Mother and Son Time

Sometimes I wonder what mothering is all about when it comes to being the mother of a twenty-one year old son. In the early hours of this morning, it suddenly became a lot more than being the fill-the-fridge-fairy and dog-walker-when-owner-out-of-town.

I was still up when he came in to me, ashen-faced, and told me that he’d just found out that a young man who he had been very close to growing up had died. It was the first time that someone of his own age  – just 14 days between them -who really mattered to him had died. I had known the lad too and he was one of those creative, empathetic kids who stood out as being able to talk to adults like they were real people.

In that moment when we were trying to come to terms with this sadness, I realised that being a mother is about being there to share in the highs and the lows as well as  the everyday. My own mother always made a point of showing interest in our friends and I always loved that she would know who I was talking about when I’d mentioned ‘friends of mine that I’ve not even met,’ as she would term them.

That togetherness of the early hours spilled over into today and we went to catch the sunset with his dogs out at Kilfarrasy Beach, a place that holds many memories for us from long years of going there, especially when it’s all ours.

It was a sunset to savour but most of all it was an evening that I think we’ll both remember always. The passing of his friend is etched into the texture of it. Age has a habit of bringing more and more deaths of same-aged friends but the loss of the first can be very tough indeed. Our hearts go out to the young man’s family. How they could be coping is unimaginable.

This evening on the beach, I did what I seldom do, took a photo of my boy. I needed to gather him into my heart and hold him just that little bit tighter than usual:

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At Twenty-One

 

Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.

(Sophocles)

Relief Rain

It was dark, dank and rainy here today but my heart was light as I got a letter this morning telling me that my two-yearly routine mammogram with BreastCheck which I only had on Monday afternoon was clear. Nothing can ever, ever be taken for granted, especially health, so that, on top of a good report  from my eye specialist yesterday, had me in a heightened sense of appreciation.

I have to admit that I was kinda glad to see plenty of rain over the last day or so because I was a bit concerned about my self-raising flour exploits up at the old graveyard beside Dunhill Castle in recent times. (In case you didn’t read about them and want to they are detailed here.)  I was back a few days ago and was slightly worried that there was still some evidence of the flour but the guy on YouTube had said that rain was required to clear the flour.

Anyway, I thought I’d have a walk along the Anne Valley and make my way up to the graveyard just to see if the rain had done the job.

In case you’re interested, the second grave that I read the other day had this inscription on it:

Erected by Peter Phelan in memory

of his Father John Phelan who died

Jan 6th 1792 aged 75 years also his 

son Mark who died Dec 12th 1779

aged 27 years

It was interesting to find that this grave, like the first one, bore the name Phelan. I am assuming that there is probably a family connection between the two and suspect that at least some of the other sixteen graves will be Phelan graves as well. It’s not clear from the inscription if the son, Mark, was Peter or John’s son but I originally saw him as being John’s son. Twenty-seven is a very young age to die and I suspect there was great sadness for those who were left behind.

The good news is that the rain has removed the flour ~ almost every bit of it ~ but I think that from now on, I will only use it when the days are very dry and I will bring a soft brush (like Mr YouTube) to dust any excess away.

The whole scene today was very different from my last expedition on November 27th. It seemed like the rain had beaten down much of the undergrowth so it was easier to see the whole shape of the ruined church and to pick out the tombstones.

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Old Church and Graveyard, Dunhill, Co. Waterford

This is the entrance to the ruined church. I love the solid stonework:

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Entrance to Old Dunhill Church

I counted a total of eighteen tombstones today and I think that’s all there are:

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Four Unexplored Tombstones

The swan family were very much in evidence down on the Anne River. The cygnets have got very grown up and the walk was punctuated with them as they made their way through the very still waters. To me, the cygnets symbolise new life and the cycle of life, especially after time spent up in the old graveyard.

Those who are buried in the graveyard were once young people, a fact which is almost hard to take in given how much time has passed since the 1700s. But, the cycle of life continues …..

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New Life

 

 

‘… lovely as a tree.’

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have quite a tendency to think in poetry ~something that I inherited from my mother.

Every time I see an eye-catching tree, I immediately go this poem by Joyce Kilmer, in spite of the religious connotations.

