Generations

It’s been a long hard day, and one which I can’t ever repeat. If not for any other reason but just because I have achieved what needed to be achieved and I cannot be proud of it. Relieved, yes, proud never. Already I can see your confused look, peering at me over your glasses like so many other times I spoke without clarity. “Don’t talk in riddles. Clarity is the essence of communication Kathleen, remember that.” Only you could call me Kathleen without argument. To everyone else I was Kat with no argument tolerated. The dismissive sniff with which you greeted my the request to “call me Kat.” all those years ago was clear enough communication for me.

So in honour to your spirit I’ll attempt to continue this communication with the clarity you always insisted upon. I cannot ever hope to emulate your wit and style for the telling of a story though. You always claimed it was the Irish in you that gave you the talent for the joke or the story, and the Scot in my grandfather that extinguished it in me. So let the Celtic rivalry in my blood roar as it will and let the days events emerge as they will from the flashing cursor.

Today was the day that I hoped would never come although even greater than that hope was the hope that I would be strong to take the burden from you if it did. I always knew that my father would buckle and turn away and that others who loved you would be unavoidably held back by that love. I could see that if and when the day came I would be the only one, the one that you could ask. You saw that strength in me from the moment we first met. Me, a solemn child of four, you an already old woman of fifty. The grey hair however hid a sharp mind, as quick with the punch line to a joke as with the putdown to a cheeky kid.

Already by the time we met your hair was grey and your skin wrinkled. But you were still then quick round a tennis court and quicker around 18 holes. I spent many a morning chasing wayward tennis balls for you and the other women of your tennis group. Women who bellowed with great belly laughs at your jokes and stories and whose thick hands dished up the rough cut cheese sandwiches which were our inevitable lunch.. Those laughs would rapidly become nervous girly titters when their menfolk, husbands and sons, came to pick them up. For years I never worked out why those big strong women who could smash a blistering serve or cross court volley would giggle inanely in the presence of such fools. I think my obtuseness in failing to understand such things, and an inability to comply with those strange behaviours even after puberty, was the first sign to you of the way it would be for me. That was about the first time that I noticed those strangely concerned looks from you.

Even though you were old you took to sharing my education with an enthusiasm that was infectious. Under your patient guidance and example I learned to love the books that opened up the world. It was the history lessons over the compulsory night time dishes that aroused my passion for the search for reasons for what is in what was. An ever expanding and voracious appetite for understanding took me to a discovery of the political. It was here however that my own enthusiasm met with a disturbingly luke warm reception. It wasn’t until much later that I understood that your seeming indifference masked the pain of loss. When I did find out the story already it was largely obliterated by the passing of time. What little I did find out came through the funnel of your children. Children you were reluctant to stain with the sectarian hate and revenge that had claimed your father and sister. My politics I think caused you more fear that my sexuality. As afraid for me as you were you never attempted to dissaude me from any of those foolhardy actions of youth just bailed me out on that one occasion shaking your head.

“Kathleen, I would have given you credit for more sense. Getting yourself arrested and for what.”

Nothing I said could make you see that for me it was about the fight. About standing up and being counted when something I valued was at stake. A few hours in the watchouse wasn’t going to deter me. Still less a fine for “disorderly behaviour”. The protests continued but I never rang you again to help bail me out. The look of concern and disappointment was such that I couldn’t face it again. I was so wrapped up in my own self importance though that I never saw the touch of fear in your eyes. You had seen the coppers dragging away passionate family and sending them back broken and bruised. It never helped that this was a new country and a new time. You never lost that fear.

We drifted apart then you and I. You worried about me running around with such a wild group and I fretted under the worry and slowly stopped coming round to see you as often. When I did come around I stayed but briefly as we no longer had anything to talk about. It was Siobahn that brought us back together. Her lilt mirrored yours and she pushed until I brought her to meet you. The two of you nattered away for hours while I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. She surprisingly eager for news of the old country and you fascinated by her stories of the troubles. In that first meeting with her I think I learned more about your early history than I had ever suspected. At last an explanation for your reluctance to engage with my politics.

Siobahn though was the conduit for you to accept other areas of my life. I think it was about the third meeting that you poured our tea the turned to Siobahn, not me note, and said, “ So you two, your together.”
Siobahns simple “yes” was greeted with a thoughtful nod.
“You think you can keep her out of trouble?”
Siobahn was nothing if not honest. By then she knew you well enough to know that trying to soft soap was never going to work. “ I’ll try.”
She did to. Instead of protests it became advisory committee’s and now I’m a respectable lobbyist instead of a rabid protester. I think I’m the only one who looks back with nostalgia. You slowly lost the fear once you realized that my politics was not now likely to get me arrested and Siobahn ever the practical appreciated my contribution to the mortgage.

When Siobahn was killed we mourned together. It was to your place that I ran howling like the possessed. It was you that took in the banshee and added your own howls of grief. We grieved as only the Celts can, loudly openly and with all the passion of our kind. I found you one night asleep with the album in your lap. I had never seen this one, blue leather binding cracked and peeling. I took it from you, your finger still holding the page. There was you, wearing an unfamiliar uniform, arm around another girl laughing into the camera. The next photo caught you unprepared, looking at the same girl unknowing of the camera, she laughing and you just looking. I knew that look, it was my face as I looked a Siobahn when she wasn’t looking. I knew that look well. You woke and saw me looking at the photo. You knew what I was looking at. The tears welled into your eyes, “ She was killed in an air raid when she went home on leave.”

“You two, you were together?”

“They were different times then.”

“But you were together?” Less a question than a plea.

Generations

Boadicea

Marree, Australia

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Artist's Description

with this piece I am interested in a collaboration with another writer or even writers. To pass a piece around and see what results. Just something to play with. If your interested BM me and we can see what grows????

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