My elderly uncle phoned the other evening. He phones from time to time, just to keep in touch. He lives about 200 miles away so I can’t pop in.
But he loves a chat because mine is one of the dwindling number of voices from his past. At the age of 94, his generation have all gone. A survivor of Dunkirk, he’s now stranded on a little demographic island that isn’t really part of the twenty first century.
He married my aunt during the war, after being rescued at Dunkirk. There he was on the beach, waiting for a boat, waist-deep in the sea and as far as he could tell, a sitting duck for the Luftwaffe.
“Sod this for a lark,” he suddenly thought to himself. No doubt he wasn’t the only one.
So Uncle Jack waded back to the beach, dug a shallow trench with his steel helmet and lay in it, staring up at the sky until a boat arrived. Thousands must have done the same, some lucky, some not.
Now he’s alone. Not literally, because there are a few people he knows nearby and he has grandchildren, but he misses his own generation very much, especially my father. They were friends for over seventy years. I well recall them chuckling together over a glass of whisky.
As we get older, do we lay down fewer memories? As we pass the major staging-posts of our lives, do we reach a point where there are no more left in the pipeline - nothing big left to remember?
After all, once we’ve worked through a career, brought up the children, indulged the grandchildren and achieved an ambition or two, then we have our store of memories.
Most of our lives we spend adding to them, from childhood onwards, but surely a time comes for people like Uncle Jack when there are no more big events left. Apart from the Big One of course, but that is never going to be a memory is it?
So I stay in touch with Uncle Jack. He makes it so obvious that he enjoys a familiar voice even from the other end of the phone. Even mine.