There’s always a moment before I open my eyes when I can see her – always smiling – and I can hear her lilting voice singing its own song in her gentle brogue –
‘Ah, John, don’t…don’t make me laugh….ah, don’t tease me…ah, please don’t tease….’
Me, her playful boy still playing by the rules love alone permits and love alone admits into our tender trust…..
We start each day on this nod – though these todays are forever further from our yesterdays together.
I see her eyes, hazel-blue, laughing back at me – throwing back her coal black hair – later it was lit with a silver lining – yet in my mind’s eye it’s bright as jet and sleekly shining.
Perhaps it’s up – tied in a bun – perhaps in a straight fringed bob – sometimes curled – or maybe parted in the middle with a sleek wave to one side – they were all her styles in her time.
These imaginings intertwine dreamlike with my waking senses drowsily perfuming them in Apple Blossom heaven sent by Helena Rubinstein
Suddenly, succulent aromas arise from a lost kitchen haze – days of roast potato plenty and rich dark gravy – or richer melting pastry – plate-apple-pies made decadent with cream – sherry trifles – or, too Irish to utter, fruitcake thickly spread with butter – the simple fare of everyday she made Sunday best.
There’s her personal preserve – apple jelly – its pale orange sun lit the dark days of winter -summer’s spun-sugar set crystal clear in a small glass jar.
She was just as easily pleased to share all her other trademark treats – toffees, sugared almonds, bonbons and boiled sweets.
These are mementoes from my childhood – but now I shiver with delight as if I might I receive them again as birthdays gone disguised in present form.
February days – these were her birthday season – a season shared as so many birthdays were clustered together – as lambs huddle by stone walls close-packed against the icy snow-packed world without for warmth; so, for family festivals forever close, forever melting hearts with love.
With that same love in her later life her sharp eye finely glossed the stations of the cross in her parish church – Creena’s patient hands wove magic spells with seed pearls and glass gems on painted egg-shells – as elegant in their way as anything crafted for Romanov Easters by Carl Faberge – decorative arts and crafts – crafted always with love – her tight knitting neat with perfect patterns and twists of coloured wool – and full floral sprays – rings of roses, marshalling the poet’s golden hosts to stand soldier-like for spring.
Seeing daffodils she’d mournfully pay them Herrick’s wistful due – “we weep to see thee fade away so soon” – so true – true to his words they’re both gone home leaving me alone…
Memories – the mind’s ghostly photos – memories – dandelion puffs – the haw of autumn frosts – cobwebs tangling past in present time – a homeless waif at the end of his rope – a wastrel waiting still hoping on hope.
My blind-sight shades everything I’ve seen in midnight’s moonlit dreams but in its peerless beams still sorrow sun-like rises in my soul – a lonely longing cries and so I cry as uselessly I try to wipe tears from my eyes – for I’m son and heir to all those years and to those young days dead and gone.
I’m now wide awake and my careful conscience is awake to danger. It guiltlessly dead-heads my dead-eye dreams and sagely shreds all old regrets about my younger selfishness. False memory buries my youthful past in a lost deep, deeper than dead sleep.
Truth told Creena too, like me, once overturned Time’s youthful page to awaken into another colder older-age.
Her very latter days were in a home but not at home – she was bedridden and bedraggled – caught by a crueller cold altogether – the hopeless cold of a lost cause – trapped wearily by her useless body in a bed – in a listless lifeless life – that was suffocatingly sad.
There she lay watched-over but unseen – lost to those she loved – wrapped in blankets of irony no longer lost on her – lying in the very place she had long feared and long dreaded.
This she’d prayed to avoid all her life – to be immobilised and crushed by immobility – demobbed from the army of the living – living-dead to all and to all she loved.
She’d outstared death to stay alive but mirthless death alive to ridicule made her life’s mocking eejit.
It was the unkindest stroke of fate – the very stroke that had taken her mother to her prison-bed – on Time’s fateful stroke it came to take Creena from her former life.
But there were still her Irish eyes and her Irish stories and her memories of arching passions spent and foolish pleasures thoughtlessly enjoyed.
Between visits she dwelt elsewhere – memories blew her there – fluted glass in hand – she lingered in champagne lands – in the laughter of happy times – pausing maybe once on the languorous still of some Venetian canal – or perhaps once peering down from the Pantheon above the cupolas of Rome.
But mostly she was home – roaming through her past glories in Ireland’s ever-green hills; in the grass-green fields of Tipperary; along salmon soaked banks of the River Suir; and late along the aimless narrows of Cashel’s winding streets – on down home to Boherclough.
There once she climbed the romantic hills to reach the pinnacle of romance hand in hand in love – in these happiest days of her life – her young married days as a mother and as a wife – in her Cashel – that altogether being another life.
This was the Ireland she never left – and never left-go-of – even in her darkest times – alone and lonely and not knowing what to do – this remained the descant to her beating heart – the compass of her world – her true north and her south – her beginning and her end.
As her emotional loadstar was always loaded with such imaginings – though she’s long gone it doesn’t feel odd to me to carry on – if only in my mind’s eye – in our old ways – neither of us ready to give up on the other.
I read her prayers for her when she could no longer read them for herself. Me unbelieving and irreligious as any but piously saying those words for her she could no longer say for herself.
I meant them without knowing their meaning; nor meaning to be touched by them. But, even tongue in cheek, maybe my whispers touched something sacred as I touched her hand.
She did not arise as she’d prayed for herself – she did not miraculously recover all of herself – nor did she take up her bed and walk.
Rather, she endured, her spirit sometimes broken, oftentimes tearful but never hopeless and never less than herself.
Her Irish brogue was miraculously restored but her hair left lifeless grey but, like her life’s sun, as yet unset.
Though much diminished in her small bed-world she still shone out from her lessened state.
After all her talk to God – and to the hosts of heaven upon whose intercession she relied – God never seemed to answer back – his angel messengers never messaged her – as on silently she prayed through the silent nights.
Instead, as her cause was not the cause of saints there was to be no respite, not even respite care and only death could carry her from her bed.
She continued on – to pray faithfully – and to listen to the troubles of her family. There were repeated heated arguments with her carers flushed shameful red by her fiery temper which she’d then temper with her winning way. She cursed her confinement but never lost her kindness.
Mostly, she feared her approaching end. To that end she still thought of others and she still could say sorry and then still speak her mind with such a force it made enemies from friends.
There’s always a moment before I open my eyes when I can see her – always smiling – and then I can hear her lilting voice singing in its own song in her gentle brogue.
They’re rebel songs she sings untamed by her rebellious nature.
Memories are shards splintered from life’s time and once upon that time all of her world once was all of mine.
Mothers and sons are born share life’s argosy – a barcarole of dreams – a shipwreck of hopes – it carries them through life’s storms – but unsinkable as love it never sinks – for it is a sacred vessel – carved from ancient hopes – it bears them like the eerie ships that carried Egypt’s kings to their beyond – it divides reed seas – it crosses Jordan – until it meets life’s end – and begins again…