Ten Years Later ....................

On my 40th birthday I had flown back from Spain and having refused to batten down the hatches in the metal cabin at sea again, was nixing as a barmaid in the Thomas Moore tavern, playing Galileo and Kasabian  on the jukebox ,  
serving creamy  soup and packed  sandwiches to the hundreds of new customers who had rocked up once the doors were actually opened and the telly was taken off the counter. 
The Thomas Moore was always a little club, and every head at the bar would turn from the screen or the Crosaire when the door creaked.  
I had the distinction of almost being barred for putting coal on the fire when Mike was in the toilet, watching in disbelief as he took it back off again with tongs and carried it - still smoking - out into the yard in a galvanised bucket.
The actual party was held upstairs in The Sky & The Ground, which at the time was called Heavens above, which was fitting.
I was standing in the middle of the floor tricking around with a cylinder of helium wondering how I could get it to work without having  my own eye out.
I may go get something with a scrotum says I to the lads from the ship who were sticking up banners after scourging a Chinese.

Like playing Frisbee and knowing what an offside rule is, something with a scrotum is useful for complicated tasks like fiddling with nozzles and highly flammable gas.
Hewhomustnotbenamed was walking in the door as I ran down the stairs.
My stomach lurched.
I invited him to my party and he told me later that week -  when he had moved in -  that he thought it was my 30th which made me question whether I should  be pleased or offended. 
I was to spend the next decade lurching around him.    
Siobhán was at my party that night.
It is the last one she was at, and her absence here tonight is felt not only by me, 
and my family,
 but also the silent audience who read about her,
 and my memories of her,
 on a regular basis.
I spent my 49th birthday alternately fuming and crying. 
It started off grand but my mood plummeted by noon when we were lunching in Riverbank
Nothing you could put an actual finger on, nothing to do with aging, just ornery and curmudgeonly and distraught. 
I was beside myself with temper and contrariness over the meal and refused to engage or banter, or even look at the menu.
And I refused dessert.
And coffee. 
Alarm bells should have been ringing.
I put my head down and hopped off a meal I did not want because someone else was paying.
I escaped to the beer garden before I broke every plate in the hotel with the temper. 
"That one could chop straws with her arse today" - was a line said about me more than once.
After a little cry over a full ashtray in the garden,
 I realised that I would have to get off the streets and into the house, fairly lively. 

I walked into Siobhans' room that evening as usual, as it was "my" night, and I could think of nowhere else I would rather have been. 
In her silent presence I could find the space to exhale, 
to stop grinning inanely, to cease forcing smiles and trying to remember things - 
names, faces, pieces I have written. 
No matter how much I love you,
 I have to run away sometimes and process the information - 
to pick over it with a fine tooth comb -
to tease it out like a tangled ball of wool.
And then to wonder why I didn't react better, bigger or properly.
She had a catheter that night with a bag taped to her leg. 
The morning carers, when they were lifting her up, noticed that her nappy was dry, and they were checking for a condition called Retention, where the message to the bladder from the brain stops getting through. 
I place the tiny Chihuahua gently onto her lap. 
I need a hug, so I bend over and hold her, and try to lean into her through the chair.
I try not to move or jar her. 

Osteoporosis is a bitch.
I comb her hair and smooth her face and ask for ice for the Baileys. I do not drink any, birthday or not. 
I line up the drink, and lemonade, and water on the arm of the chair to assist in the calibrated flow the nurses will monitor on the chart. 

As I carefully place the rim of the glass against her mouth and fold the napkin under her chin, I watch the involuntary spasms which make her shake suddenly in the chair.

Parkinsons is a bastard.

2 hours have passed and we are an inch down the glass.
The tiny Chihuahua cuddles into her, licking the curled closed hands, rubbing his small head against her eye, the one that always has an itch she cannot scratch
Alzheimers is a fucker. 

On the night of my 40th Siobhan sat in a booth with the family that has grown smaller over a decade, from being able to fill a room on their own, until now only 3 of the Dooley siblings remain. 
I had lost 4 stone and was outrageous in a velvet dress, 
running from table to table and shouting what did you bring me as I passed the envelopes and gift wrapped boxes to my Mother for safe keeping.
 Stopping to draw breath and order a round at the bar, I listened to the band playing Brewing up a storm by The Stunning for the tenth time. It was the only reason I had hired the Waterford outfit, and they gave it socks all night, playing the song repeatedly like the Cantina Band  everytime I gave them the nod.
The red haired man squeezed beside me is eating the gougóns and petit fours catered by the Tom Moore 3 at a time and slapping his hand on the counter -
 deh deh deh deh dhe deh heh deh deh dhe

Jazus it’s a right night he shouted into my ear over the noise.
I nodded and idly wondered who he was as I waved a roll of money in the barmans face.
I haven’t had this much crack in Wexford  since the night we  gatecrashed a 21st and stole the cake says he.

