Today has been surreal, intense and instinctual. Dad died at 10:57 on this date three years ago (aged 91) but back then it was a Friday and not a Tuesday. I never know if it’s nature or time, or both, that move what seems like the immovable.
I’ve been very conscious of his anniversary since last week and decided to just go with my instincts in terms of how I would approach it. So where did instinct bring me? Lots of walks on the beach here in Tramore ~ a place that he loved with a passion. Sunday afternoon had me screaming for Co. Clare in the All-Ireland Hurling Final remembering that day in 1995 when he made his way to Croke Park to see his native Clare win the All-Ireland for the first time in his lifetime.
Yesterday, I went on a rummage through some of his photographs and a few pushed themselves forward out of the thousands with great insistence. One was of the harbour in Annalong, Co. Down where we spent a family holiday in the late 1960s. Dad always loved this photograph and I have come to see harbours as very comforting places since reading Cicero’s book On a Life Well Spent in the last year or so of Dad’s life.
… the nearer I draw to my end, it seems like discovering the land at sea, that, after the tossings of a tedious and stormy voyage, will yield me a safe and quiet harbour. (Cicero, 50 BC).
The weather was very kind today and the car instinctively brought me out along the Copper Coast. At 10:57, I was swimming in the sea on the lovely beach in Bonmahon where we shared many, many Summer days over the years.
I passed an old school house between Bonmahon and Stradbally and my mind flashed back to yet another of the photographs from yesterday ~ the excitement of a group of kids in Castleblayney, Co. Monagahan during a wheelbarrow race. There I was on the sideline, hopping from foot to foot as Dad captured the action and, no doubt, remembered his own days in short pants!
So what, if anything, has changed in the the last three years in terms of thinking about Dad? I can honestly say that there are far fewer flashbacks to the tough stuff associated with his dying and death and that’s a big relief. There are hardly any tears. I seem to have come to a realisation that death is not straightforward black and white. Rather, it feels like Dad is with me in all sorts of ways ~ that he certainly didn’t just vanish out of my life.
Of course, I miss our chats that were so wide-ranging and his wealth of advice. I also miss the way he called me Child right up to the end of his life. No one else ever called me that and no one else ever will again.