THERE is label stuck on the back of the welsh dresser.
It says ‘Lara’, which is my daughter’s name.
There’s another one on the painting (of a sailing ship in the English Channel) that hangs in my study. It says ‘James’, which is my son’s name.
And on the silver tray that’s been in my wife’s family for generations there’s a label that says, ‘Ellen’. Another daughter.
I asked my wife what was going on.
“They’re preparing,” she said.
“For the future,” she said. “When we’re dead.”
These were children once. Fruit of my loins. They’ve turned into grave robbers!
“Come now,” said my wife. You’re over-reacting.”
“Over-reacting! But we’re not dead yet. That’s not even grave-robbing. That’s- that’s… cannibalism!”
“Well, I think it’s very civilised.”
“Civilised? Civilised!” I screamed. “It’s civilised when you’ve been dead 3000 years and they break into your tomb and take all the stuff that’s in there with you. And then they take you, too, and put you in a museum.
“It’s called archaeology and it’s very respectable! But this is sick.”
“Nonsense. They’re discussing it with each other and negotiating who has what. And if there’s any arguments we’ll still be here to mediate. I don’t want them falling out over a few old ornaments when we’re gone.
“But they belong to us. We might want to sell them and go grey nomading on the proceeds. There might be nothing left to leave them.”
“Over my dead body.”
“Yes! My point exactly!”
I lost, of course.
The house is now covered in little bits of sticky paper discreetly placed so we won’t feel…. vulnerable, every time we look at our furniture or our ornaments.
My wife says none of it’s worth much anyway, and we should be flattered they want it all for purely sentimental reasons.
But I don’t care why they want it – I haven’t finished with it yet. I know I can’t take it with me but I can take it most of the way.
This is elder abuse. I’ve read about it. We over-60s are the new rich. We don’t earn much but there’s a fortune flying across the wall of the lounge room in the shape of a flock of plaster ducks; there’s a whole new stainless steel kitchen lurking in a teapot shaped like a cottage.
And the kids are coming home with sacks; and shoving forms under our noses for us to sign. I thought it was to do with the university fees, but it must have been power of attorney!
M y wife assures me that no, it’s not elder abuse; it’s just sensible. If it were elder abuse the house would be empty when I got home from the pub, and it wouldn’t belong to me any more.
Last time they visited I had it out with them.
“Great God!” I said. “I’m glad you like our things. But you’ve been so… thorough. I mean, even my clothes have sticky labels on.
“Only the pin-striped suit,” said my son. “It’s a collectors’ item.”
“Maybe. But everything else has a label on. I feel like I’m living in an auctioneer’s warehouse. There’ll be labels on the back of my head next.”
The silence was alive with rejection.