Category Archives: Future

My mother’s ring…..

I have been told by my mother all of my life that I am like a magpie. In common with this particular bird, I do love sparkly things. She told me that she noticed this phenomenon when I began to steal her diamond engagement ring when I was about six years of age.

I love this piece of jewellery, it is simply beautiful. It is a unique art deco designed ring and it was purchased in Dublin sometime in the 1950’s. I have never seen another one that resembles it.

I stole that ring at every opportunity when I was a small child having decided that no other ring my mother owned was quite as pretty. I definitely should have been a jewellery designer, goldsmith, gemologist or something similar, such has been my devotion to sparkly stuff throughout my life.

My mother’s dressing table held an assortment of things that were very attractive to a small child. There were crystal bowls that held hair clips, safety pins, thimbles and tie pins.

There was also space for trinket boxes, powder puffs, perfume and rings. She had a small crystal spike that she used to place her rings upon, and it looked like a skyscraper of colored gems to a small six year old girl who loved sparkly things.

I was a very discerning thief though; it was her engagement ring that I loved, despite the array of other precious rings that made up this tower of jewels.

I clearly remember sitting on the pavement outside our house one day before my communion (so I was almost seven years of age). I was wearing pink shorts with zippy pockets. I had the ring on my thumb and was holding it up to the sunlight watching the sparkles radiate from the diamonds when my mother called me in for my dinner. She must have seen me sneaking the ring into my pocket for she did a methodical search of them when I came in.

When she found her treasured ring she went berserk! Despite the punishment of several slaps, this episode didn’t stop me from subsequently “robbing” her ring for many more years to come.

How I never lost it is a miracle.

Searching me became habitual and I was subject to many thorough ‘shake downs’ over the years. It did go missing a couple of times, but that was honestly down to my mother misplacing it somewhere in the house. I came under a lot of pressure those times and was always grateful that the ring turned up again.

This ring has been at the center of so many discussions (and rows with laughter) between my mother and my sisters over the years. We discussed at length what would happen to it in the event of her death. Mam wanted to leave it to her eldest daughter who had no attachment to it whatsoever, yet undaunted she wrote her will a million years ago, and to my horror bequeathed the ring to my sister!

While I argued that I loved it the most, my mother wouldn’t give way. She was following the age old tradition of leaving precious stuff to the eldest girl child. I pleaded and begged to no avail, and even though my older sister kindly whispered to me that she would give it to me on the quiet, I could not be placated. I wanted my mother to leave it to me and not get it by default.

My mother, her sister Betty, and my younger sister Annie all loved sparkly stuff. When we gathered at family dinners in my house, these women would regularly sit at the table after the Irish Coffees were served, and strip off all their precious trinkets so that I could clean them. I have an array of potions, lotions, mixtures and cloths that are particularly good at cleaning fine sparkly things like diamonds and other precious stones.

We had such laughs over the years as I took their tarnished and unkempt jewellery and made it new again. Every woman friend that I have has allowed me to clean their jewellery – particularly their rings. It’s a pity that I haven’t had the same diligence when it comes to cleaning my house- but then houses don’t sparkle like rings do when they have been cleaned!

Times change, as do people, and eventually (with no pressure) my mother realised that her precious ring was better coming to someone who genuinely loved it (me), who would always appreciate it (me), and who would keep it in the family and be the guardian of it forever (me).

She subsequently changed her will and upon her recent death I became the custodian of her beautiful ring. The ring that I used to thief and steal as a small child now rests legitimately upon my finger.

I may have coveted it all my life and I do love it, but as I hold it up to the sunshine and watch it sparkle I wish that it was somehow back on my mother’s hand.

Destiny can be about realising that what we love most are people and the things that make them happy. Without the people their things are just things…

Monnie Furlong O’Neill. 27/4/1930 – 11/1/2013

Having previously written about my mams terminal illness, it is with a numbed sadness that I am writing now about her recent death.

Reading notices in newspapers about people who have died after cancer, I have always been struck by the language used. “She fought hard” or “he battled strongly”. These words always conjured up images of the said person dressed up in army fatigues, in a war zone, engaged in hand to hand combat.

