Something old, something…?

walletMy father in law passed away a couple of months ago. Well, it was his time and at 102, he knew it. Always more a good friend than a relative, he was a bundle of bones in his bed in his last weeks but to his delight, was  surrounded by the women he loved (the old flirt!).

Laurie had lived at his little Northland beach resort for nearly 50 years and from his deck had watched the rhythms of tides and currents, much as his loved ones watched life finally ebb from him.

And so after death, the inevitable clearing house of life.   He’d prepared for this last journey, tottering around his house and getting rid of as much as he thought necessary, given that a lot had sentimental value.

Still,  102 years lend themselves to a little more than the usual hoarding, and his children returned to Auckland laden with odds and sods which,   like their father, belonged to another century.  He had kept some interesting curios – now destined for Auckland’s Op Shops, with clothing to go to the Sallies. But from the detritus of these belongings, I rescued something I knew he prized – his old leather wallet.

What a silly thing to keep, most people would say, and they’d be right. His beautifully crafted ‘top grain hide’ wallet with its embossed map of Australia, is pretty much useless. He’d bought it in New South Wales and, with an extended family living in Oz, was as proud of things Australian as he was of his homeland here.

Like Laurie, the wallet was what some might now say was ‘unfit for purpose’. For where a modern wallet has a pouch and umpteen slots for everything from Visa to the Gold Card, his came from a less sophisticated cash society: Just one pouch, one zip to ensure all notes were safely tucked away. And, as a final precaution for that precious dosh, a fold-over, domed security strap.

All very good, but where to put your your driver’s licence? Your library card and all the other cashless currency we carry these days? Nowhere on this wallet. It’s from another era. Should be junked like his old brown suitcase with its amputated latch.

But it’s staying right here and I can’t tell you why – except to say that sometimes, uselessness is useful, in the pocket of remembrance.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.