Well it’s been a while. There have been days when I’ve thought about another thank you. But it just seemed too hard. In a world as crazy as the one we currently find ourselves in, sometimes it is too hard to find the gratitude. Or the news is too interesting or there are dishes to be done or meetings to attend or visitors to entertain. And finding five minutes to write is a challenge.
But there are other days. More auspicious ones. Where you can only be grateful and remember. A feast of memories. And so it begins.
An Intermediate Certificate mock history paper. Eight sections. You completed three. C – Renaissance and Reformation. D – 19th century. F – Modern History. You didn’t do the other five sections. Unless you did. You recalled facts on history you’d never learned. And your error was shared with the class. To great hilarity. But you didn’t make the same mistake when it came to the real exam. And you dropped history immediately thereafter.
You made other choices after the Inter Cert. And the choices you made were polar opposites to some of your classmates so you ended up in a group of 26 who spent varying amounts of time together. So we shared only the non essentials. Like Civics and Religion. You knew yourself better and chose wisely. Art and Technical Drawing. I chose less wisely. History and Accounting.
I don’t recall too many conversations in that old classroom on the rare occasions we were both there at the same time. It seems there were brief moments where I remember a quiet comment coming from a far corner. A comment that made me laugh. Made me notice. Something somewhere. A connection.
I do remember sitting on my parents’ kitchen counter trying to talk someone out of taking my parents’ car the night we over celebrated leaving school. 17 and 18 and 19 year olds in a parent free house too early in the morning. I don’t know if I ever told you that the keys were in the drawer under where I sat. That I knew they were there though I’d sworn they weren’t. I remember the start of tension brewing in that kitchen and, I don’t know how you did it, but you read the situation and diffused it. And I don’t remember ever thanking you.
I remember Joanne being born and a quiet conversation in the loudness of a Charlestown disco. I remember Aengus stretched out in a hospital bed and you in another one. Two future professional cyclists knocked out before they had a chance to shine.
I remember friendship growing between two families and nights out that still make me smile. Or cringe.
I remember a quarry.
And being hungover at Mass. And Elaine Kilcoyne’s wedding. When we thought we were all grown up because one of us had gotten married.
I remember us seeing Tony Burke and Anne Ryan together for the first time. In Toffs. That was the night of the quarry.
I remember more weddings. And nieces. Lots of nieces.
I remember the week the Germans came to Tubbercurry. And sitting round the table in the back of Nathys on the Thursday night of music week with Maureen and Clare Duffy and the Germans and you arrived in with a Donegal woman. She was quiet. But I remember liking her.
I remember another wedding. In Moville. And the piss being taken out of most people. And the news breaking about the imminent arrival of another niece.
I remember walking down The Rocks in Sydney and hearing a laugh that makes you feel good emanate through an open window in a nearby pub and turning to Kai and saying “he’s in there.” And Kai didn’t know how I knew. Not then he didn’t. He would now.
I remember nights in Germany.
I remember years of story telling. And jokes half told. Where the punchline gets lost in gales of laughter.
I remember nights in Donegal. Four of us squeezed into one hotel room. And nobody sleeping. Just laughter and more story telling.
I remember sadness being eased by your presence. And joy being accentuated by it.
I remember 30 year reunions and the questioning looks of some who didn’t know we’d found each other just as our schooling ended and our lives began.
I remember most of it. But especially the quarry.
Thanks for being my friend and happy, happy birthday, Tony