Dying of cancer may be like that for some people, but I never saw it as a war or a fight that my mother could “win”.

In the earlier days of her illness there was certainly hope, but as the disease progressed, this hope was extinguished and she was left with the stark reality of facing into an uncertain future. Her time for living was limited and she knew that she was going to die.

I believe that facing our mortality must be the most frightening experience ever. We spend our lives planning this and that, visualizing particular outcomes and results. But imagining our own death and what comes after it is mystifying and terrifying, because we have nothing to go on and no images of what happens next. While medical intervention and treatments can make a person more comfortable during their illness, the undeniable fact that life is drawing to a close must be petrifying.

My mam was ill for almost two years. During this time she had incredible support and care from all the health professionals who she came into contact with. She took everything that was offered to her in the hope of gaining more time, and she accepted all treatments and interventions despite them making her feel sick and her losing all her beautiful hair.

By the time December 2012 rolled around, she was increasingly tired and unable to cope with living alone. We sometimes talked about the future, but these conversations were difficult and she confessed to feeling afraid. She was admitted into the palliative unit of the hospice in Harolds Cross in Dublin early in December and she peacefully died in their care on January 11th.

During her time there the staff made her feel so special, and they showered her with attention mixed up with humor and compassion. She was treated with absolute dignity and respect by everyone who worked there including the volunteers who brought tea in the evenings to her visitors. Spending time with her was a pleasure, and it was wonderful to see how she was viewed by the people who all contributed to her care. She loved being there and grew less afraid as time moved on. She told me this several times.

As she grew weaker her beautiful hair grew once more, and it was great to see her give up her wig and to look stylish and trendy with her new cropped pixie haircut. She was with my family on Christmas day for a few hours, and although she was tired we laughed and told stories around the dinner table as we always had done in the past. We could see though that she was struggling.

As a family we had time to spend with her as her life drew to a close. I was alone with her holding her hand when she slipped into a sleep that she would never awaken from, and my brother and I sat up with her through that first night. We whispered together in the darkness as we said our goodbyes. It was a frosty bright night and there were two foxes outside that kept stealing past her window. It was a real privilege to be there with her as she prepared for her journey from this world. She slept peacefully for three more days while our family kept vigil, and then she quietly slipped away while my two brothers and one of her own brothers were present.

She leaves behind siblings, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbours and dear friends who loved her and who will miss her forever. She also leaves us with memories of a wonderful woman who loved life and embraced it with passion and gusto. She spoke her mind and had an opinion on almost everything, and her voice and expressions will echo around in my head for a long long time to come.

Rest easy mam, your long journey here is over, but only you know if another one is just beginning.

My future destiny will always contain elements of my past and this will always include my mother……

Unforgettable moments…..

Dublin is a place that I am lucky to call my home. It is a city that is steeped in literary history and is beloved of many of its inhabitants. Writers have captured Dublin in many forms, but none greater in my opinion than James Joyce in his short story collection “Dubliners”.

This collection is evocative of my city during a particular time, and his stories capture life and society in such a way that I can imagine, smell and feel. Loving a particular author and the way that they write is always subjective, but the way that Joyce captures Dublin is the definitive account of that period for me.

‘The Dead’ is the last story in the collection and recounts the events of an annual party that takes place during the first week in January 1904 in the Morkan sisters house on Ushers Quay in Dublin.

The story provides insights into the guests who come to the house that night to join the annual party, and the central characters are Gabriel Conroy, his wife, and his Aunt’s (the Morkan sisters).

While the story is beautiful, the setting is equally so, as Joyce describes in detail the house and its environs in relation to the city centre.

I have a cousin who lives in a Gothic type Georgian house in County Wicklow. I am fortunate to be a confident and friend of this cousin who is a composer and musician and who, like the Morkan sisters hosts an annual party every Christmas.

Similarities to Joyce’s literary accounts are accidental, but the setting for this yearly party is resonant of the Morkan sister’s in a grand Georgian house with sash windows, high ceilings and candle lit rooms.

