The Old Man

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas

I write it out in a verse –
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Easter 1916
William Butler Yeats

“I told you I was ill.”
Spike Milligan

Adam, my brother’s eldest, who has just become a Dad, popped over from London for a lightning visit

Tomorrow I will head across to the hospital to meet up with Dad. We’ll both journey over to another Dublin hospital – Beaumont – where we will sit down with an oncologist who will explain all about Dad’s diagnosis. Last Thursday, around lunchtime, his doctor from Cappagh Hospital rang with the awful news that she had found pancreatic cancer that had spread to the liver. It’s a bitter blow, not least considering how we’d been trying much of last year to get him home with the assistance of some home care, which never happened. And then before the year was out, the same doctor delivered precursory bad news that, in her opinion, Dad had passed the point where he could be cared for at home with just a couple of hours of professional care.

So now he must face into the new year with this really dreadful news, and the only tiny glimmer of anything positive is that, perhaps now, he will get home in the end.

He remains in good form, nonetheless, and if you knew him, you would not be at all surprised. He faced into the last few years of turbulence with remarkable stoicism and bravado. Several years back, he had a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, then broke a leg, followed by a stroke, with subsequent convalescence, and then with ailing mobility, he suffered numerous falls and fractures, including the breaking of both hips. ‘Flu that landed him in hospital, and of course, a couple of bouts of Covid.

I am not sure that I would have managed so well with all that heaped on my head. We have chatted about this recently, and I did suggest that perhaps his childhood, with its various privations, and then later as a teen his hard graft as a plasterer’s labour, followed by year’s of toil in England in digs, working hard on building sites, would all have inured him to his current plight. I can’t recall his response. It may well have been ‘bollocks!’, because it may well be total bollocks on my behalf, but also, it does tend to be his stock response to many things of late. But I am holding out on my theory. [Lest we forget, there is in Irish modern folklore, the story of signs in English bed and breakfasts stating ‘No Irish, no blacks, no dogs’, in the postwar years. Worth mentioning that modern studies suggest this may not have actually happened. These would have been similar in theme to the racist ‘NINA’ signs in America, or ‘No Irish need apply’.]

Regardless of the veracity of these stories, there is no doubt that the 50s and 60s were tough times, not least for the Irish abroad, and for the working man, travelling around the country, staying in digs, it would have been a challenge. Not everyone faced up to this challenge either, alas, and many of England’s city streets – not least London – are literally littered with the ghosts of Irish men and women who succumbed to the daily grind.

But in fairness to Dad, he worked hard, met my Mum, bought a house and started a family. By the early 70s, he was ready to return to Ireland and raise my brother and me in his native land. And he made lifelong friends in England, some of whom will be over to see him shortly.

His is a journey I will revisit more in the coming weeks and months. It’s a story rich with detail, and much of it is already lost or moth-eaten with the ravages of time. And all will be lost when Dad is gone. So I hope to have some time together over whatever time we are allowed to set down some of the tales from his youth, and hopefully I can share some of them here.

Tomorrow will tell us more.

In running news… well, that’s easy, because there hasn’t been any since we last spoke. I did my marathon thing at the end of last year, and then treated my body to a few weeks off. I had planned to get back into it, and I will, but for now, it’s just not that important. I do appreciate how good running is for my own headspace, and I have no doubt I will be back out again soon. But not just yet.

Bonnie, pre-drool
Saoirse and Odi, both doing a little modelling stint

12 thoughts on “The Old Man

    1. I’m afraid we’ve run out of road. Dad had a stroke yesterday morning as we waited for the taxi to bring us over to see the oncologist. He hasn’t really come around since. He’s still with us, but I think the time for tales has past. We’re in palliative care mode now. Light an oul candle for us x


  1. So sad Declan, especially with your update on Facebook earlier today. I hope you have many fine memories made together to carry you through this terrible time and into the future. Parents are such a central part of our lives that it’s especially painful to have them taken away 😔

    Apologies for not commenting earlier but I somehow managed to unsubscibe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Niall. Yes, we’re all shattered here, but so pleased too that he didn’t suffer in the end. The stroke, which cruelly robbed us of our last remaining time with Dad, also allowed him the dignity of a peaceful end, and gave us enough time for family to see him. He died on Tuesday afternoon, 24th, and the funeral is this Saturday. If anyone is out and about around 11am, for a walk, or a run, cycle or swim, then send him a quick thumbs up and a smile. He was not a man to make a fuss, but I suspect he’d find that funny nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

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