Friday, June 26, 2020

Jan /Nan

Image may contain: Janet Cook, sitting
25th June 2020

Death Resurrects old Memories 

8.40 pm 22nd June 2020. 

I didn't want to believe what I read. For a moment the words, there in black and white, somersaulted in my brain. It can't be. We were only told around midday that she was improving, that they were discussing how they'd rearrange the house for when she came home, make things
 easier for her.

Then, like a wild animal I let out, I don't know how, it wasn't me, but the most piercing scream. I couldn't help it . It came from some deep place that I didn't know was within me.
"What's up?"  Peter asked, concerned.
He came rushing over. I handed him my phone. It took him a few seconds to understand..By this time my whole body was shaking and tears were flowing. He drew me close, held on tight and added his own sobs to the river of sadness .
She'd died at 6.40 pm Mandy informed us. It was a shock to everyone she went on.
Poor Mandy, I thought, best friends for many years. If it affected us , how was she doing.

All of us from the writer's group she belonged to are devastated. There's something about sharing your writing that is so intimate, nothing compares to it, where you are exposed for who you are like nowhere else. 

Jan's death and the Mediterranean weather we're having just now, sent me back to last year and our trip to Ireland. Jan had a keen interest in all things Irish -  culture, spirituality, music. We had planned to have gatherings at her home to share our favourite Irsih / Celtic songs. Apart form all her other talents, too numerous to mention, she was an accomplished musician.

May 31st 2019 From an entry in my journal.

We leave Portumna after evening Mass, which celebrated the important  Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, recollecting  the time when  Mary, after being told by the Angel that not only was she herself going to have a child but that her cousin Elizabeth also had conceived and was now in her sixth month.
It's late evening when we drive into Thurles, past images which run like a grainy film through my mind, backwards and forwards, into each other. Silently, concentrating,  I scan  for familiar landmarks.

 As we pass through the square, how busy, I think, I see the tower of the Cathedral on the other side. A good  clue. I could walk to nan's house from here, a familiar route that she and I took a along the River Suir from the bottom of nan's road. Her short round body held up by little stick legs, an old brown shopping bag over her arm, we'd chat about the issues of the day, or the weather,especially if it was either extremely hot or cold, or  members of the family and what they were up to. Every day her and I would walk to early mass -  her routine. Now, in 2020, it's mine too, though not in Pandemic time.

We drive  round the square twice, park in the busy car park . What shall we do now? 
We make a cup of coffee, while I try to find  my bearings.  It's great travelling in the camper, being able to stop anywhere and make ourselves drinks or lunch or dinner. Staring out into the crowded square I don't  recognise the shops. I search for the window of Walter Maloney's . This is where nan came, or sent me, every day to get the messages. At Walter's you'd find bacon, bread, brickets, and all manner of items for everyday use. He seemed to have everything. A mini, mini, precursor to the modern day supermarket. There's a shop that looks as if it could be the place - Theresa's Tanning Palour. Whether it is or it isn't , it looks as if Walter is no longer around.

 There are  more roads leading off the square than I remember.
I see one I do know. I've walked it many , many times.
I turn to Peter. All this time he's left me with my own thoughts. I'm grateful for that.
"I need to go find the house, you know, just to look," I try to  persuade him? "And we might find somewhere better to stay than this car park, more quiet."  He's been driving for hours and is more than happy to stay put. But I also know that he'd prefer a more secluded spot.
"Fine," he says. We put the kettle in it's place in the cupboard and the cups in the sink.  I feel a bit guilty asking, as he's so tired, but I can't wait till morning.

We drive down the Mall in silence, my stomach churning, I'm so emotional, I cannot speak, what am I expecting? As we get near Kavanagh Place, the houses become familiar. It's on the left just a little way down. There is a huge Dunnes Store on the corner now, a prominent feature that slightly  puts me off. But now I see the Guards Barracks. Ah here we are. I point left. We turn .

Signs everywhere tell us, "Residents Parking only" What happened to this quiet road a couple of  miles outside the town?  So many thoughts run through my mind. We pass Mrs Peter's house, a wealthy neighbour, good to nan, bringing her groceries and other essentials in difficult times. And there are the gates of Lyons' scrap yard. This family had twelve children and I spent many a summer in and out of their house. I had a crush on Conor, two years older than me. He taught me Irish rebel songs. I loved it, got quite keen on "the cause". He joined the IRA later.

We stop where Casey's used to be, beside nan's house. Although their signs are still up, and there is a tin lean to which they'd attached to nan's cottage, there is nothing else but an empty yard. I glimpse the house, now, is some one trying to do it up? It's hard to hold back the tears - yet why should I cry?

There's the window, on the left as I look up,  of the bedroom where I slept. When my mother and her six brothers and sister were children , this was their room, a double bed for the girls at one end and another for the boys at the other. Mum told me stories of her sisters wetting the bed and waking up in a pool of water. She sighted this as one of the reasons she fled home, never to return except to visit her mother.

On the right the two small windows of nan's bedroom. Here, when I was much younger, I would often sleep with her, unaware then of the impact that closeness would have on my life. Here, in the dark, I learned to pray, as nan would recite her rosary or other prayers. A whiff  of diesel will always brings me back there, back to the sound of Casey's lorries outside those windows.

Downstairs, on the left, the teeney sitting room, only enough space  here for a tv, a coffee table and two arm chairs. This, the best room, was rarely entered. On the right the window of my favourite ,  the kitchen. Here, kept warm and welcoming by the range, all generations, all classes of people would gather, tell stories, drink tea, eat Marie biscuits, the key always left in the door - an open invite. Above the farmhouse table, set into the wall space next to the window, a picture of the Sacred Heart.
Lots of images pile into my mind, as I stand and stare. My feet rooted to this spot where the mist of my ancestors dwells.  No one lives here now. A hole in the roof the size of a football goal has let the rain in for a good many months.

"Shall we take some pictures?" His words bring me suddenly back to the present.
"Yes, good idea," He's been patient, bless him.

"Let's go and find somewhere to park up," we are reluctant to stay in Kavanagh Place with the lines in the road and the signs , added to that the Guarda at the top of the road.

But after we drive around and around and don't find anywhere we come back,  and chancing our arm, spend the night next to Casey's yard with a good view of the cottage. It feels good to be here. Shame about the house, I suppose it will have to be pulled down.


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