Last year I was again at his Christmas party along with the other annual visitors. I feel like a very special guest at this gathering, and I always clear my diary to make myself available. We only ever meet the other guests at this annual bash, but we have all become familiar with each other over the years, and conversations can vary from the easy, to the radical political, and the shouting each other down kind. We know each other well enough now not to take offence.

There are lots of different personalities at that annual table, but music is the common factor that binds us all.

When the cigars were lit after dinner last year, another cousin’s husband (who is a world class concert pianist) took to the piano while we were all still sitting around the candle lit table and began to play……

In a moment that will be forever etched in my memory, he played Clair De Lune by Debussy.

Listening to that beautiful music, whilst sitting in a Georgian room lit by candlelight, surrounded by friends and loved ones, I was transported to Joyce’s Dubliners. I was moved to tears in that moment by the beauty of the music and company that I was in. I pictured myself in the Morkan sister’s house, and realised that while 107 years had passed since Joyce had written about that particular incident, I was having my own pivotal literary experience right there in that moment.

I have revisited this night so often in my mind in the past year, and find solace, peace and tranquillity in the memory, and in the beautiful music that was played and shared amongst the other attending guests.

Life is made up of so many moments, minutes, hours and days. Some are memorable for a variety of reasons, and some are best forgotten. When things happen that bring me pleasure I usually remember them with clarity in the short term, and resolve to record and write about them so that I can reread the details of the event and somehow try to recapture that feeling, that joy that made the particular moment special. I rarely do what I set out to do in this regard, and many moments of pleasure have been lost in the murky clouds of my past. I wish that I could dredge them up like treasure from an ocean bed, to view them once again, but sadly most are lost having never been recorded.

Lessons learned late in life:

1) Record as many events that have occurred in your own lifetime that have made you happy in a diary that is written in your own handwriting.

2) Start a blog in an attempt to recapture those special moments so that they are not lost forever.

Option 2 is the only one available to me at this stage.

The memory of that beautiful night is etched in my mind, and I hope that I will never forget it. I have now faithfully recorded it here so that I can reread it again in the future in case the memory of this wonderful night fades.

Destiny can be about thoughts, feelings and experiences, that without a deliberate attempt to record them can become lost in the moments that slip away….

Health and Safety and the good old days…..

We are surrounded by Health and Safety notices, laws and restrictions. It can feel like autonomy has been taken from us as the Health and Safety Police decide on what is safe for us and what is not. Making a car journey recently, my husband and I had to take two cars to facilitate the transportation of our three small nephews who all have to sit in separate seats that are fitted into the back of a car. They wouldn’t all fit in one car, so we had to take two. Not factoring in the cost of petrol, and the damage to the environment, I shudder to think of the expense that parents have to go through transporting families that contain more than three or four children. Sometimes it feels like common sense has left the building as we all rely on instructions and laws to guide our movements and decision making.

Health and Safety is a new concept and one that was thankfully not around in the 70’s when I was growing up.

The first mode of transportation that I remember as a child was my Dads Bedford Van. It had double doors that opened at the back and on Sundays my Dad would regularly lift two arm chairs from our living room, depositing them in the back of the van for my Grandparents to sit in. We enjoyed excursions up the Dublin Mountains to go blackberry picking and general days out to the seaside. My older sister and I used to sit on the wheel arches in the back of this van and my mother sat up front with a baby in her arms.

We never crashed, we never got hurt and we all laughed as we rounded a corner too steeply sending myself and my sister skittering off our “seats” as the chairs also slid around the interior of the van with two old people clutching on for dear life laughing at my Dad telling him to slow down. The Health and Safety Police would take a dim view of that kind of travel I think.

I grew up in a family of five children and all my siblings had been born by 1970. My father had an Austen Cambridge Estate car back in those days and our family of seven fitted quite comfortably inside it.

One memorable summer in 1972 when I was twelve, we were packing up for a month’s long holiday to Ballyheigue in Kerry where we always took a house. Our family of seven were going, along with my grandparents and my granduncle Leo. That was ten people all making the journey in one Austen Cambridge car. My youngest sister Annie was only a toddler at the time and came with a lot of baggage. Amongst the luggage was a play pen, a pram and a cot for starters, not to mention all the clothes for a family of seven that had to be transported, along with games and other vital accessories like my father’s blue frying pan, his cooking knives and bread board.

