The little girl let go of her father’s hand at the bottom of the wooden steps to the beach, handed him her doll, and sat down to take off her socks and sandals.
We passed each other half way down and they both smiled at me and said a happy ‘hello.’ They looked so much at home and she was dancing along beside him in her bare feet, not caring about sand between her small toes. The sand was soft, silky and hot. I’d just been playing with it, letting it slip through my fingers, like I used to when I was a kid.
The modern word for their togetherness is ‘quality time,’ but this wasn’t timed time with quick glances at the hands of a watch or the digits on a smart phone. It was relaxed time; time to paddle, run hand in hand in the lacy wavelets, pet the big fluffy dog who was out for his constitutional with his master.
This was father and daughter time; building sandcastles and memories to last a lifetime and beyond.
How do I know?
I just do because of the way they looked at me with their eyes shining like mirrors.
Carbally Church is one of those places that seems to not want to be in the limelight and always shrinks away when I try to take a photograph of it. It’s also locked unless there’s a need for it to be open.
However, it’s a place that has been at the centre of many of the key ceremonies of my life: our wedding day; our son’s christening; and Father’s funeral service.
It’s located about 6 miles from Tramore on a back road to Dunmore East and not far from where the Back Strand of Tramore Beach begins or ends ~ depending on how you look at it.
It’s odd how one church could be the scene of such a variety of different personal events, all involving many of the same people.
There’s a host of moments I associate with Carbally Church but the outstanding one is sitting in the car with Father high up on the hill looking down on everyone chatting in the churchyard for ten or fifteen minutes before he walked me, I half-ran him up the aisle, to his whispered utterings, Slow down, this isn’t a 20 yard dash!
We were laughing and joking; spotting who was talking to who; working like commentators on how everyone was looking since we’d last seen them; wondering could that big tall, strapping young man really be the the baby we both thought we’d seen only a couple of weeks before.
I was aware that this was a moment of moments and one I was unlikely ever to forget. Every single time I pass Carbally Church now, I wonder how Father was feeling as we chatted.
I never, ever thought to ask him even though we passed the church hundreds of times after on our drives together to lovely Dunmore East.
I suspect he would have given me a quip of an answer and kept that poker face on which he always prided himself.
Today has been one of those days when I’ve missed you terribly and thought about you a lot.
It all started when I heard Sophie barking at 4am. When I went down to her I just knew she wasn’t herself and when a King Charles is thirteen, it’s time to be on one’s guard, isn’t it? You were always my first port of call on doggy matters, given that you grew up as a vet’s son and had such instinct about dogs and their ailments.
I know it won’t come as any surprise to you that there has been a lot in the paper over the last week or so about a woman in Dublin with Alzheimer’s Disease who went missing and when she was eventually found, unfortunately dead, her beloved King Charles was sitting with her and died within a few hours of being discovered.
Anyway, I took Sophie to the vet this evening and all seems reasonably okay. I know you’d have said ‘give her a few hours and if she’s not right get her checked out for the pair of you before you face into what could be a very long night.’
I realised today, more than ever, how much the dogs in our lives connected us.
I was looking through some of your photographs earlier and happened upon this one of the pair of us on the wooden bridge over the River Nanny. Imagine it was just a year or so before we shared lifetimes of dogs!
On the subject of lifetimes, I have been fascinated recently by different ‘takes’ on grief on social media. I’d love to be able to hear your views after such a long life ~ all 91 years ~ in which you saw so many loved ones die. How do you feel about the idea that while we have no control over the losses we can control our responses to them?
I can’t really buy into that and in many ways this letter is living proof of it as I didn’t expect that Sophie being under-the-weather would have you so, so much with me today.
Lots of Love,
PS. You’ll be glad to hear that the pampas grasses that we planted in October 1991 are in full sway. They make the garden look like an extension of the sea at high tide.