‘How in the name of God did I allow the wrong year to be etched on his grave?’

Daddy may have said: 'Why would you give a s**t about such trivia, Áine?'

It must be a fallout from stepping away from the big bad world of work, but all my anxiety dreams have stopped.

I didn’t realise it until a friend, who is still clocking in to a daily metronome, shared his latest nightmare.

It involved his boss turning into a ghoul and the office, whose threshold he has not crossed since the beginning of the plague, transforming into a chamber somewhere in middle-earth.

He lives in London and we were catching up over a video call and tentatively toasting the new light that teeters over the horizon as we break the back of another long winter. Both being self-confessed stress-heads, I was telling him how I had become so laid back since I decided “to reconfigure” my life – my word for “retirement” – I had thrown €500 into my green bin. Fortunately, I retrieved the spanking new notes after an extra strong cup of coffee cranked up my brain again and I had a vague recollection of seeing them peeping from the previous Saturday’s Irish Times magazine.


“At least it was the green bin I had to upturn,” I said, laughing.

I wasn’t laughing though after I discovered I had signed off on the wrong year for Daddy’s headstone. George died at the beginning of the pandemic, which we all know seems like a lifetime ago.

So, how in the name of God did I allow April 2021 to be etched in limestone on his grave when he had passed away a full year earlier?

Isn’t the concept and experience of time so inherently contradictory?

First kiss

One minute you are a teenager going to your first “hop” – the word for “discos” in the1970s – and the next minute you are a mammy, or even granny, watching a whole new fashion parade disappear out your front door.

Conversely, you can be frozen in a moment that seems like a millennium: one that you just want to last forever.

Take that first kiss.

Unfortunately, my memories of those early smooches are tainted by beard rash and being grounded by George because of those giveaway love bites peeping over my patchouli-soaked neckerchief.

As the years pass though, the memory of sandpapered skin can be subjugated by “what ifs” and “why nots”.

No matter how many mindfulness exercises we embrace, the past intrudes on our present. After all, we are encased in time. However, its passing doesn’t have to be an anchor around our necks, does it?

The fact that part of my work as a journalist was proof-reading reams of pages didn’t preclude me from making mistakes, even when I was still in the highly caffeinated world of the newsroom.

A favourite was a big bold headline I wrote about a "pubic meeting" to discuss a proposed bio-park in Claremorris. The embarrassment was compounded by the fact that I wrote the headline for a colleague's article.

Escape his urn

Turns out that was way back in 2013. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. Both my parents have died, as well as Daddy’s second wife.

My youngest brother – a paragon of healthy living – was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, aged just 48, and within five months his ashes were being interred in his wife's family plot in Mozzate, northern Italy. He would not see his teenage sons, two wonderful boys, grow to adulthood.

I often think as I head off on my regular walks here in the wild and windy paradise of the west, Dermot would be over the moon if he could escape his urn like a genie and be given an hour of healthy life again; feel fresh air in his face.

He wouldn’t need to resort to his doctorate in psychology to tell his boys not to be sweating the small stuff. My baby bro wasn’t nicknamed “The Fonz” – after that cool dude in the 1980s American sitcom Happy Days – for nothing.

He’d definitely have a laugh over getting the date of Daddy’s death wrong.

We can only imagine what himself would say from his earthen bed overlooking Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick.

“Why would you give a s**t about such trivia, Áine?”

“But remember how rigorous you were with your copy when you were a Bridge Correspondent, Daddy.”

“Well, an errant year here and there doesn’t really matter, does it. It is about living in the moment?”

“I’m grappling with that, Daddy, but I’m getting there.”

Indeed, a favourite quotation by the Welsh poet WH Davies says it all. It is etched on his headstone too: “What is this life, if full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare.”