Logistically my father worked out that ten people and all their worldly possessions were not going to fit into one car, so being a skilled carpenter he built a long wooden rectangular box that bolted onto the roof rack of the car and we all helped him pack our clothes, pram, cot etc. into the box. When it was full, my Dad then began the mammoth task of getting the humans packed up as well.

In this car the front set was a bit like a sofa. There was no division between the driver and passenger seats and the gear shift was almost under the dash. The handbrake was on the driver’s side alongside the door. Having this wide seat meant that ostensibly five people could travel in the front and five could also travel in the back.

As my grandparents and my Uncle good-humouredly squeezed themselves into the back and my father began to push the smaller kids in beside them, I realised that I was either going to be stuck with my smaller brothers in the back alongside my chain smoking grandparents and uncle, or else I was going to be up front with my mother and the baby squashed up with my older sister and my driver dad. Neither option was appealing.

I asked my dad if I could travel in the box. He laughed at first as he refused, but I persuaded him that I would love it. I suggested that he could put something soft in it for me to lie on and this would allow for much more room in the car.

I remember dragging the Eiderdown cover from my parent’s bed and making a space in the back of that box and climbing inside with my favourite book at the time. I felt like the heroine in an Enid Blyton story as I prepared for my greatest adventure ever.

My father nailed a clear plastic tarpaulin over the whole box assuring me that I would have plenty of air to breath as he would leave a corner up for me. I wasn’t a bit worried, I was just thankful that I was alone in this box and not stuffed in the car with the rest of the family.

Throughout that journey my dad stopped frequently for toilet stops and to check that I was ok. Back in the 70’s driving to Kerry took about 7 or 8 hours and it was a journey that I will never forget. We all arrived safely and had a wonderful holiday, but alas my grandparents and Uncle Leo departed to Dublin after two weeks taking a train from Tralee. On the return journey back to Dublin, there was ample room for all of us in the car so I wasn’t allowed back in the box.

Life was certainly simpler back in those times and to even contemplate putting ten people in one car today would be enough for the Health and Safety Police to lock up my poor father and throw away the key never mind allowing someone to travel on the top of the car in a wooden box.

That was the sum total of my adventure and it was one that I will never forget, although my mother still says that I dreamt it up. She says that my Dad was too sensible to ever let one of his precious children travel perilously on the roof of a car. Memories like this are really cherished, as the freedom to make decisions was based on something that resembled common sense, and a young teenagers knowledge that she could wind her dad around her little finger.

Destiny can be about recognising how good the good old days actually were.

Is this Destinydelivered…..

There is something deep inside of me that is loosened by alcohol. I am not sure if it is a feeling of inadequacy, shyness, or reluctance, but I recognise that if I have a glass or two of wine, and I am near my computer- I am compelled to write my thoughts down.

Since I began blogging last year (July 2011) I have wanted to record and write so many things… It started out as a kind of living diary for me and for my already grown up children… I wanted them to somehow ‘see’ the person that was inside their mother….

I wanted them to separate the familiar ‘mammy’ that they knew and grew up with, from the woman that I was before they were born and who also lived a parallel life while they were children.

My ramblings were not intended for them to scrutinise in the ‘here and now’- they were for after I was gone.

This was the shyness, or the reluctance that stopped me from publically posting my blog for such a long time. I was afraid of being questioned, afraid of being ridiculed, afraid of being judged.

Becoming a blogger in the past year, I have learnt that writing personal stories, thoughts and histories, and sharing them amongst friends and family has actually been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

It can sometimes be difficult to articulate fears and inexperience, to flounder in the face of adversity, and in front of people who expect that you will always perform to your optimum.

Blogging has allowed me to share how unsteady I have felt in my past, and also how I recognise that my future is not mapped out and assured.

I began writing this blog as a life diary for my children so that they could somehow know me after I was gone, but in writing it, I am getting to know myself more so than I ever thought possible by simply recounting my life and recording it.

Is this Destinydelivered?

