I woke up at 4:30 this morning because I couldn’t sleep. You know me. First order of business: make a pot of coffee. As I sit here, sipping on my first cup of real, strong, drip coffee in nearly two weeks, I think of you. The instant coffee abroad wasn’t the same. Still, each morning, I would fill the kettle, mix up a cup, and choke it down as a caffeinated expedient — the fill-in to my morning routine. I’m certain you would have done the same. With one creamer, of course.
You were the first person I told of my last-minute plans for adventure. You answered sweetly, “Hi, Dolly.” While I sensed your exhaustion, I felt your smile through the line. As we caught up, I apologized for not having visited recently, inquired about our Irish Heritage, and told you I couldn’t wait to share my stories with you when I returned.
While I was unable to untangle the web of mysteries that surround our past, I found our home county! Westmeath. The center of Ireland. A boggy, flat, farming territory. Paddy, an Irish man I met while traveling said something like, “No wonder ye left. There’s nothing t’ere.” We stayed with Paddy and Riona for two evenings in what was entitled “Rural Self-contained Cottage.” We were welcomed so warmly. Freshly cut daffodils adorned the table; it is officially spring in Ireland, though the cool winds and intermittent rainfalls would have you think otherwise. But, the cottage’s fireplace was lit beneath the hearth to warm our toes and dry our socks.
Riona shared a beer with us the evening we arrived, and Paddy presented us fresh coffee before we departed. Paddy’s family is from Cahir — pronounced Care — a detail I won’t soon forget, as the township he reigned from describes him well.
This was part of the story I had hoped to share with you this weekend, over bottomless cups of coffee in your cinnamon-scented apartment. Seriously, how do you make a home smell of magic? That was the plan, anyway. But, as they say, Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Mom and William told me the news last night when I walked in the door. I’m so sorry I wasn’t here. I know you wouldn’t want me to “fuss,” and I take solace in knowing you were surrounded by those who loved you… but I wish I could have held your hand.
You would have loved Ireland. While your eyes betrayed you long ago, the soon-to-be fitted hearing aid we discussed in our last conversation would have revealed the beauty, charm, abundance, diversity, calm, and quiet that fills the air there.
On our final evening in Killorglin, Paddy and Riona stopped in late-night to check on us. Mike was turning the finishing pages of a novel he started shortly before we left, and I was journalling, with polaroids, maps, and notes spread out on the floor. At this point, we had been disconnected to the outside world for three days — we didn’t miss it. We had a map, a car, and curiosity to lead us along the coast.
They joined us by the fire and Paddy asked about our day. After commenting on the unusual weather we were gifted, he inquired of our favorite moments of the trip. While there were too many to count at that point, mine was simple: a single, distant raincloud amongst the blue sky that was dumping water on the land below. I watched the body of water fall. In slow motion. Until it hit the ground. Eventually we drove through it, beyond it, and the sky was blue once more.
When I think of Ireland, I will think of you. I will see you in the rolling Irish countryside and warm coastal rains, just as I see Gramps when spring Clematis bloom and Asparagus goes to seed each summer.
Time for a refill.
Love you, gram.
PS. I grabbed your Rooster mug. You’re with me every morning.