The last 10 days have been blogging unfriendly. There was Thanksgiving which was relaxing but busy. The day itself was a pleasant blur of food, friends and gaggles of small children. The latter were remarkably well behaved, allowing their elders to get drunk(ish) in peace! After, I promptly came down with some sort of cold, flu virus thingy, and by the following Monday was wallowing in bed reading "Whats the Matter With Kansas
", (well worth the read), and feeling generally miserable.
I am also the unofficial musical director of my only sisters wedding, which will be held in a medieval castle back home in Ireland on Dec 28th. For my sins I am learing some of Turlough O'Carollan's
pieces. I say for my sins, not because I don't like the tunes, au contraire they are beautiful compositions, but because it involves reading music. Despite years of piano lessons, my reading ability is much less developed than my playing by ear ability. Reading music on piano is hard enough for me but on guitar it is sheer torture. That said, I have waded into the process and can play "Carolans Draught" end to end. I am in the final process of polishing my rendition of the tune. Carolan was a 16th century blind Irish harpist who incorporated elements of Baroque music into his writing. A nice coincidence is that his patrons were my long distant relations the McDermott Roe's in Roscommon. Like most McD's we dropped the Roe appendix a long time back, but my sisters hubby to be is one Stevie Roe - so, if my sister decides to go all triple barreled on her name, she will complete the circle and be Meave McDermott Roe.
This time of year brings equal measures of sadness and nostalgia my way. Ten years ago, on the Friday of Thanksgiving I was at work looking forward to spending the weekend camping in Joshua Tree. I returned to work after lunch to a voice mail from my roommate telling me that one of my friends in Ireland, Stephen Imbusch had called looking for my work number and that it sounded urgent. I had just hung up when Steve called me.
"Are you sitting down ?"
This was such a cliched forerunner to bad news I laughed despite the quiver in his voice and the sinking feeling in my stomach.
"Kieran died earlier today"
Kieran Laffey was one of our oldest friends and had Cystic Fibrosis. We had always known that he had a death sentence, but at this time when our lives were exploding, it was hard to think that his was ending. Even when his health deteriorated, and his spirit dimmed in the year before I moved to the US, he was healthy enough for all his friends to con themselves into ignoring the inevitable. The last time I saw him was in a McDonald's parking lot on Cape Cod. We had all come to Rhode Island for Stephens wedding, and had driven to the Cape a few days after. Kieran and his girlfriend Anne were heading back to Ireland and I and our mutual friend Conor Neville weren't sure what the hell we were doing, but we had a $700 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo, a Green Card apiece, and enough money to keep us going for a month, so we were going to stay on the Cape until we figured out what we wanted to do. I remember we hugged and he said he thought it was great that we were doing this. Soon after he became engaged to Anne. They would never be married, but it was a great testment to their love for each other that they were prepared to commit despite Kieran's health.
He was a great guy, with a wicked sense of humour, a keen intelligence and a strong sense of compassion and justice. He was also a musician, and I can't count the number of street corners, stages, living rooms, kitchens or pubs that we played together on and in. We had the distinction, (with our other musician friends), of winning the Limerick Busking Competition during the celebrations for Limericks 800th birthday. We also came second in The Castlegregory, ( population 500), Busking competition! The winner of said competition owned the local chip shop, and was one of the sponsors of the event.
He was also a scholar and a teacher. He finished a Masters not long before his death, his thesis was on the phonetics of how the Irish speak English - He is probably spinning in his grave at my ham fisted description. He used to drive me crazy by interrupting my, (endless) flow of talk to tell me the phonetical history of what I had said, and how I had pronounced it.
I still miss him, and I wonder what he would have made of the last ten years. I am sure he would have delighted in the Internet, as a scholar that would have been a gift to him. I would dearly love to sit in a pub, two pints into on a rainy afternoon, and hear his opinions on the new brash Ireland. Before I left he told me that I was leaving Ireland at one of the most pivotal times in her history. That the old order was falling and a new one was on the horizon. How right he was.
If I learned one thing from his death, it was that I believed there was something afterwards. I have always been a wanna be atheist, albiet with a strong sense of spirituality, ( I am a Gemini!). My logical mind does not accept the irrationality of religous belief easily. But despite this I have always felt that I will see him again.