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I saw that December 6th was Joyce Kilmer’s birthday and decided that after a lifetime of ‘being’ with this poem, the least I could do was to find out about the person behind the poem.
What emerged was quite a revelation to me. I had always assumed that Joyce Kilmer was a woman but it turns out that he was a man ~ Alfred Joyce Kilmer. He was born on December 6th, 1886 in New Jersey and his father, Frederick Kilmer, a physician and analytical chemist was the inventor of Johnson’s Baby Powder which has been part of so many lives, including mine and my son’s.
As well as being a poet, Alfred Joyce Kilmer was a journalist, editor and lecturer. He married Aline Murray (an Irish sounding name!) at the age of  22 in 1909 and they went on to have five children.
The poem Trees was written in February 1913 in the Kilmer Family home in New Jersey:
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Kilmer Family Home: Source: Wikipedia
Kilmer enlisted in the US Army in April 1917, just a few days after America entered World War 1. Shortly before his deployment to Europe, his second child, Rose, died and just twelve days later Aline gave birth to their fifth child.
Kilmer was killed, aged just 31, at the Second Battle of the Marne in France on July 30th, 1918. He was buried in Picardy in France and a cenotaph was erected in his memory in New Jersey.
They say that poems should not need context to be read, but I’ve got to say that delving into Joyce Kilmer’s life will deepen my appreciation of his poem, Trees,  every time it flashes into my mind from here on.

 

Surf’s Up in Co. Waterford

It’s been very overcast here in Co. Waterford over the last few days and feels like the sun has taken a bit of a hollier.

But, Sunday was living proof that ‘it’s and ill wind that blows nobody good.‘ The sea was high; it must have been high as the surfers had made their way to the normally calm Kilmurrin Cove out along the Copper Coast.

You’ve got to realise that darkness was falling but these guys were in a heaven of their own, catching the waves and seeking to eke every last second out of the day.

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Lying in Wait
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Balance of Life

Surfing is huge around Tramore and has been for decades now. It has to be one of the most invigorating sports around and who can watch surfers at play without hearing echoes of the Beach Boys and songs like Surfin’ USA: 

Yes, different times and different places but surfing and surfers are free spirits who know the meaning of  being at one with nature.

Remembrance

Last Tuesday, November 29th, was one of those heart-wrenching days. It was the 20th anniversary of the death of my nephew who died tragically, aged 24 in 1996. Twenty years may seem like a long time but time has certainly not erased my memories of the chatty little boy I watched grow into an extremely handsome young man who was full of love, curiosity, creativity and a passion for the sea.

November 29th is also the anniversary of a young boy, called Daniel, whom I’ve read about on Tric’s blog, My Thoughts on a Page. Daniel died three years ago, aged 13,  from leukemia and it’s very clear that he, too,  left a huge legacy of love to all his family and friends.

When I realised last year that Daniel and my nephew shared the same anniversary, it seemed like one of those extraordinary coincidences. There is a poignancy, yet a comfort, in knowing that both young men are especially remembered on the same day … though clearly they are never far from our minds.

I’ve felt since last year that my nephew is somehow looking out for young Daniel and that they have built a special bond with each other. This feeling has emerged in spite of the fact that I am an out and out atheist.

Last Tuesday was a gorgeous day here and as sunset was approaching, I made my way to the beach to cast two stones into the sea in memory of the ‘boys.’ Here are the stones that I chose ~ one bigger than the other:

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Memory Stones 

I threw them into the sea which was all blue and lovely. The tide was coming in and it seemed to be carrying gentle love and solace:

It seemed only right to wait for the sunset and there was a warmth in that too which dazzled me and sent me home perfectly reassured that our precious young men are at peace and happy to know that we remember them with love.

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The Glow of Love

Sound Out

The word ‘sound’ has been playing in my head for the last few days since I met a man who was taking photographs out on the Anne Valley Walk in Dunhill and he greeted me and said: Great to be in a place where you hear not a sound, isn’t it? 

I nodded in agreement knowing that he was referring to the peace of the place but I was half tempted to say: Do you not hear the birds singing and the stream babbling? And what about your heart beating and those cows that are lowing?  Oh, and if you come out here at midday, you’ll hear the dogs chiming in with the Angelus Bell up around the village church. And, hey, if you go on up towards Dunhill Castle you’ll get to hear the swan family.

Yes, the swan family that I thought had flown away are still around and they were making lots of noise as they were gathered together in a huddle.

