Slightly Bemused writes:
Although I come from one, I often find it funny how interlinked small towns are.
I was feeling good. I had lost a tyre to an accident that proved not to be of my doing, and the company involved called me to let me know that I could expect reimbursement for the replacement. On the day it was damaged, Little Slightly was having her hair done by an old family friend when she called for help. She had not brought enough cash for the payment. She called just as I was realising that either cars have gotten heavier or I had gotten weaker. I needed to enlist the help of one of the strapping young lads doing the road works to help jack up the car and put on the spare. Which of course was almost flat too.
So I talk to the hairdresser, who in my mother’s final years would travel to our home to fix her hair regularly. She brought with her all the gossip of the town. She went to school with my sister, and her husband used play in a band with Glitter Slightly’s father, my brother.
The phone was passed over, and she was assured that I would sort the payment issue out once I got my car to the tyre centre. To which she mentioned someone, a known old curmudgeon who knows lots about tyres, and changed those of my first car more years ago than I care to mention. Still the same, still entirely dependable, and still working at over 70 years of age.
Then I learned of the sudden and untimely passing of a lovely lady in our town.
The lady in question was the sister of another legend of the town, who set up his family pharmacy more than 50 years ago. Today, his grandson is head pharmacist, and the family are still there. One helped me choose a nice pack of Irish-made smelly stuff to welcome my Little one. Her sister in the same shop years ago suggested a shower gel for my Dad for his birthday – apparently it would make his bits tingle!. I went to the shaving set instead.
Coming from a large family, many of us went to school with the various members of the pharmacist’s children, and those of the lady just gone. Also with another set of their cousins, who sadly lost their mother many years ago, One of the lady’s sons became a Garda, another roamed around South America before it was a hipster thing to do, and his tales of $1 hotel rooms better than our 4-star ones were great. As were his tales of weeks on end with just a bedroll and no shower.
I went to school with a daughter who later became a baker, and such wonderful confections were a delight. Her older sister married a dentist who took one look at the reconstruction of my tooth from Somalia and said he would not touch it unless and until it caused problems, such was the level of the work. He sadly passed suddenly too, so now a double tragedy for that lovely friend.
And the connections went further. The lady used to work closely with my mother in the development of a centre for the intellectually challenged (my youngest brother has Down’s syndrome, but all are welcome) and for the physically challenged. The former was established in my old primary alma mater when a new boys’ school was built in the town and the old building, developed in the early 1800s, looked to be abandoned. The playing field was converted into a tennis club that still rains balls on my back garden. But the main building has become one of the county’s premier day care centres.
The latter was developed in an abandoned house known to all as The Doctor’s House, where a doctor who was later shot in a field where an Aldi now stands once stitched up my eyebrow where it was split by a flying mop head. It is now a major centre for the Irish Wheelchair Association.
And developing them both was a triumvirate of my mother, a gentleman rogue, and the lady. With her passing, all three are now gone, and sadly those currently working in these wonderful places do not know their names, or the role they played in setting them up. Nor the battles all three fought with councils and governments, developers and tennis players to get what they saw as essential services for those who could not. But those of the town of a certain vintage remember.
So, in a few days the community will gather to honour the memory of a wonderful lady who truly changed the shape of our village. We will look to support her family, just as they did when we lost loved ones. And I will continue my struggle to get her memory preserved in the monuments to her love and dedication to those who were unable to help themselves, and their families who had no support in their struggles to care for them.
Unlike the nail that scuppered my tyre, this lady was deeply embedded in the very fabric of our town. Somehow, being reimbursed for a repair seems a little less important.
Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.