care home in Norway. As I get older the fear of getting dementia myself grows with every name I can’t remember (and then it comes back to me some minutes later, what a relief!). I read a report from The Alzheimer Society stating half of the people fear dementia diagnosis, 62 per cent think it means ‘life is over’ and that dementia is the most feared health condition of our time.
          I love potatoes too.
          Your dirty dishes look good and very arty too. My “good” plates (too fragile for the dishwasher), many of them inherited from my parents, grandparents, aunts throughout the years, seem to evoke similar emotions and memories from the past when they rest in the sink.
          Wishing you both a lovely Sunday. Xx

        4. Gallivanta Post author

          Thank you Dina. If you haven’t already done so, would you be interested in photographing some of your good plates? I am just imagining, how beautifully your photos would bring out their stories and the memories they evoke. Ann-Christine, I imagine you could do likewise with any plates you may treasure. Dina/Hanne I am sorry to learn of your mother’s dementia. I think I can say that, with my mother, she didn’t really fear dementia because she didn’t seem to know it was happening. She was anxious, though, as her understanding and ability to deal with everyday situations decreased. Each person seems to have their own journey with dementia. The most important thing seems to be to have someone who will love you through it to the end.

        5. Dina

          Thank you, we like the idea and will give it some thoughts, Amanda. Thank you for the inspiration and your comforting words. My mother’s dementia started some years ago with one little blood cloth in the back of her brain, something she didn’t notice but found out through MR. Then she had several small apoplectic incidents and slowly her brain function diminished. I’m so sorry not being able to follow up more than I do, living abroad, but we talk on the phone.

        6. Leya

          Thank you so much for your thoughts and comment, Dina. I must agree – my biggest fear is getting dementia as well. I forget names, but they turn up, as you say, again. Some things I have to sleep on to find again. My old and fragile inherited plates and cups always brings me joy to look at, but I am afraid I use them too seldom (afraid of breaking them…). Mandy is so good at featuring them in beautiful still lives with flowers.
          Have a great week!

        7. Gallivanta Post author

          It was really the earthquakes that made me decide to use my precious plates more. I realized I could lose them at any moment without ever having really enjoyed them. I am very careful though! And, like you A-C, I also enjoy just looking at them.

  7. shoreacres

    I came, I read, and I became so entranced with your sink I forgot to tell you what I was thinking! Looking at those lovely flowered dishes, I couldn’t help but think about your love of flowers, and how your sink resembles the vacant lots I love to roam. Even in such a utilitarian space, your flowers are blooming — a tiny, pleasurable bouquet in the midst of daily life and chores.

    It’s so good to see you here. Now that spring is coming, I suspect you’ll be blooming more brightly, too.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Linda, I hope my blooming will not be a fleeting thing, but, even if it is, it’s good to be here again on this day and to read your lovely words. Bouquet in a sink, flowers in a vacant lot; I think you have given me the magic words to transform my dishes into a garden of pleasure!

      Reply
  8. Prior...

    oh imagining the tea towel coming out to dry those dishes had a nice vibe –
    and even before reading the post it was just a great photo – looking down at it and wondering this and that

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Isn’t it wonderful that there is beauty in dirty dishes and a clean tea towel! Thank you for your lovely comment. Were you wondering what I had for dinner? 😀

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Yes, indeed. I think we had eaten some passionfruit cheesecake. And the little jugs were used for heating milk in the microwave. I am in love with hot milk drinks at the moment. 🙂

        2. Prior...

          yes but something about dairy that can never be replaced – and I can still have plenty of butter

          and thanks again for a lovely post and still life photo

  9. Sheryl

    I’d like to extend my condolences. I’ve missed you. It’s wonderful to see this post. Your dishes look beautiful, even when they are dirty. When I have dirty dishes in the sink, they just looking boring.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Sheryl. Life has been out of kilter for me but I hope I am finding my routines again. And, don’t worry, I do have boring dishes, but I am trying to eliminate them from the stack. Unfortunately, it always seems to be the dishes I like that break or crack, not the boring ones!

      Reply
  10. the eternal traveller

    What a nice way to end your life, with someone you love and with your favourite song playing in the background. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if the dishes sit a while longer as you think of her and remember happy times.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      🙂 I expect she wouldn’t mind too much, especially as in her last years, if things were out of sight they were often out of mind, too. And I definitely can’t see the dishes from my computer desk!