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Happy Family

Since my little encounter with the photographer, I’ve been thinking about Simon and Garfunkel’s, The Sound of Silence, that was such a part of my growing up in the 1960s and 70s. It was central to our early collection of 45s that we played over and over on our basic record player:

The lines of the song that always hit me were these ones:

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

Listening back now, I still feel a profoundness about these words in terms of the huge difficulties that arise in relation to communication in so many ways, especially around war and building peace.

On a much lighter note, the word ‘sound’ is widely used in Irish slang. There’s the saying: ‘Sound as a pound,’ which is used mainly to reassure someone that a person or a machine is fine or unproblematic. In some parts of the country, ‘sound as a pound’  has been abbreviated to: ‘Sound out.’  So, ‘Ah Jimmy is the best guy to advise you. He’s sound out.’ 

As well as that, you often hear ‘sound’ used as a one word response in the context of underlining the fact that one is happy enough about some arrangement. For example:

Mechanic: I’ll have the car ready for you after lunch.

Customer: Sound. I’ll see you then. 

To come back to my photographer ‘friend,’ it seemed quite ironic to me that he saw fit to break the silence, or Wendell Berry’s, ‘the peace of wild things,  that he was so obviously enjoying.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(Wendell Berry)

 

 

 

Heartstrings

I was having a nose through Jean’s photos from today. I never know what I might find. She takes the oddest things sometimes when she goes off saying that she can’t take me cos I might run over a cliff or out in front of a lorry.

Anyway, I think she’s cottoned on to the fact that I keep a check on her. See, I like to run on ahead. I just don’t do ‘walk to heel’ or whatever it’s called. I mean who wants to be looking at someone’s heels all the time when you could be having a chance to look at everything that’s going on.

Oh, I didn’t realise that she had crept up behind me to take this one when we were out at the beach. I was having a breather after a mad race after some birds that gave me the runaround.

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Chillin’ Out

Well, to come back to keeping a check on her. When I’m on ahead, I need to know that I haven’t lost her. I’m terrified of us getting separated and never being able to find each other again. I didn’t think she knew about all the quicker than quick glances until I saw this photo in the bunch:

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Just Checkin’

I haven’t a clue how she got me like this cos I look round so fast that I didn’t think anyone, even Jean, could notice.

I’ve seen little children glancing round like I do and I understand exactly why they do it.

I don’t think grown-ups do it all that much but maybe that’s cos they walk beside each other most of the time and aren’t all into racing on ahead. I wonder will I always need to look back or will I stop doing it when I’m an older puppy.

The fact that Jean took the photo of me doing it makes me think that it matters to her cos she really only takes photos of things that she sees as being important for some reason or another.

Anyway, I hope she’ll always be there when I do look back.

Do any of you have a thing about glancing back? I’ve a feeling that it’s part of being sort of in love or whatever you’d call being attached to someone. There mightn’t be strings attached but there certainly are quickest of quick glances that are pretty much the same thing ~ maybe we’ll call them heartstrings!

And, of, course, there’s the quick glance back when someone you love is walking away. Do they just keep walking or do they look back and meet your eyes before they disappear? I just love that reassuring look back that Jean always gives me. It tells me that she has no intention of leaving me for very long.

 

Big Bro

Today is Big Bro’s birthday and he’s been very much on my mind since I woke this morning. We have always been extremely close and he’s  great the way he has looked out for me since I was tiny.

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Big Bro and Me: Photo Frank Tubridy

We have very similar interests and tennis was something that really brought us together through both practice and playing together in mixed doubles tournaments for years.

I texted him this morning to wish him a happy birthday and got a typical reply that included: Thanks. Time passes….. I’ll go for a walk and cool swim. 

Yes, he’s another mad all year round sea swimmer. I hadn’t intended to go for a swim today because it was so cold ~ the coolest around here since 2010. Anyway, I got to the beach with the dogs at the time I knew that Big Bro would be going for his ‘cool swim’ and was struck by the way there was a path of golden sunbeams reaching from the horizon back to the shore. It looked so like the pathway that he and I have walked, played, laughed, cried, teased, run, tennised, read, written, chatted, hiked, driven, paddled and swum together for almost six decades now.

I simply had to dash in and join with him in a celebratory swim, even if we were 100 miles apart.  It’s quite incredible how many memories came splashing back as I had the dip in the golden waters. I wonder what he was thinking about. I know that he’d  just chuckle and pretend to have forgotten if I asked him so I won’t bother. You do get to know someone when they’ve been an essential part of your life always.

So, for now, my thought is that ‘the family that swims together stays together.’