Friday, 19 February 2016

I Miss My Da

It was my birthday last week. On a Wednesday. Not the best day for a birthday, if one planned on major celebrations. As usual my Mam send me a birthday card in the post. As usual, I phoned home to say ‘thank you’. In others years, my father answered the phone. He would have the usual chat about the weather, the farm and, depending on the news on the day, politics. He would chat away. Eventually, I would say, uncomfortably, ‘’it’s my birthday today Da’’. His response would have been an awkward ‘oh right’, or maybe even an-under-the-breath, ‘Happy Birthday.’ And then ‘Do you want to speak to your mother?’, passing the phone over. When I was Younger-Adult-Me, there are times when I felt hurt by his lacklustre response to my birthday, but now I can recognise that he would have been slightly embarrassed by it. I could relay a similar imaginary birthday conversation in my head last week because I knew him so well. Had it been one of the grandchildren’s birthday on the other hand, he would the first in there pretending to blow out the candles, high pitched laughing from the children. I have had many imaginary conversations in my head with my father recently. Mostly he is talking and I’m listening, sometimes only half listening. I can predict what his responses to various political shenanigans would be. I would have been pleased if I had some stories to tell him about the political scene in Kildare. Two of my friends’ fathers had heart attacks in recent weeks. Thankfully, after medical intervention, they are both doing okay. One of these friends relayed the experience to me – the collapse, the shock, the race to the hospital and all that came after it. As she talked, I could barely stop the tears, feeling for her family in distress, but also thinking of my own father death. Wondering if he was in a lot of pain, if he could hear the familiar voices around him, if he knew that he was dying, if he was afraid. I stayed in my parents’ house last Sunday night. It was lovely to be there with my mother. I had an early start the following morning and savoured the sounds of Home, as the farm yard was starting to wake up. The snuffles of the cattle. Timber beams creaking in the wind. The comforting sound of the river. All that was absent was the sound of my father’ smokers cough coming from the bedroom. I miss his cough. My son has always loved ‘‘Grandad’s farm’’ and his curiosity around it has heightened. He was asked recently if he had any fears since Grandad’s death. Earwigging on the conversation, I thought he might say that he was afraid that other loved ones might die too. Instead, he replied ‘I’m worried that Grandad’s farm might be sold.’ He spent most of his mid-term break with his Nana on the farm. He traipsed her down the yard to do a full inventory and condition report on all of the machinery that Grandad had, including its make and colour. Meanwhile, he is trying to convince me that his eight-year-old legs are long enough to drive a tractor. While its lovely to see his interest in the farm, it hurts my heart that my father is missing out on these little moments. I could imagine my father, highly amused, telling my mother over dinner, or his friends in the pub, about my boy’s incessant questions about the mechanics of the various machines. ‘That young lad never stops talking’, my father would say. I would smile. ‘He didn’t lick it off the road, you know Dad’. He wouldn’t look up from his newspaper, he would ruffle it, laugh and continue reading. I miss you Da. Can you hear me ?

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