      Reply
  11. Clanmother

    My dear friend, it is the little things that we remember that are most significant and profound in our memories. Everyday things that we never would consider important at the time influence our lives and give courage to our movement forward. Some of my best conversations occurred when we washed dishes by hand, before the advent of dishwashers. And then there was the conversations with my grandmother as she ironed. How wonderful that your mothers passed gently, with your sister at her side. My thoughts are with you. Hugs and lots of love.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Clanmother. How right you are. Most of the little scenarios that play out in my mind take place in a kitchen or a garden, somewhere domestic, many years ago.

      Reply
  12. utesmile

    You know, my mother would neither leave dishes in the sink, and I don’t like it either. However, I am starting to get lax and so it very occasionally. (Not the whole dinner stuff, but the late teacup. )
    I always had to dry up at my mum’s and while she washed I dried we sang together, cannons or she taught me new songs. I always loved this time. (I miss her just like you do) Even now I like actually doing the washing up , it’s a bit like meditation, unfortunately there is nobody to sing with.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I love that you sang together, Ute. Maybe some time in the future you may feel like bursting into song for your mother as you wash and dry. I don’t think I will ever truly like doing dishes but I do find ironing is like a meditation for me. Hugs to you.

      Reply
      1. utesmile

        You know, ironing is a real pet hate for me, I iron once a year and that is too much. 🙂 You are right, I should just start singing while washing up , all those lovely songs she taught me. Nobody will be listening. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          That’s the best part, no one but you will be listening, and you could add a little dance as well. 🙂 I don’t think my mother liked ironing, either. My father did it most of the time!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Sylvia. I am finding that a small poem is a good way to capture a memory or a feeling as I learn to live without my mother’s physical presence. Did you find certain things particularly helpful to do when your mother passed away?

      Reply
      1. anotherday2paradise

        It’s really hard losing a mom. I found that just having her photo on my desk and greeting her every morning, cheered me up. It’s a lovely B&W photo of her smiling so brightly, taken by a street photographer in Amsterdam in the 1950’s. She looks so carefree and very pretty. 🤗

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          That’s a lovely idea. I do have photos about the house of Mum in her younger days but not one right next to me. My sister has a photo of my parents in her Skype profile. I really enjoy looking at that whenever we skype. I must search out a photo to put on my bedside table. 🙂

        2. anotherday2paradise

          I also have one of my mom and dad taken at his retirement do. They were all dolled up for the occasion and look so happy. This stands next to their B&W wedding photo together with one of them with my sister and I. I have all four on my desk next to my computer. 😃

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          Everyone within arms reach; just as it should be. I often imagine the family who have passed on, all around me, and a little above me, almost within the reach of my arms, but not quite.

  13. Lavinia Ross

    It is good to see you again, but I am saddened by the news, Gallivanta. We send our collective deepest sympathy for the loss of your mother. I did plant the tree for your father this past spring, a young western cedar. It will be their tree now, and will get daffodils as well. It is growing well, and I will remember them both when I see it.

    Reply
  14. Michele LaFollette

    Amanda, “Dishes, more dishes!” It’s been the refrain in our house since shutdown. There are only three of us, but it’s never-ending! I must confess that it doesn’t bother me to let them sit occasionally. I’m the first one out of bed in the morning, so I wash them while I wait for the coffee to brew…better than staring at the pot, right? Nice surprise to find you back. Hugs

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Michele, I am rather surprised myself that I have returned to my blog, for now, at least. I popped in to check things out and then decided I could write a post. And, yes, it is amazing how never-ending the dishes are. A bit like the never-ending weeds in the garden. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Diane Taylor

    ‘Take a tea towel out of my mother’s book of life’ is such a simple and profound way of remembering your mother and says a lot about her wisdom and joy in daily rituals. Very touching remembrance.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Diane. My mother really did have so many daily rituals/routines. I think many of them were nurtured by her early childhood teacher training where she learned about the importance of routine and order in a child’s life. We had a very orderly (not strict or restricted) home life, and we thrived in it.

      Reply
  16. Tish Farrell

    I’m so pleased to find you back here. Your parents reached the end of their long lives knowing care and kindness. That is wonderful in so many ways. All best wishes too you.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for your kind comment, Tish. My parents were very fortunate, and my siblings and I are so glad they left us before Covid came rampaging into our communities. It would have caused them so much anxiety. (And us, too.)

