Monday, 17 October 2016

My Da and Anthony Foley

The date of my father’s death is October 19th 2015 and so, his first anniversary takes place this Wednesday.  But for me, my Dad died on a Monday, so today is his anniversary.  The day after the annual Kildare Readers Festival closes. I took a day’s leave from work today, partly because I'm tired after a marathon few days, but mostly because I don't fancy the déjà vu of being there at 11am for tea break as I was last year when I got the phone call from my brother Eoin.

The day before my father died, he watched Ireland's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.  He would have been glued to the TV, with the Sunday newspapers spread across the table in front of him, providing a running commentary to my mother throughout the match.  

If he was still alive, he would have looked forward to Munster playing in the European Champions Cup match against Racing 92 yesterday.  The match was cancelled, as a mark of respect after the sudden death of Head Coach for Munster, Anthony Foley.  I only heard about his death this morning, aged 42, the same age as me.  Like many, I felt that collective sense of grief that someone really special was gone.  A true sports man and leader.  My father had little in common with Anthony Foley, except perhaps that they both put themselves under pressure and that they exited this world quickly and quietly.  

I have wondered how aware my father was in his final moments.  What could he hear? The lads hammering and the clink of machinery in the shed in the yard, Radio One wafting up the stairs in the kitchen, my mother calling to ask him to hurry up, the kerfuffle  that followed as family and paramedics arrived?  In my mind, the sound of the calming flow of the river across the road, the sound that he would have woken to and fallen asleep to, almost every day of his life, intensified and amplified to become his closing track.  This morning, watching a video online of Munster Fans singing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ in Paris as a tribute to Anthony Foley, I cried for the big Munster man, for the older men in the video, visibly upset wiping away their tears and also for my Da, who often sang that tune, and who, unlike his daughter, could hold a tune. 

While Anthony Foley was famous in his circles, my father was more of the infamous kind, being stubborn and opinionated.  I don’t know what he would have thought about all I have written about him on my blog since his death.  It's likely that he would have told me off, saying that there was ‘no need to be talking about those things’.  But if I explained the map of analytics showing the number of people who had read about him, and where in the world they are, he would have been amused.  ‘Be the hokey’, he'd say.  He then would have tried, badly, to explain Google analytics to his friends in the pub.  ‘They are reading about me in Russia and Australia, you know.  Jaysus’, shaking his head and laughing, secretly chuffed. 

Writing about my father has given me comfort in processing his death.  Others have told me that it has made them think about their own fathers, 'men of that generation', who won’t be around much longer, men that seem simple in their ways but are as complex as anyone else.  I chat with my uncle Ciaran  about how neither of us expected to really miss my father, a man who didn’t always have a lot to say to either of us.  Ciaran tells me that he sometimes walks around the farmyard, just to remember his brother.  It’s always the little things.  Today I miss being in his presence, him ignoring me while watching his beloved rugby.

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