Back in December 2021 my dad died. I didn’t know about this because we hadn’t really spoken for a while and his late wife’s daughter had chosen to nurse him herself without letting me know. Sometime in January she sent me somethings of my dad’s. I was going to take a photo of them but for now I am not ready to show them to the world so you’ve got a photo of what the tide going out on my weekend dog walk.
But it is what my dad held on to for so many years that has amazed me when I look through the parcel or when I think about it. There was a photo album, an address book and a diary all from not just before my parent’s married but from before they got together. From what I know they were dating from about 1957 and then married in 1959. So these things predate that.
The diary talks about my dad’s time in New Zealand, of things like worming and vaccinating sheep and the odd trip to the cinema or being invited to someone’s house for a good cooked family meal. The address book is great in that women’s names are written as “Miss First-name Second-name” not just first name and a number. It is all very formal. I didn’t see my mum’s name so it must have been before they met. And it is great to see those photos of him in his early twenties or maybe even younger. He was very good looking and seemed to have a love of cars. It is that love of cars which is probably the only thing I remember of him.
One of the poignant things is that even when we were on speaking terms he never showed these things to me and now I cannot ask those questions of “who’s that?” and “where’s that?” and all those other things I might like to know.
But my biggest question is “why did you hold on to these things for so long?” and “why is there nothing else?” These is this huge gap of over 65 years that he’s held on to these things through three house moves with us, divorce of my mum, divorce of his second wife, downsizing with this last wife and all the things that must have been thrown away. What made him keep these things?
At the moment we live in a big house, just me and hubby as kids have left home, so we have lots room and lots of stuff. I have my own study which is crammed with stuff – diaries, notebooks, journals, books, photos, etc. If I had to downsize what would I keep? How many years would it go back?
I’m making yet another start on writing my memoirs which I suppose is why this is wandering in my mind – what do I put in my story and what do I leave out? But also because of moving, of being homeless for a time, of putting the need to keep my children’s things as a priority over my own, I don’t have stuff that goes back that far. Yes my mum has put together a photo album for me but the choices for that were hers not mine. Apart from those things she’s put together I’m not sure I have much, apart from a very small photo album, of a time before I had my children.
Though I do also know I threw a lot of stuff away because at the time the memories associated with it were too painful. Perhaps the reason that there is only one photo album, one address book and one diary all pre-1957 is because the memories of somethings were just too painful to keep?
All in all those it has got me thinking, what do we keep, what do we throw away, and that age old question – Why?