And today the world lost another hero. Frank Kelly, known for his Fr. Ted role of the infamous Fr. Jack Hackett. And today also marks 18 years since the loss of Dermot Morgan. Exactly. Life is weird. Echoes of M.R. James ' Stalls of Barchester Cathedral'. I cannot believe Morgan has been gone 18 years!
The subject of charismatic Irishmen and Death actually leads me very organically to a blog post I had been meaning to write today anyway. February 25th of this year was my Grannie Conway's 101st birthday. She died at 99, but I'm still counting birthdays for my dead. Still noting them in my planner each year. Always <3.
I shared a little tribute post for Grannie C on my facebook timeline on the day. Some words I shared with my sister about it. We find comfort in imagining the tea-parties our Grand-Matriarch is throwing beyond the veil. I can almost smell the cigarette smoke and Harvey's Bristol Creme. And the sponge cake with the flaky coconut frosting and the single cherry in the middle. And ham sandwiches on white bread. "Are ye in bad form? Will ye not have another drink?"
Irish boys. Forgive me for generalising here. I'm thinking of the Irish boys I know. Friends and cousins and lovers I have known. That eternal youth and reckless nihilism. The alcohol and drug dependencies that are somehow thought of as charming. Mammy knows but she loves you anyway. Irish boys need fun and adventure. Irish boys need their mammy or lover to provide clean laundry and pig-based hangover remedy breakfasts. Irish boys drink milk from the carton. Irish boys never grow up, and, much as we might berate them for their lack of responsibility, Irish boys' lovers would never want them too.
The tragic flaw with this lifestyle is of course the high rate of mortality amoungst our young men. In ages past poverty and war would kill them. These days it's improperly treated mental illness, alcohol, drugs and related shenanigans. Death by misadventure. And so Irish ladies are built to handle loss. We survive through our cynicism and wicked sense of black humor. Expect the worst, on a long enough timeline the survival rate for anyone drops to zero.
Steven (Bear) was an Irish lad. He was part English, part Viking, yes. But nothing could stop his Irish side showing. I was thinking a lot about the tragedy of him never getting to meet Stephen Walsh, my dear sister's past lover. It would have been a special sort of crazy, I'm sure. I remember one specific anecdote about a drunken Stephen scaling the gate to Sarah's yard in Rathmines, Dublin. Late one night and drunk. His knockings failed to grant him access to her flat so he spent that night locked in her yard. I told Bear this story and he agreed it is exactly the sort of thing he would do.
Long ago and far away Bear secured a really good job in Athlone. By reason of some madness best known to themselves, this company provided its workers with an open bar during a training retreat at a fancy countryside castle hotel. Needless to say, chaos ensued. I received an early morning call from a drunken confused Bear who had managed to lose himself on a golf course. "Come save me, I don't know where I am!" Think Homer Simpson's chili-fueled desert trip. Apparently I told him I couldn't deal with this and hung up on him :( To be fair, I didn't even know where the hotel was and it was 4am. He remembers being chased around castle hallways by the staff. Trying to get inside some medieval armor and being reprimanded, before being forcibly thrust into his hotel room. Needless to say, future trips to same hotel did not enjoy the open bar privilege, and it is entirely Bear's fault (and I am just a little bit proud).
And back to Grannie C, my favourite Mary. I superimpose her face onto the Blessed Virgin everytime I see one. It's ridiculous how much she means to me. And she has always been old. I don't remember her ever looking any different. She is the Empress, the Matriarch of always. And Bear loved her so much. I wish he could have stayed long enough to visit her grave with me. He was so worried that she would hate him, but she doesn't have it in her to hate anyone. She is made of love. We talked about her a lot, especially on the night he went to hospital. We were watching Tommy Tiernan's 'Crooked Man'; show and commenting on all the little Grannie-isms. The half-toasted toast, the stewed tea, the cozy fire corner. The way you have to bless a person after every sneeze so the divel can't get in. Important stuff!
Grannie C was a huge inspiration to me. I am biologically programmed for Irish Mammyhood. I love to nurture, to care for my Bear. I like to feed people, to trust tea open them. I am the laundry faery and the magic kitchen cleaner. I make bacon sandwiches before you even know you need them. I miss having Bear to care for so much. Trying to find words to describe my fierce loyalty, my steadfast, submission and love. And most of all my resilience. Because I'm still here, still ready with tea and cake should you come to call.