It’s remarkable how emotional we can become when we start remembering lost loved ones. This has been a tender week for me. Basically, I have been missing my parents. I’ve been thinking about them a lot. My father, Vinny left this world over ten years ago and my mother, Kitty, just over two years back. I miss them for different reasons. There were two truly wonderful parents. I was blessed to have known them. They smothered me with their love. I resent the fact that cancer stole both of them from me. Their unyielding love for me and for those whom I love was breathtaking. They are missed all the time. I often wonder do we ever stop grieving? I don’t think so. I think the sadness lingers but we become distracted. Moments of intense sadness can catch us on the hop. Maybe, it was the fact that my daughter had started third level this week. Another milestone missed. And they adored her. Maybe it is because my son has started secondary school and now wears the same uniform that they bought me so many years ago. Or maybe its because I have my worries and their fresh and frank advice is sorely missed. I think remembering is a good thing to be doing – even if it makes us feel insecure and lonely.
Vinny was a character of a man. He did not have a formal education beyond primary level but he had great wisdom. The Leaving Certificate does not legislate for such a gift. He used to see things that I would never see. He often joked with me –“I’m a spotter, son. I see things but you walk into them!”. Not the greatest of compliment but he had a wisdom that has always escaped me. He had a great perspective on life and could put problems brilliantly into context. He basked in the glory of now! He worried but never let worry spoil a day. He had great artistic flare. I watched him paint the canvasses and learned from his strokes. He fixed things. His shed was his kingdom. I always laughed when I switched on it’s light because the radio would also come on. His kingdom contained his tools – the instruments that could create or mend. His birds sang happily. His collection of clocks ticked. He had an eye for antiques and a respect for relics of the past. He brought me with him on his donkey and cart to gather blocks from Donogue. He had a car and trailer but he loved an excuse to justify an outing. He was a master story-teller. We would switch the television off when the American cousins visited and coax him to tell us famed stories – to do the actions and the voices. He became a child when my children surrounded him. He got lost in their world and they fell deeply into his charmed life experience. Most importantly he made me laugh. He made everyone laugh. So many people miss all that laughing!
Kitty was a kind and gentle woman. She was obsessed with her children. She wanted all that was best for me and my siblings. A year in Coláiste na Rinne to ensure that my Irish would be up to scratch when entering secondary level. Boarding school to give a lazy teenager a better opportunity to work harder and do himself justice in examinations. All at great financial sacrifice. She booked me the art lessons and found the piano accordion teacher in Ardee. Indeed, I found the receipt for the accordion in recent weeks. Nearly £1000 in old money. It was paid for in instalments. I was entered in all the competitions and took home medals and trophies. As a nurse she worked night duty often to help with the fees. And her dinners! I can still smell her stews as they frosted the windows with their flavour. Her apple tarts filled rooms with an aroma that threatened gluttony on all within its scope. She had a remarkable generosity of spirit and natural tendency to put herself last and others first. She was an excessive worrier. If I were sniffling on a visit to her house, the following day she would be checking to see if it had developed into a full blooded cold! And the children – she would comment if they were pale, overly quiet, over-indulgent with television, whether it was time to get them singing or dancing – not in an intrusive way but with a huge heart of love. She reminded us all about each other’s birthdays. She gelled family together and was a crucial link. She was the kindest person I have ever met.
The home house is empty. The grass grows taller around it. On route to Dublin I can bypass Carrickmacross without feeling any sense of guilt. That was never an option when my mother was alive!! Not that I’d want to. You’d never miss her cooking!! And of course her company! But it’s changed. The headquarters has closed. This week my eyes filled with tears as Marianne Faithful’s song ‘Someday I’ll get over you’ played. I don’t think I will ever get over the death of my parents. And I don’t want to either!
Here are two poems I have written about my parents. The first is about my father and captures my first visit to the home house after he died. It was the first time that I found myself there on my own. I don’t know if I was longing to hear his sounds or actually could sense them around the place. And the second poem is about my mother. After my father died I hated saying goodbye to her at the door. I felt she was so lonely.
I Thought I Heard Him
I thought I heard him in the yard
As the steel coal buckets kissed
His boots munching on the gravel
As the coal lumps were scooped
And slid into rows along the wall.
I thought I heard him in the grasses
Scattering hen-meal, eyeing birds
Him overlooking the roof-tiles
Towards the swans on Lisanisk
As his thoughts dashed and dived.
I thought I heard him with paint tins
Stirring new colours out of the old
Striking lines with chalk and cord
On the white plywood boards
Him muttering with the transistor.
I thought I heard him at the gable wall
Letting the potato bags slump in line
Dragging sacks of blocks for the fires
That would burn until the nights died
Like memories smouldering in my dreams
Honest to God!
There’s loads to do
Look at the yard!
Look at the walls!
Pots and pans,
roses to prune.
I’m too busy,
to see him,
to hear him,
to let him revisit me,
But as the door clinks
she dives into the silence
And washes up on the shore:
He is there no more