Image result for image of giant birthday cake

I turned my head so fast the beads almost flew off my neck.

Turns out he and 3 of his colleagues from Trinity had come to Wexford for the Festival one weekend back in the 80’s and had as much trouble getting accommodation then as I had for my party.
They ended up staying in  a Volkswagon Beetle in the camping ground behind the motel, drinking flagons in the dairy fields,
-   and on their way to Turners for chips -  
had spotted the party food through the  open doors of the kitchen as the waitresses were having a fag.
 The gleaming white iceberg of fruit cake and icing had lured them in like a mystical siren,
 or a  Mermaid on a rock and they looked to the left of them and they looked  to the right of them and ran in and casually wheeled cake, banners, candles  and trolley up the stony hill, whistling.
It took us 3 days to eat it said he and wondered why a number of emotions were flickering across my face.

That was MY cake says I, and noted how his phisog reddened to match his head.
Fuck says he, and we only came up here tonight ‘cos we heard “Brewing up a storm”

Another storm was brewing that we could not know the impact of.

 The inner landscape and soundtrack that runs in my head is in  my Mother’s voice.
As I hastily mop the fluff and coal dust from one side of the living room to the other
 - wet of head and wearing my coat to run out the door - I hear her say 
– “Give it a lick and a promise, Michelle.”
When I am washing up my solitary plate and glass, a single fork, 
I hear her say “Dry them out of it”.
 If a knife falls on the floor I hear her say “Oh, here’s a visitor”.
All day long the old words return, or maybe just re-appear. They have not been far.
Some have been sunning themselves like lizards on rocks
 - some have been hiding underneath them.
 They awake now like sleepers and coil their sluggish drowsy selves around me so that I am encircled and consumed by them.
 These words of memory rupture like fragile soap bubbles all around me and inspire the story behind the words, which leads to the words becoming something other than the sum of their parts. 
“She’s a real “Mary Hick “in that get up.”
(If she could only see me in the fur coat with hood I bought for one euro yesterday)
“I can’t find a thing in this ship of a house” flung over a muffled shoulder from the depths of the coat press under the stairs.
“Would you be interested in this?” as she tried to buy me clothing/crockery/books.
“Oh, he’s on the usual aul Cant, I see” about a politician on the evening news. 
“You’d give last to nobody” when I came reeling in the door at stupid o clock from some outrageous affair. And her stoic, silent presence outside the bathroom door
 (when she heard me sobbing loudly in the shower after the premature ending of yet another doomed love affair) 
remarking quietly what’s for you won’t pass you.

We have not heard her speak for years now.

Sometimes I dream that she is talking and even in the dream am amazed at the huskiness of her voice.
Ten days before I stand on a stage in a tent, on the 50th anniversary of me shrieking my way onto the planet, while the soprano was screeching her way through the higher notes in Lucia Di Lammermoor by Donizetti, she decides to speak, -  although we are not there.
For my spoken word performance, she decides to deliver some spoken words of her own.
She frightened the living bejesus out of the carer who was waking her, this living doll  and they wrote it in the book and talked about it on their break and I paced nervously waiting for the call that would tell me what she said.

 A sneaky wind came and brewed a storm around our door a decade ago.
It began slowly, tickling, prodding, forcing us to notice, nipping around ankles, stealing around shoulders, banging windows that sad faces looked out of,
 forcing doors open or slamming them shut, till I was blown away.
It rustled up dry leaves and memories like pages flicking in a manuscript and blew words and memories around me like snuff at a wake. 
It confronted and confounded me. 
It laid me low with body blows and sadness and bewilderment. 
It shaped and moulded me,  like soft sloppy cement splashed into a late evening mixer where with sand and water and time,  it blew a clean channel through the wide open spaces of my  heart, 
and  carved its name on the minds of those who love this woman,
 and we have emerged from the pummelling, polished and  hard, shining like emeralds at the other hand,
A lot of people I have known and loved have passed away into that foggy netherland since,
  crossing into a space of beauty and peace, in a place so filled with love it would have your eye out and even  hewhomustnotbenamed finally let go and blew away like dust from a dandelion in the summer, and so I stand here alone after my half century  contemplating  my  solitary  future and tell you what she said........

She said  - Stop it.

Stop it  - She said

So I will.

(Plays slide and track  of Brewing Up A Storm by The Stunning and walks off stage)

  - MDM October 22nd  2014 The Eff Word / 50th Birthday


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