Second Hand

It was impossible for Dad to buy himself new clothes. It was a while before we knew about this. A couple of years after Mum died, I suppose. And what could we do? Charity shops were his place for spending money and time.
My habits and my routines, they’re what keep me going, he would recite.
No use pointing out that there were shops that sold new clothes not far from the charity shops, same street, same car parks. That’s not the point, he’d reply. None of us ever asked what the point was.
He told us that it used to be jumble sales but after he stopped going to church he never knew when they were on, and anyway he couldn’t be sure to find what he wanted in amongst all the piles.  I just can’t believe that Mum let him go to those things: she certainly never let on to any of us about it.
He prefers the charity shops.
They do it properly, everything is sorted and organised so you can find your size. It’s all washed and ironed, you know.
Well, that’s a bit of luck then, I told him, at least you’re not bringing diseases into the house. We make sure he has his flu jab though, just in case.
And I like the people in the charity shops, there’re people who let me take my time.
He shouts this at me, as if that’ll make sure I believe him; tells me how more and more are opening up, replacing the proper shops.
They’re taking over the high street.
Even his high street, the one he can walk to from the house - he sounds surprised at this, as if our small town would be different from any other town, as if there isn’t just as much unemployment here, as if we’re a recession free zone.
I wouldn’t like you to think that because he has this thing about new clothes he‘s stupid. For instance, he knows about exercise and senility. That dementia thing, he insists on calling it.
I’m trying to keep it at bay, I don’t want to be a burden to any of you.
Then he launches into how Mr A from up the road has never been the same since Mrs A stripped naked on the bus. Well, I tell him, that’s one thing we won’t have worry about with you, clothes being your hobby, so to speak.

by Marilyn Hammick


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