Paddy was a man who didn’t know the meaning of speaking quietly. Every evening, he would burst into the sitting room giving my grandmother the fright of her life and begin rambling about something he saw on the TV or heard through the grapevine. My grandmother would roll her eyes and he would leave as quickly as he came.
Before going out to his favourite coffee shop, Paddy had some rituals to uphold. He would pace from his room to the full-sized mirror in the hall and back, each time adjusting his hair or his tracksuit bottoms. Eventually, he would put in his teeth and throw on his torn, black leather jacket, and leave the house, his MP3 player playing the same 37 songs on a loop. He checked himself in the mirror one last time before leaving the house and walked to his only source of a social life, The Vic.
He ordered the same thing every day in the little establishment and always sit outside in the same seat, chain smoking and drinking his pot of tea. As everyone knew him there, he wasn’t judged on his comments or the way he gesticulated with his hands when he was talking about something he was passionate about.
His latest fixation was on Donald Trump and he talked the ears off my granny about the man. She would just roll her eyes, smile and nod…letting him vent.
‘The house isn’t the same without him!’ I cried as the interruptions ceased and the rolling commentary of the Trump election were no more, a tear rolled down my cheek.
Paddy was a man who would do anything for his mother. The last thing she ever asked him to do was to weed the front garden. He did that, taking all the weeds that had popped up through the stones and putting them in a bag, my grandmother supervising from the frame of the front door.
When finished with the front garden, Paddy was in the groove, and decided to weed the area on the far side of the wall. Yes, it was outside the property line, and yes, there was no obligation for him to do it, but he did it anyway because that was the type of man, he was…always giving.
As he was going above and beyond for his own piece of mind, as this was a place, he walked past at least three times a day, he said ‘hi’ to one of the neighbours as they had their red cocker spaniel out for a walk. My grandmother had gone inside to make the tea and two minutes after he met the neighbours, smiling his toothless grin, they looked back and he was on the ground.
One neighbour ran towards Paddy, the other up the road to where my uncle lived. My uncle came down, my grandmother still making the tea, and felt weak as his neighbour, a former life guard, was giving Paddy mouth to mouth resuscitation and asked if an ambulance had been called. He rang his wife and ordered her to get down to my granny’s house fast! He rang his sisters, my aunts and gave them the same message.
With two of my aunts being nurses and the neighbour beginning to get tired, they tapped him out and continued to try and bring my uncle back from the dead. But he was gone, and had been before he even hit the ground. The post mortem said he died of a massive heart attack and didn’t suffer.
As the ambulance pulled in, its blue lights flashing, a crowd had circled around poor Paddy…all relatives…all crying. My cousin had the good sense of not letting my grandmother see her son in that state, so he had tea with her and they chatted about the weather.
The paramedics kept doing CPR on him, even though they knew he was gone and as the ambulance drove away, all of the teary-eyed relatives congregated in my granny’s kitchen, all knowing he had passed.
They sat my grandmother down and told her the bad news. She didn’t believe them at first, claiming that he was out doing the weeds. Whether she was unwilling to know the truth or knew what the truth meant was the big question. The family reassured her that he had in fact passed and she began to tremble, mirroring the others and cried for the loss of her son.
Disbelief rippled through the family as Marie, my uncles wife, took the gargantuan task upon herself to inform the relatives who didn’t live in the small town. None believed her at first but for each of the calls she was calm and collected and reassured them all that he had indeed passed.
As her twelve children suddenly decreased by one, my granny turned to the drink to steady her nerves. My aunt, Rose, decided that she should stay with my granny for a while as she adjusted to life without interruptions about Donald Trump.
It was a hard transition, but one that my granny took as well as she could have taken it. Within a month, Paddy’s room turned into another living room…...Rose being the instigator. She had thrown everything into black sacks and ordered a skip. The other aunts, who weren’t impressed at Rose’s hasty decisions said nothing to keep the peace. One aunt in particular, Fiona, the baby of the twelve…now eleven, rescued his Christmas shirt and a few other things that she wanted to keep to remember her big brother by.
It was Rose who noticed that my grandmother needed someone there at night to make sure she took her tablets and got into bed safely…. something Paddy did every night for the last however many years.
A family meeting was called and each of the youngest seven attended. From that day forward, there was a rota and everyone agreed to do five days a month to stay with their grieving mother.
As with everything, the enthusiasm began to lack as the months went by. Five of the children lived in the town with their mother, one in Cavan, the other in Dublin. When it came down to it, the daughter, Dee, from Dublin did between eight and eleven days a month, as she didn’t see the point in making the arduous journey to Waterford for just a couple of days. The daughter from Cavan, Rose, did her five nights but that was it. Out of the other five, the son, Barry, did nothing and the two daughters, Olive and Terry, did what suited them, leaving the brunt of the work to Fiona and Sinead.
As Olive and Terry’s lives were ‘so hectic’ that they couldn’t commit to their five nights a week, Fiona and Sinead were delighted when Dee arrived down. They knew that that was at least four nights they had off to spend with their families.
Fiona and Sinead were beginning to get pissed off as they were losing sleep and missing work to look after their declining mother. Something had to be done! They put their heads together and decided on a plan but had to put it to the group before putting it in place.
Over a zoom meeting, Fiona and Sinead made their case to get someone in to do three nights a week and lunch time five days a week leaving themselves, Olive and Terry to do one night a week. They were the four who were on the ground so Dee, who knew her mother wouldn’t want strangers in her house, felt she had no say in the matter. She knew Fiona and Sinead were doing more than their allotted time and reluctantly agreed. Rose put it to the group to get someone in full time so no one would have to do anything. That showed the others how much she thought of her mother. In the end, everyone agreed to Sinead and Fiona’s plan. They were all going to do one night a week and get someone in the other three except for when Rose or Dee came down at their leisure. They agreed to pay these ladies regardless of whether they stayed or not to entice them to stay loyal, giving Dee and Rose the opportunity to come down as often, or in Rose’s case as seldom, as they wanted.
The plan was in place, but just before the zoom call ended, Fiona looked into space and said, ‘and imagine…when poor Paddy was alive, he did seven nights a week, he got no break from it, he just knuckled under and did what needed to be done.’ The other six bowed their heads realising that no one knew how hard he had it in life, he just got on with it, his only outlet the coffee shop!
picture from pixabay