My eleven year old grandson and I were having a quiet moment together. We’d talked about school, the family, football. He moticed the ‘liver spots’ on the back of my hands and realised that all he knew of me was as an old man, and that that couldn’t be the whole of my story. He had never seen me young! So he asked his question. Imagination was a help –‘so you used to have hair and it was black?’ But only a photograph could provide anything like an adequate answer.
I have been doing a job -a long anticipated but frequently avoided one– of reviewing the contents of our filing cabinet, where a lot of my younger self has resided for too long. It was becoming difficult to pull the folders out and find whatever it was I might be looking for. Yesterday at last I began to do something about it. The masses of now irrelevant papers were discarded one by one. In the process I rediscovered a lot of my life and that of our family.
The folder labelled ‘Health’ contained a massive reminder of various visits to our doctor and local hospital consultants, and the consequent problems – mostly solved or dealt with – that have characterised the ‘older years’ years of my life.
I consigned much of it to the rubbish bin, but on one or two matters I lingered and with a little research was able to explain to myself some details that I had never properly understood at the time.
The ‘Family’ folder included birth and marriage certificates and mementoes of one or two treasured occasions, including pictures of the house we bought after my retirement : the first home of our own we had ever lived in. There was also a copy of my CV compiled just before retirement. It’s exhaustive. Did I ever have all those responsibilities and do all those things?! My sister, before she died, did some excellent research on our ancestors and I have a copy of her work.
On my mother’s side we come from Sancerre in France in the sixteenth century. There is the story that to escape from the Edict of Nantes which outlawed the Huguenots in 1680, my ancestor Pierre De La Bertouche and his son, also Pierre, sailed on a boat across the channel to safety in England.
The Correspondence folder was smaller than it once was because of the advent of e mail, but there were several moving letters from friends I had forgotten and which I stopped to read, and a few of which I have kept.
…..Now I must look for a photo of my younger self; preferably a flattering one.