At the end of the day………

It’s such a commonly used expression –

Irish people use it all the time. We throw it around casually in conversations….. “At the end of the day she was acting the maggot and I will NEVER be friends with her again”… “At the end of the day the score was even and the ref was SOOOO right”. “At the end of the day he was such a fecker that I dumped him”.

“At the end of the day” is a colloquialism- a part of the popular Irish vernacular, and although a lot of people use it frequently in conversation, I don’t honestly believe that we think too much about what lies behind the words that we are saying.

Circumstances have a way of making you sit up and take notice of what was once ordinary become extraordinary…….

At the end of the day on Wednesday I learnt that my mother’s terminal cancer had spread to other organs in her body…

At the end of the day I realised that her treatment had not halted this terrible disease despite medical interventions and chemotherapy….

At the end of the day I was alone with her as we were told that the results of her recent scans did not herald good news…..

At the end of the day we were sitting together quietly in a hospital room hearing words that extinguished all hope….

At the end of the day I was sitting with my mother the moment that we realised that the actual end of the day was coming sooner than we thought….

 

I am currently confused about the meaning of Destiny…..

Modern Technology and sleeping naked with German Film Directors…..

While chatting via text with a dear pal in Connecticut recently I was struck by the advances in technology that allow us to communicate instantly by typing words into a little piece of plastic. Our words and actions are captured and transmitted in the blink of an eye, and people in deepest darkest Peru ( as in the case of another friend recently) can stay in touch with family and friends, and carry on conversations via text- email- Skype and Facebook.

We are currently living in a global village where so many people are connected through various technologies, and sometimes my conversations on particular topics with friends or family can go on over several days using different technological platforms.

I can take photos and share them instantly. I can upload videos and do the same. The advances in social networking can mean that we never have to feel alone, although physically we may be.

While all this communication can be viewed as a good thing, there are those who lament the passing of letter writing and telephone conversations that used to go on for hours. People of my age and older remember queuing up outside public telephone boxes waiting for their turn to call home at the weekend before the advent of personal mobile phones. I personally remember the need to have lots of coin change for the operator when making long distance calls on public phones or the dreaded ‘pips’ would sound the untimely end of the conversation if the money ran out.

Telephone conversations between families back in the day were usually restricted if the family members were scattered across the globe, and I clearly remember a time growing up when all families in my neighbourhood did not have a telephone. One lucky neighbour had a public phone box outside her house and random passers-by would regularly answer the ringing phone and be instructed by the caller to ‘knock on number 98 and get Margaret for me please’.

Personally I still like to write and although I rarely go out and buy a stamp to put on an envelope, I do write emails in the same way that I used to write letters. I try to keep them informative and newsy and I think about the person reading them and what they will think upon receiving news about particular things or people. I stay in touch online with friends and family, and although I may text them regularly I also like to sit down and write emails to keep them informed about stuff that I may not text them about. It’s good to fill in the colours of an outline that I may have hinted about in a text message.

Living in this modern technological world we are more aware of how possible indiscretions can land us in trouble. Photos captured when you were not looking your best at 3am are cheerfully uploaded by ‘friends’ so that everyone can see how you had a wardrobe malfunction, or worse still, dribbling kebab sauce all over that beautiful top that you paid a fortune for the day before.

The list of shared horrors can go global in seconds…

Recalling an incident a few years ago I was invited to my cousin’s house in County Wicklow with my husband for a dinner party and an overnight stay. We regularly entertained and were on the ‘Dinner Party’ circuit with my cousin and his wife. He is a professional composer and musician, and all his parties ended with sing songs around the piano where he would belt out tunes and I would sing our grandmothers and mothers favourite songs. His mam and my mam are dear sisters.

This particular night my hubby and I arrived late. We dumped our overnight bag in the hall and charged down to meet the other guests who had gathered in the bar. Yes- our hosts did have a full bar in that particular house complete with high stools, optics and neon signs. It was a very cool party house.

I was introduced to a German Film Director (who shall remain nameless) and over a couple of pre-dinner drinks we discussed film, world politics (as you do) and other subjects. We got cosy on the high stools and when we were eventually called out of the bar into the dining room for dinner we sat beside each other in order to finish off our conversation.

