Today is another clearing out day. I approach them a little warily – you never know what lies within those boxes you haven’t opened for years, or at the back of that cupboard. Sometimes it’s just rubbish and sometimes it’s something that stops you short – a photo or letter that throws you back in time and thrusts memories on you, good and bad.
But it has to be done, so this morning I started on the kitchen. We have one of those kitchen drawers that everybody has – the one where everything gets stuffed when there’s nowhere else to put it. I sorted through it this morning throwing away way more stuff than you would think could fit into one drawer. Into the bin went take-out menus for restaurants that are not open anymore, an old cell phone charger, packs of stale chewing gum, old fridge magnets, the glue we once bought to try and fix something or other but that didn’t work so just went into the drawer, old shoe laces, ancient receipts and mountains of other crap.
Into the ‘keep’ pile went a couple of screwdrivers, a chisel, some picture hooks, a pack of batteries and assorted other ‘might come in handy one day’ items. Also to keep was a pile of postcards that had somehow wound up in the drawer, including this one from my dad.
That’s the Lake District, where we hope to live in two years. But what struck me was the date. 13 months after writing that postcard, dad was dead. We didn’t know at the time, but even then the cancer was growing in his lungs. Maybe it had already started to spread through his body, creeping into muscle and bone and poisoning his blood. He was only 60 when he died.
Reading that card was a little jolt, a reminder of just how little we ever know about the future. John Lennon’s line ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ is so famous because it’s so true. There’s no guarantee that P and I will even make it home. Who knows what could be around the corner? But touch wood we’ll be OK and I want us to spend the rest of our lives in the place where we belong with the people we love the most. (Why I didn’t think of this years ago is a whole other question).
I’ve put the postcard on my office noticeboard. It will keep me going on those days when all the planning seems too much and I’m tempted to just forget the whole idea.