      Reply
  17. Alexander Lautsyus

    Sometimes the small thing, event or episode of our life recall so many memories, create a lot of thoughts and warming up our soul. While I read you lovely post my thoughts had a long journey to my own life and let me remember my mother and grandmother. It doesn’t matter where you live, what religion you follow, what colour of your skin, etc., we are the human and have a lot in common in our daily life.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I do agree, Alex. People have so much in common, particularly when it comes to our mothers and grandmothers and the feelings and memories they evoke.

      Reply
  18. Steve Gingold

    It’s funny the little things in life that become prominent at one time or another. The dirty dishes bringing back something of your mother for you is one of those. Often the big things lose their meaning but those little things take on new importance. A nice memory of your mother during a time when losing her was upon you. She went as many of us might wish. Comfortable and enjoying the moment in a quiet peaceful way. No matter the age, losing a parent is most often sad and difficult. How wonderful for her that she had the loving care of your sister.
    It is nice to see you back here Ann.You were missed by many. ❤

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Steve, for your kind words. We were very fortunate that both my mother and father had quiet, peaceful deaths, at home. Initially, there is a feeling of great loss but, then, as you say, it’s the little things that take on a new importance. Just thinking about that reminds me that my mother and I both loved pretty dishes. In her later years, when she was drying the dishes, she loved looking at the patterns on the dishes and feeling their shapes, and reading the pottery marks!

      Reply
  19. restlessjo

    Yes, ‘am I really?’ is an appropriate response to being 97. Being purely negative, I’m not sure that I want to be around to make it. By then I suspect someone else will be in charge of my mind, which already has a tendency to wander. There is a time and a place for 97 🙂 🙂 And for your lovely dishes, Ann. At first I thought you were responding to the Lens Artists challenge- everyday things. Take care, lovely lady!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am not sure about being such a grand age either. I would probably be okay if I had someone as loving as my sister caring for me. My sister did an incredible job of looking after both our father and mother. even when they slipped into various stages of dementia. I am glad you liked my dishes, dirty and all as they were! I have only seen one of the Lens Artists posts for everyday things. It was Su Leslie’s and I thought it was wonderful. https://zimmerbitch.wordpress.com/2020/08/27/portraits-of-the-mundane/

      Reply
  20. Mél@nie

    welcome back, lovely lady! ❤ I closed my playground some time ago – for an undetermined time, I use Facebook ONLY…

    @"my beloved mother who, unlike me, would never have left dishes to sit in the sink for half the night…" – well, I'm like your beloved maman(RIP) – just can't stand seeing dirty "stuff" in the kitchen sink; we don't have a dish-washer, so for decades now, I've washed the dishes and my hubby has wiped them… 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, dear friend. Even a playground needs a rest from time to time. 🙂 I can’t leave the dishes in the sink all night. I have to do them before I go to bed because to see them still there in the morning would make me feel ill! But I often leave them sitting in the sink until the last minutes before bedtime. You and hubby have great team work. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Cindy, how lovely to see you here. Thank you for liking my dishes. 🙂 I try to have the prettiest dishes I can afford because that somehow compensates for the things I don’t care for, like dish washing and cooking! My greetings to your mother. I appreciate our attitude in common towards dishes. 🙂

      Reply
  21. Juliet

    What a beautiful, tender vignette, Amanda. You have such a way with a camera that even a photo of dirty dishes has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. In my mind I find myself reversing time, and setting them back on the table where you were enjoying your meal. Nice to see you blogging again.

    Reply
      1. Gallivanta Post author

        Ha! Well said. There is something about doing the dishes which encourages rhymes. A popular one in my childhood was “Wash the dishes, Dry the dishes, Turn the dishes over.” It was said with actions.

        Reply
  22. Steve Schwartzman

    Because 97 is a prime number, you can say that your mother went out while still in her prime.
    In a classical figure of speech, you transferred the unrepentance from the eventual dishwasher to the dishes themselves.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh, I like that very much. She did, indeed, go out in her prime! Although my mother was not mathematically inclined I think she would have appreciated your prime reference. In her last year, whenever we told Mum her age , she would look at us in amazement and say, “Am I really?”

      Reply

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