Middle Cat and I cleared out a drawer yesterday. It has been there - untouched - since our mother died. That was over fifteen years ago.
The Senior Cat had just left it. It wasn't mine to touch - or even open. I don't know whether he visited it often. I don't ask about those things. He tells me what he wants me to know.
Occasionally he would mention the drawer. He would say it was foolish to keep what was in it.
"It's just her handbags and things like that," he would say, "I'm never going to use anything in it."
I never suggested touching it and certainly never suggested throwing anything out. It could wait. If he never wanted to move anything then that was up to him.
But he has been doing a little clearing out lately. There have been piles of gardening and woodworking magazines sorted to pass on to people who will use them. There have been some wall hangings bought by my mother and never used by us. There are other things that have gone. I have said nothing. He asks if he thinks one of his children might want something.
But he couldn't face the drawer. And then, several days ago, he said to me and Middle Cat, "I'd like you to go through that drawer - turf out anything you can't use - give it to Vinnie's or something." ("Vinnie's" is the local charity shop.)
So, we went through the drawer. We emptied the handbags and the purses. We threw out the old handkerchiefs, the combs, an ancient packet of cough drops, and more. Most of it was perfectly ordinary, every day and not particularly interesting.
But there were other things. There were baby shoes that had belonged to Middle Cat. There was a lock of hair that belonged to the youngest of us. There was schoolwork belonging to my brother and both my sisters - stored in envelopes. There was more schoolwork belonging to my nephews - stored in plastic. There were photographs in envelopes, her camera, and two rolls of film. There were necklaces and brooches and her watch and then her wedding and engagement ring - and my paternal grandmother's wedding and engagement ring. There was ugly costume jewellery belonging to her mother stored in a box that I doubt even my mother had opened. There was a calculator and some newspaper cuttings in an envelope - times when members of the family had been mentioned in the press.
We sorted things - Vinnies, to the jewellery repair place to be cleaned, to our siblings, to my BIL to sort and mount the photographs worth keeping and more. Middle Cat has taken her schoolwork to show her boys - and no, she didn't want the baby shoes.
The Senior Cat didn't come near us. I knew he wouldn't. He was very quiet for the rest of the day. I said nothing but I did kiss the top of his head as I passed him as he sat drinking tea at the kitchen table. He grabbed my paw and squeezed it.
I wonder if he knew. There wasn't a single thing relating to me in that drawer.