This evening on television I watched Chris Packham doing his favourite walk. It was a walk he did many times with his father when he was a child and then as an adult a walk he did alone many times as he came to terms with his loneliness and his dealing with his Asperger's Syndrome. And he talked about his father - now old and unwell- and speculated on when his Dad had done the walk for the last time.
I have so often thought of this 'last time' happening. The farmer and I went on long walks in the Dales when we first started 'courting' in 1992. But then gradually I was no longer able to walk so far and he began to go with a walking group and without me. But I have no recollection of which was the last long walk we did together. Similarly after breakfast each morning when he let his cows out after milking, Tess my Border Terrier and I always went with him and walked back round the fields looking what was out. The first orchid in the hedge bottom, the first marsh marigold in the beck, the first baby rabbits. But then one day my ankle made the walking in the fields too difficult. But I can't recall the day when it was 'the last time'. In fact life is full of 'last times' isn't it? But we can rarely recall when they were and certainly for me there is a certain sadness in this as though 'yes, I enjoyed it, but had I known it was 'the last time' I would have enjoyed it more.'
Some last times of course are easily remembered - the last day at school (we threw our school hats in the river - it was a tradition), the last day at University, the last day in a particular job. But the really precious ones usually escape our memory and we can't reconstruct any sort of picture of what it was like and how we felt. I can't remember for instance the last time I saw my father, or my mother. I lived a long way from home with my family, both were ill for a while and I went to see tthem (both in hospital) when I could. But the last time? That I can't remember.
Memory is a strange thing isn't it - and not always reliable. Some enjoyable moments in my life (and not always 'last times') were such fun - my first husband and I played in an Early Music Group (in costume) with a group of musical friends - some long dead now- we had some great times but looking back how I wish I had enjoyed them more. Or would that not have been possible without hindsight?
Some memories we get all wrong - others we tend to embroider (especially those of childhood like fishing for sticklebacks, climbing trees etc,) but there will always be some which however hard we try we just can't recall, some events which would now never happen again (like those marsh marigolds and David's voice saying 'they're out' when he came in for breakfast one morning).