Fergal's Wake (I.P.)
Fri, 27 Jun 2014
Just brushing your suit off, love; them undertakers have done a good job. I was going to say, ‘Hold still,’ but I guess I don’t have to. Hope you approve. Pin-stripe, like the one you wore on our wedding day – minus the button-hole, of course. Cost a fair packet, but I’ll find the money from somewhere; you didn’t exactly leave me rolling in it, did you? Whatever we had, you frittered away in the betting shop or down the pub getting plastered.
Now you’re gone, what am I left with? Fuck all, except my memories and I’ve plenty of them; you, in the small hours, chucking stones at the bedroom window. Oh, you had your keys all right; hanging round your neck on a piece of string like some school-kid. Trouble was, you were too drunk to find the bloody keyhole. Connections never your strongest point...in more ways than one, were they Fergal?
I loved you though, through thick and through thin, you daft old sod. And to prove it, today you’re going to have a send off none of this lot round here will forget in a hurry. Our Patrick and his stuck-up wife are paying for it, incidentally. They aren’t short of a few bob, and she gets a good wage – like all them teachers; money for old rope, if you ask me.
Funny how I’d always considered you ‘weak’... drowning your sorrows in booze and fags; never having the guts to face up to things, but in the end you proved me wrong. Those follow up appointments at the hospital I thought you’d chickened out of, after they patched you up when you had cancer ...when I’d go round the pub to fetch you and you were drunk as a lord! But you didn’t miss one of them, did you?
Turned out you told me the wrong times on purpose...so as you could go on your own. I know that now and I’m sorry, and all the while you only wanted to spare me from the truth. It took a lot of courage. Didn’t think you had it in you.
Suppose you were worried about me coping, what with losing our Michael only last year. I must admit, it did take the stuffing out of me alright. A mother doesn’t expect to bury her son; not the natural order of things when all’s said and done. So ironic somehow, wasn’t it? There was you, his old man, perennially, or so it seemed, laughing in the ‘Big C‘s’ face’, for all those years, and yet it finished Michael off in just three months flat.
God took him, and spared you. Something you could never accept. Eaten up with guilt you were. You never told me, but I could always read you like a book. I needed you so much then, but instead I lost you completely, what little there was left... And may God strike me dead, but I even wished it had been you and not him. Anyway, He’s got the both of you now, so maybe He’ll be satisfied … for a while at least.
Still, it wouldn’t do to get maudlin – not yet. I’ve a long day ahead of me. Say, don’t you worry about us. We’ll get by – me, Tom and Billy. They’re good kids and I’ve as good as raised them single-handed until now, so what’s the difference?
I dare say, when they look back, they’ll always picture their dad, drink in one hand, fag in the other – they’re bound to, but at least now when they do, it will be with some degree of respect in their eyes. Hopefully, just the way Michael’s looking at you right this minute. Better late than never.
Suppose it’s time I got myself spruced up. The wreaths will be arriving in a bit;
done you proud, we have...me and the boys. “DAD” – spelt out in them white carnations. See you in church, then. Oh, and by the way...I’m going to be a grandma. Billy’s girl’s expecting; broke the news last night. Imagine that; bringing up a kid when you’re just turned sixteen, the both of ‘em. But that we can, can’t we? What goes around comes around, don’t they say? I’ll be the one looking after it...boy or girl. They’ve got their education to finish. I never did, and I’ve regretted it all my life, and I don’t know about you. You’d have never let on, anyways. If it’s a boy they’re going to call it after you. Nice that. They could do worse, couldn’t they, Fergal?