Himself, that’s what my mother called him, most of the time anyway. And if anyone was acting kinda strange then she’d say ‘he’s himself alright’. She used to call me a gráinneog regularly, which means hedgehog in Irish, nice! Now it’s all very well using Irish words, or local slang when we speak, but what about the unfortunate foreigners who decide to live here and learn English from Irish people? Doesn’t it make it just a little bit difficult when we say something like ‘well I’m off to my leaba now’ or ‘put that in the lámh’? I know two Polish girls who learned English in Ireland, one in Cork and the other in Belfast; they had to use Polish to understand each other!
It’s been brought to my attention lately that I use some unusual sayings and words and I know that these words and phrases come from my mother. Shalacky Pookey was the latest one, which, growing up in our house, meant snail. It would seem easier now to have just said snail but you do what you are taught to do and say what you hear, that’s how we learn. It made me think about how much of what we learnt and heard was true or at least true for us; everyone has their own truth. I guess part of growing up, which I think should be called growing, is to find out what our truth is and to understand that it may not be truth for someone else. In fact truth seems to be a bit of a chameleon.
Anyway, back to himself. He worked hard, he loved to chat and he enjoyed singing; not a note in his head mind, but he truly enjoyed it and that’s all that mattered. He loved stone and anything carved from stone really appealed to him; in another lifetime he might be a sculptor, who knows. I just know that he brushed off my cut knees when I fell. He sat on the pavement with me when I didn’t want to walk any further and he fed me crubeens from his dinner plate. He was my dad and I loved him. Weathered features that might have been described as chiselled seemed soft to me, an interesting face with a ready smile and slightly crooked front teeth. He loved to natter and joke with people and playing pranks on my kids on April Fools’ Day was hilarious for him. On April 1st the doctor said he wouldn’t last until lunchtime but we knew he was only fooling, he died on the 2nd. He was himself alright!
Memory of a Granite Table by Anne Elizabeth Bevan
Each speckled imperfection pinches
my memory of his crooked smile, reflected
in the cold gleaming surface.
I see the tobacco stained grin light
up his otherwise ordinary face,
his hands knarled and bony, polishing
the perfect slab.
He caresses the unfeeling
countenance, the favour as always,
nothing; his life a testament to
cold return. His needs modest,
he polishes with joy, seldom
gripped by discontent,
On this counter his life
balances, weathered and done.
Its face mirroring seventy brutal
years in flawless gleam. He continues
to buff each blemish, each foible,
to fulfilment. A life in reflection,
gratified in the immaculate dark.