Backstory - Part 1

mdm aged 5 
50 years later I get to bring a doll to New York City.

Let me walk you back a little ......................

Once upon a time I was a very heavy sad woman.
And resembled an egg on legs with enough cheek for a second set of teeth. 
After I had made myself as fat as a lark, I threw in Type 2 Diabetes to boot. 
May as well go the whole hog says I on Lithium eating the fill of the table and rooting for more. 

I had watched my Mother Siobhán die a little every day in her mute locked in body in a gigantic padded chair. 
We all die a little every day, just not as harshly. 
Siobhán witnessed this with her own Father, whose curled sepia fingernails gripped the white railings of the bed, ferociously shaking them in agitation while his wife, a doctor, a district nurse, a home help, 8 sons and 4 daughters did the caring. 
The Dooley Men doing the heavy lifting,  sleepovers and gatching, the women doing the cooking and feeding, the bathing and shaving. 
Tom Dooley was his name, not he of the hanging head but rather the Asylum Keeper he is referenced as in the Census of the time. 
Ironic as his own children and grandchildren would suffer with mental health issues including depression, mania and schizophrenia.
My Grandmother was a Kennedy to whom gossip was anaethema.  

The railed bed was in the big room upstairs in The Crescent and smelt of Dettol, Carbolic soap and the commode. The Dooley Tribe were unassuming, gentle, quiet, stubborn people who never spoke a word about a neighbour and who banded together to get things done, as a family unit. 
They leaned into hugs like ironing boards. 
Stiff and uncomfortable with any display of emotion or drama.
My Father hugged and kissed the Ironing board out of Siobhán over half a century.
As a child there was nowhere softer than her lap.  

Years later the firstborn child of the Dooleys, the "Long One" Maura Eilís Dooley Nash would be diagnosed with Alzheimers after she was found naked in the hallway of her beautiful home with a fridge full of rancid food. 
I emptied its contents into 2 black sacks in disbelief. 
In the early stages it is not easy to spot a person with Dementia.
Their subconscious mind can operate on auto and allow them to function, shop and mingle, usually substituting a term of endearment for a name.
"Hello hun!"
Maura was as thin as a blade her entire life so it was not dramatically noticeable that although she was buying sirloin steaks, smoked salmon and trifles her hunger response had shut down and she was forgetting to eat.

Siobhán Philomena Selomé -  "Duckarse" witnessed her oldest sibling disappear on an air mattress without horror or revulsion and she and her sisters Madge "Keyhole Kate" and Ann "The Babby" banded together to mind their big sister with love and stoic patience, in the absence of 7 of the Dooley men who all died in their 60's.
 Maura's eyes grew incrementally bigger as her frame wasted until they and the white sheepskin padding on her wrists, elbows and ankles to prevent skin breakage  were all I could see in the silent room.
Once after a year of not speaking she asked me a question from the bed while I was fluting around with flowers in the window sill, narrating my every move, as one does.
"What are you to me?" says she.
A niece ! I replied in delighted surprise.
"Just a niece?" she asked sadly and turned her face to the wall.
I was shocked to the core that a woman who had lain mute and immobile for years could form a pertinent question and respond in the latter stages of Alzheimers.

The Dooleys in 1953
Siobhan, Nana, Madge
Oliver, Ann, Eamonn 
That question made sense when her will was read and we found the baby she gave up for adoption as a young unmarried Irish Catholic Nurse in The Brompton Hospital in London in the 50's.
She called the baby girl Siobhán on the hospital records.
Her new family called her Mary.
I've been to the Opera with her.
Her photograph looking the ringer of her Ma is fluttering on a peg on my cluttered kitchen wall.

My Mother Siobhán died on Brigids Day after a decade of dementia and 7 years of the gigantic padded chair.
 I came home from her funeral and walked to a supermarket in my black coat, massaging ring fingers that had been crushed all day everyday since the wake.
I was hoarse from stifling the sobs at her eulogy knowing if I broke down there would be no continuing.
I didn't want to eat nor drink,
be with people or without them
so not knowing if I needed a shit or a haircut and in a hot mess I engaged some random broad in idle conversation about ready meals in the refrigerated aisle
In the middle of it I turned eyes bigger than Maura's to her and said -
 "I've just buried my Mother on Groundhog Day".
She was back-footed, only because we have never met.
 I am the type of woman who engages with all people at all times. Alighting on them like moths, fluttering around asking questions and making outrageous pronouncements.
And leaving on a laugh.
I like to leave and be alone so that the oddities and absurdities of someone with BPD are not so noticeable to Normal people.
Things like having to explain to the plumber that the huge mannequin in a 70's wig who lives on the landing is called Gwendoline.
Or that the chunky blonde doll with the moptop and a tiny penis sitting on an armchair is called Clem Sweeney, and is a Garda.
The woman who sold him to me in the charity shop covered his modesty with a babygro for free.
There's not  room in this house to turn a sweet in your mouth but a 6ft model I extricated from a skip is wearing a wet look hat on the stairs.
I photographed my 89 year old Father carrying the top half of her up a quiet street and posted it on a public forum to mortify him because I'm a scourge.

Vonnie & Boldie Mc Bold - chillin' 
I talk to plants and flowers and weeds. I wear a T shirt that says "My blood type is BEE" and leave out sugared water in the pots of daises and forget me nots. I feed birds. I eavesdrop on the train.  I pick slugs up in wet leaves and put them back on the walls despite the fact they are destroying my yarden. I drink Writers Tears and smoke American Spirit. I photograph skies and clouds. I walk beaches. I love dogs. I am happiest alone.
I informed my producer that I thought I might accidentally shout stage directions to a friend of mine at a theatre, DURING the show.
It wasn't even my show.
Or that I might zone out and be accidentally looking at a mans lips instead of listening very very carefully to what he is actually saying.
Or that it might take me all morning to remember what the smell of the an old mans faded woolen jumper was, a lingering clean smell of childhood, ...................oh yeah, soap!

The day after the funeral I turned on my laptop and typed solidly -  alternately crying and numb - for 6 months. A stream of consciousness that flip flopped through decades and brains. Then I put a cover on it and called it "Scourged"

It was commissioned for adaptation for the theatre by Elizabeth Whyte at Wexford Arts Centre.

The cover is a painting of a selfie I took on the day of my Mothers death.
People think the artwork is Micheal Jackson. 

I found Vonnie Dooley lying naked and mangled on a bad bend a mile outside Carlow town where the Dooleys lived.
The Skin & Blister put the hazards on and lepped out of the car to leg it back and get her.
She carried her back by the ankle.

"Will you mind Mam!" says I wrapping her in a t shirt and settling her in the car.
The instant I laid eyes on the doll I knew she was the key to the play.
The acclaimed Ben Barnes who directed the piece came up with the Ironing Board.

The Scourge was born.

To be continued -

mdm Nov 13th 2019 

"The Scourge" opens as a selection of the Origins 1st Irish Theatre Festival  at The Irish Rep 132 West  22nd Street in New York, NY 10011  in January 2020

Box Office open - 00 212 727 2737

Directed by the acclaimed Ben Barnes "The Scourge" has had amazing reviews since an unknown woman with 4 chins wrapped herself in 3 cardigans to write it.


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