Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"Where's the telephone book?"

the Senior Cat asked me.
He meant the small blue book in which we keep a personal list of telephone numbers.
It is the third such small blue book since my mother died. The Senior Cat has written each of them. His handwriting, as he freely admits, is appalling. He has printed in the books...not much better but at least reasonably legible.
Not so long ago he cleared out the small drawer under the shelf on which the landline sits. He came across the first blue book - put away "in case we do need it some time" and then the second blue book as well. They were, not being the most robust of books, falling to pieces.
He sat in his chair and went through them. When he wrote the first book I know he just copied everything from the much larger red book my mother had written. That was a mess. Names had not been crossed out but addresses had been ruled through and new addresses added. Telephone numbers had been changed. My mother never removed a name from the personal telephone book. There were people in there who were no longer alive but she never ruled them out. 
The Senior Cat and I did not know most of them. He copied them into the new book anyway, "just in case". I suspect it was one of the ways he coped with his grief. We never used most of those numbers. 
The second time he wrote the book some of the names went. They certainly went if people were deceased  - and, sadly, some were. Other names had been added - like the specialist plumber who put in the new hot water service and the numbers for several more hospitals where, as his friends get older too, he might need to visit or be visited. There is the name of a taxi driver who needed English lessons and the name of the family whose son he taught conjuring too  -  until they left for Israel.
He looked through the books and occasionally asked me, "Who is..." and "Do you remember..." and "Was this....".
This third one is now falling to pieces too. It will be up to me to do a new one. I plan to do one on the computer  - and print it off for him. 
Why? It can then be updated as necessary. 
There is one name that is at the very beginning of the first book. I remember the Senior Cat asking me, "Who...?"
And I remember saying, "C... was Mum's cousin." It brought back a faint memory of going to visit them with my maternal grandparents. I must have been about four at the time. The entire family went to visit for some reason. I suspect that my maternal grandfather's sibling, father of C...., had died because I remember tears and my brother and I being sent outside into a back "garden" and told to "be quiet".  
I hadn't thought of them in years although I remember Mum talking about them, sending C... a card at Christmas and visiting her perhaps twice in fifty years...but the number was there in the first book. 
Then, yesterday, I remembered them again and wondered if either of them was still alive. Why I thought of them I have no idea. I wasn't looking at the phone book. I was outside.
This morning there is a death notice in the paper. C...'s husband has died. He was a very old man. noted as "deceased."
And I thought of the difference between my mother's family and the Senior Cat's clan. We have had almost no contact with my mother's family over the years. She had almost no contact.  We see my aunt by marriage - a woman not much older than I am. We hear from one cousin at Christmas. That's it.
The Senior Cat's clan is a different story altogether - and I am thankful I belong to it. 

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