family, family history, flu, funerals, grandparents, history, humour, Ireland, irish funeral, travelling
The dreary February of the last post? I’ll take that description back.
Let’s re-wind that last 10 days and we’ll do it all with a fine case of flu.
Today – Tuesday
Nothing of note other than I managed to leave the house twice and didn’t fall over once. Me: 1 point Flu Virus:0 points
The kids returned to school after a two week break. The collective sigh of relief from all the local mothers created such a strong wind that trees fell, roof tiles were torn from their place, lorries wobbled and swerved all over the highways and byways.
A day of contemplation (or in other words, I can’t remember but it probably involved remaining in my night attire the entire day trying not to fall over as:
Flu Virus: 20 points Me and my stability: minus 100 points
Oooh – erm… this is REALLY stretching my powers of remembering. I’m very grateful for the bright spark who has just released that film about an Alzheimers sufferer – I should try and REMEMBER to a watch it – it will highlight the fate of people like me or like the person I will become.
Now – I’m back in control, Brain. Watch out.
Friday involved a flight from Gatwick to Toulouse. A taxi ride from Sevenoaks to Gatwick which was remarkable only in one point: the driver had the most soporific voice that I have ever heard ….whilst remaining awake. Later, a ride home with my husband and three/five buggers from the airport. Now – this was remarkable in one sense: I walk (sway) through arrivals and see three neglected children and am about to give the poor street urchins some money when it dawns on me that they are somehow connected to me; I’m looking at them as if for the first time and do you know what I saw?
That fear of all mothers when they’ve spent some time apart from the offspring-
They got themselves dressed.
They got themselves dressed in THE most worn out, holey, ratty, tatty, crappy clothes that I didn’t even know we possessed and then went out into Public places.
My husband got himself dressed too.
I think that the hairbrush and soap had been enjoying a rare holiday.
Talking my germ ridden, woozy body into being ready to travel and failing. Booking myself on yet another flight (my 4th) and costing me another 100 euros. Getting on a not very large aeroplane with a very large brother who is a very reluctant flyer. Stepping in a puddle and cursing the hole in my boot. Wearing damp socks for the remainder of the day. Nicking my brother’s spare bed from a previously invited guest – his mother in law.
In Ireland – Spending 6 or so hours in bed during the day with only my germs for company……not my bed but my brother and his wife’s. Yes, does seem to be a recurring theme – my bed nicking although to be fair, not the same brother. I missed the very event I travelled to Dublin for – my Grandmother’s funeral.
Being outside Nanny’s house as the coffin was brought out and looking around at her sons and daughters I reflected on the life that she had. Remembering things about her – she really was wasted; she REALLY should have been an interrogator or spy master or perhaps, politician. To try and hold any information back from this woman was quite simply a fools errand:
‘And tell me, did ye meet anyone at the dance that you liked better than yourselves?’
Perhaps this only worked with the English cousins? I doubt it. Clever with a turn of phrase, you would be insulted without even realising it.
My grandmother’s home which featured so much in my childhood family holidays. The swish of the front door; people coming in and out incessantly, or so it seemed when I was young; food being prepared and eaten by what appeared to be half of Dublin but was in fact, just family. The rare moments of quiet – you might find Grandad sitting in a chair in the back room saying his prayers or reading the newspaper cover to cover. Nanny (for this is what we called her), telling you to go over to the butchers and to make sure he knows who sent ‘ye’ so that he won’t fob you off with poorer quality meat. My youngest uncle, getting up and dressed ready to do a shift in one of the family pubs and talking to himself in the mirror – reassuring his audience (various nieces and nephews) that he is in fact as handsome as Burt Reynolds – admittedly, not as tanned – I would call his shade, Vampire Blanc. The eternal problem of being STUFFED with food – literally stuffed with food and Nanny concerned that ‘ye’ weren’t eating enough. Her gravy. She probably took the recipe secret to her grave.
Walking behind the hearse which carried my 98 year old grandmother after it left her home and slowly wound its way to the church. We were many. My grandmother had had 14 children – of whom, 13 are still living.
As mass ended, the bearers, including my own father, and the coffin passed us by – a mother, carried by her sons ………but not before a woman darted out from the back of the church with a pair of crutches in her hand saying: ‘Did you see where she went? She left her crutches’ and running towards the exit, she just dodged in front of the funeral procession.
The priest, at the door of the church, flicked some holy water and said a blessing before they, the funeral procession, left.
Going to the pub. Medicating with two pints of Guinness and paracetomol. Learning from my cousin (one of 100000s) that Che Guevara’s Grandmother was from Galway, don’t you know?
Being shown an unusual West Ham tattoo of a turret with legs and a smiling face, bubbles floating out of the top, upon an unlikely arm – or was this the self medication cocktail granting me hallucinations?
Eating food around a table with my brothers and sister.
Saying the rosary with around 50-60 other relatives in the funeral home where Nanny was laid out. It was a competition – who could complete their part in the fastest time – who could say the most words in the least amount of time.
Noticing the blue, blue – cornflower blue – eyes of an old lady whose forlorn stare was fixed on that of her eldest sister, now at rest with her poor gnarled fingers wrapped around wooden rosary beads. I bent to say hello and the cornflower blue eyes flickered towards me and then returned back to their grief.
Walking into a funeral home and wondering if I hand’t mistakenly stepped into the pub except I knew I was in the right place – everybody looked like me and my family.
Going towards the open casket with my cousin. Seeing Nanny look very peaceful with a slight hint of a smile. She didn’t seemed to be bothered by the din that we were all making. Although this was a time of sadness, it was also a time of joy at old reunions, laughter at old times. At 98 years old we couldn’t bemoan her passing too much – she deserved the rest yet she will definitely be missed.
Getting to my brother’s house to spread my French flu germs.
Flying from Bordeaux airport and wondering if there was ever such a boring airport anywhere else on this planet.
Taking the train to Bordeaux airport and thinking about where I was going and why. Wondering about Nanny leaving Tipperary and going to London when she was a teenager to do nursing training and what a huge change that must have been. Musing on how she found Ireland upon her return, meeting and marrying a widower with a farm who later died when she was pregnant with their third child. How did she feel? Young, pregnant and grieving. At some point she went on and married his brother, my grand-dad, a man, as with her first husband, some years her senior. They went on to have hordes more children. What were her dreams? Did she realise any of them? What I would give to have a conversation with that young woman. Whatever the answers, one thing she did do was give life to an awful lot of people. Not only that but the family she produced are extraordinary in many ways but I shall only list two of them: firstly, that they are so many and secondly, that everybody gets along so very, very well. It must have been her sense of humour that filtered down and acted as a balm to soothe ill will.
Nanny, wherever you are, I am glad to have known you and glad to have been part of your family. I’ll see you again some day.