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Confronting the past

Yesterday I popped down to visit my father – at whose gaff huge quantities of extended-family photographs and mementos are stored – to rendezvous with my daughter, who was on a mission to seek out image of herself and her brother as young kids. This was further to her aunt’s engagement of a consultant to help produce a giant ‘family tree’.

It was a rewarding day. We ‘caught up’, my daughter spent some quality time with her grandfather and we spent a couple of hours shifting through old albums, reminding ourselves of old times, at times struggling to remember the identities of people featured in photographs and – best of all – locating some real gems.

In the late afternoon, driving home, I had time to reflect on the experience and thereby prompted some mixed feelings.

As a general rule I like to live in the ‘here and now’. Ordinarily I don’t choose to get out old photographs or reminisce about days gone by. Maybe I’m different in this regard to other people who (quite often, in my experience) seem to enjoy looking back, or rather at least knowing that, if they wished, they could go to a shelf in their bookcase – or to the attic – pull out a relevant album, scrapbook or ‘box of stuff’ and recover hopefully favourite family or other memories.

Amidst all the fun and laughter that my daughter and I had yesterday, I had one or two sobering encounters.

Such as seeing photographs of two of my oldest and closest male friends – separately and together – who both died before the age of forty-five, one from a heart attack and the other by his own hand.

Or leafing through albums of my wedding photographs, honeymoon and family holidays which seemed yesterday to belong to someone else’s life altogether although I simultaneously knew they belonged to mine. Equally worrying was that – on two or three occasions – I had zero previous recall of the holidays or occasions featured. In other words, although I readily accepted the photographic evidence, had I not seen these images yesterday, in at least one example I would have been unable to recall ever visiting the country concerned in my life!

Or recoiling in horror at some of the clothes fashions and hairstyles on display, from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

[At some point in the future, long after I’m gone, are they – with fading colour and watery definition – really going to be the only evidence of my (and other people’s) existence that my great-grandchildren will have available to them?].

Plenty of food for thought there, I felt …



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About Oliver Fortune

A doctor formerly specialising in sexual health, Oliver has written widely on matters relating to sex, relationships and counselling. He is divorced and has one daughter. He is a keen skier and mountain biker. More Posts