Opinion

Don’t throw the memories out with the Curmudgeon

By Country News

I don't know about you, but of late, and only just occasionally, the odd thought of mortality has crept into the old Col’s mind.

And nothing stirs that up more than the succession plan kicking into gear.

The thing which put it there most recently came right out of the blue.

Because I am going out on a limb here and suggesting those of you from my generation are starting to think about downsizing the old family home.

Or, as is our case, the eldest son is the one thinking I should be downsizing (so he can move his growing brood into the homestead).

And as is the case in these major decisions, the missus has made one on my behalf and started doing up the old manager's cottage — taking me from a 15-room homestead which I helped the old man out of long before junior has tried his hand on me, to your standard three-bedroom domicile.

Truth be told, it hasn't bothered me all that much — except for the fact it tells me the old sands are starting to move a bit faster through the hourglass.

Can't do much about that, neither can you.

But here’s the rub.

The Curmudgeon’s a bit of an acquirer.

Not a hoarder, as the missus insists, but I have got a few bits and pieces tucked around the house.

For example, on one wall in the dining room are four old photos in frames. One is a late great-uncle in uniform. He died in France in the Great War. Another is my grandfather. Ditto. Then there's my old man in uniform from the next war. And one of my father-in-law (I didn't put it there). Ditto.

That's just a taste. All told there are almost 200 bits and pieces hanging from walls or tucked into corners.

And clearly there won't be the wall space in the new home for the lot.

So I got the heirs and the grandlings in the other day to see what they might want to take so I could start to rearrange my life.

They strolled around for a good three minutes and, one after the other, thanked me for the offer but said there was nothing they wanted.

I was, and still am, floored. Many of the things on those walls are the links between generations, showing where we came from and who went before us.

So there I sat in the lounge the other evening, casting my eyes around that room.

There is a brilliant painting by a woman called Judy Prosser from northern WA, which shows a group of Aboriginal stockmen moving some cattle.

There is a Durack and even, from my coloured period, a Ken Done.

But there is also an oar from the crew our eldest daughter rowed with to win Head of the River, with the names and times on the blade.

There is some rare sporting memorabilia from Olympic champions I just happened to know.

But there is nothing about which our children, and grandchildren, seem to feel any connection.

So I was thinking, as I sat there, that when the missus and I are gone, probably so will most of this.

Along with my books and her beloved bits of furniture, some in the family now for five generations, glowing with a patina of love and preservation.

It might go in one of those stupid garage sales, in which I have never seen a garage for sale; it might go to the mission; or it might go on that rubbish tip I have just started in the old creek bed.

That hammers home the mortality – and I have to admit it hurts.

Between my siblings and I there was a lot of competition to get as many of those family treasures as possible.

A little bit later the missus came and sat next to me and asked what I was doing (and why I was so quiet).

After I told her she sighed, was also quiet for a moment, and then told me the daughter-in-law taking over the homestead has already showed her the plans for the house.

“Col, she wants everything white. Nothing on the walls, not even pictures of the kids,” she lamented.

“Even the kitchen is all white, stainless steel appliances and everything out of sight – even the toaster.

“When I suggested it might be lacking a little human warmth, she looked at me as if I was stupid – she said there was no place for clutter.”

And there it was in a nutshell. Our lives and our memories had become clutter, and I was really feeling my age.

So we quietly sat there a bit longer, just holding hands and, I am pretty sure, thinking the same thoughts.