As the night progressed and the wine flowed, the chat was divided equally amongst the other guests present. I was engaging, chatty and in fine form for the singing that eventually took place with my cousin at the piano. I was wearing a long black high necked cocktail dress on the night and at some stage my underwire bra began to pinch! I remember sneaking out to the hall (where my overnight bag was still residing) pulling the bra off and stuffing it into the bag and resuming my place at the piano where no one was any the wiser as to my bra less state.

At about 3am the guests began to depart and my husband also said good night to me, leaving my cousin and I still singing at the piano. The German Film Director had long left the company although he was also staying overnight.

My cousin and I were the last ones standing, his wife having also taken leave of us, abandoning us to our demented sentimental singing.

We continued chatting, singing and drinking until I noticed dawn creeping around the window frames, and having said good night/morning I stumbled my way upstairs to my room. As I entered the bedroom, daylight was filtering in through the curtains. I glanced around for my overnight bag and not seeing it, decided that it was just easier to peel my dress up over my head and sleep in my knickers.

I crawled into the familiar uncomfortable rigid futon and snuggled up against my husband’s back and wrapped my arm around him to get some heat. I murmured something about the fecking futon being ‘so damned hard’…. and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up alone with sunshine flooding the room at about 1pm the following day.

Looking around for my overnight bag and not finding it, I pulled on the dress from the night before and made my way down stairs to the lovely and welcome smell of breakfast. I entered the kitchen to greet my husband, my cousin, his wife and the German Film Director who were all sitting at the table. The stony silence matched their stony faces.

Grinning I took my place and asked why everyone was so quiet…. The German Film Director spoke first. “Leaving the party was tough” he said “but I knew I had to be up to travel to the airport. What I didn’t expect was a naked woman to creep into my bed, snuggle up to me, rub her breasts against my back, mutter something about it being hard and then to turn over and start snoring”.

Sitting there I remembered thinking “this conversation is strangely familiar”…… The four stern faces around the table confirmed that YES… I had gotten into the wrong bed!

In my defense!

My cousin had told my husband when we arrived LATE that we had been allocated another bedroom that night but neither of them had told me. I just followed a familiar worn path to the same room that we had previously occupied.

When the gracious German Film Director was accosted in his bed by a semi naked inebriated house guest who believed that the bed was HERS, he did the gentlemanly thing and vacated it immediately and spent the rest of the night on the downstairs sofa. (Or so he said)!

When my husband woke up and found me missing from his/our bed in the allocated alternative guest room he did a search for me and found me asleep on the familiar futon alone at about 9am. He also found the German Film Director asleep on the downstairs sofa.

Gathering early that morning, my husband, my cousin, his wife and the German Film Director pieced together the entire previous night’s scenario before I had raised my head, and collectively they decided to make me suffer AND THEY DID!

I remember sitting there thinking that had I fancied the German Film Director for an instant (and I didn’t) I could never have pulled off a stunt like this even if I wanted to.

We all departed the best of friends at about 4pm that day. The German Film Director drove to the airport to go home, my hubby and I went home to Dublin, and my cousin and his wife spent the remainder of the day clearing the detritus from the night before.

I was only home and in the door about 15 minutes when the texts and phone calls started. My escapades had reached the four corners of the globe and my mother was the first person on the phone. “Were you naked in bed with a Foreign Film Director while your husband was asleep in another room” she asked.

News like this in the 70’s & 80’s would have taken months via letter writing and queuing outside public phone boxes on windy nights to relay. It would have gathered legs, and reputations could/would be ruined before the real truth was revealed.

Conversation and information that travels via text messaging and social media is so instant and has the power to influence how we think and react. My innocent late night escapades reached my extended family and friends across the globe within hours and I spent the next few days explaining and justifying how I came to be naked in a bed with a complete stranger.

Thankfully the situation didn’t ‘damage’ my reputation although my many far flung family members and friends had a good laugh about it.

Damn it! Had it been a clandestine one night affair dya think I would/could have explained it so easily?

I don’t think so.

Destiny maybe the subconscious devil in us all…..