Last year, my parents came to an event that I had organised at work for the Kildare Readers Festival - the broadcaster Tracy Piggott interviewing writers, cast and crew from the feature film 'All About Eva', that I produced. I suggested it to my mother weeks beforehand and she reckoned that Tracy Piggott was enough of an attraction to entice my father to cross the border from Meath to Kildare.
On a similar vein, as a gift for his 70th birthday last August Bank Holiday, I bought my father two tickets to a snooker showcase with Steve Davis and Ken Doherty, to take place in the Moat Theatre in Naas in October.
I have lots of fabulous childhood memories of being allowed to stay up late to watch snooker. Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, crying and holding his infant child after winning the World Championship in 1982. The most memorable night of all was the 1985 World Championship Final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, the winner, down to who potted the final black ball. Oh, the suspense. At that time, Steve Davis was the English enemy and Denis Taylor, the Irish underdog was king. The silence as the black made its way to the pocket. The elation as Taylor, with his upside down glasses, potted the black and held his snooker cue over his head, punching it in the air.
Despite my mothers concerns that 'your father never liked Steve Davis', I hoped that thirty years was enough distance for my father to get over any negative feelings towards Mr Davis. The Good Friday Agreement signed in the interim, it felt like we had all moved on. I was excited that this snooker event, presented a 'Tracy Piggottesque', opportunity to do something a little bit special. I bought the tickets in advance to give him no option to back out. Included, was a photo opportunity with the snooker stars. I could imagine my Dad bringing the photos into the pub and telling people that Steve Davis wasn't such a 'boring bastard' after all and recalling the banter.
My children gave my father his present and he didn't say a lot. He was more excited about the e3.99 chocolate bar labelled 'Granddad' and the three of them scoffed it together. Later, in the pub, he said, 'Hmmmm, Steve Davis, yeh' and started talking about something else. That was the stamp of approval I needed. I looked forward to himself and my Mam visiting me in Kildare.
The last weekend that I was at home, my mother broke it to me that they wouldn't be travelling to Kildare for the snooker showcase after all. She said that my father didn't feel up to the drive from Meath. I was disappointed, mostly because I felt that it would have been 'one of those nights' and that he and my Mam were missing out. On other occasions, I would have told him to cop on and insist that they came, or made arrangements to bring them down. I was annoyed, disappointed. But this time, I said very nothing to him and took the tickets back, hoping to resell them and donate the takings to charity, while quietly worrying about my father.
The Sunday that the snooker showcase took place, I spoke to my mother on the phone. She said that my father had been very sick all weekend and that he was going to the doctor the following morning. I could tell that she was concerned about him.
He didn't make it to the doctors that Monday, dying suddenly at home that morning.
For his 70th birthday, I had also intended asking Tracy Piggott if she would signing a birthday card for my father. I just didn't get around to asking and I'm cursing myself now. He would have got a great kick out of that. I have the tickets for the snooker showcase in my diary. So much poignancy in those little pieces of paper, that now seem priceless.