Most days, Will chooses to disremember his Etekahuna boyhood. Still, every good bloke calls home on his Mum’s birthday, even if a tongue lashing awaits. Will got off fairly lightly, with “we’ll see you at Christmas, won’t we?” and “if you’ve got a car, go visit your Nan, she’s in a home in the Hutt now.”
It’s the Kapiti coast that’s a byword for retirement in Wellington, nicknamed God’s Waiting Room, but its retirement lodges cater to the affluent. Wellington city itself is sprinkled with retirement flats for the well-off and compos mentis. For everyone else, the retirement homes of the Hutt await, government subsidized, a little shabby, but well meaning.
That is how Will and Winona came to spend Sunday afternoon perched on old chairs in a Naenae “residence”. Winona, shaken by a senility sighting on the way in, is quiet. She peeps around Nan’s room, very small, very pink and 70s. Nan, in her 70s herself, is bundled on the tiny single bed, frail and bright-eyed under her afghans, well-informed about current events. Will is surprised about this until she says, “Of course I am. We watch telly all day. You haven’t got a mayor yet, have you?”
Will says, “No, Nan,” as if confessing that he hasn’t done his homework.
Nan nods. “It’s just like when I was younger. Votes were votes. They’d never have called it until all the votes were in then. Politics hasn’t been the same since they voted in Muldoon, it’s been downhill ever since.”
Will manages not to laugh and shoots a glance at Winona. But she misses it; she is glancing at Nan’s medication timetable, pinned up on the wall next to Will’s sun-faded sixth form school picture. Suddenly, brightly, she says, “We should take you out to lunch next weekend. Maybe high tea! Would you like that, Nan?”