Last week I had a very interesting group of people over for storytelling night. There was a visit from an Israeli plastic surgeon, two cowboys from Bandera, Texas, with their Stetsons (I broke out when
saw her halfway through the door), a Palestinian cook working in Temple Bar and retired family doctor Dr. John Hanlon from Clontarf with his daughter Kelly who also happens to be a doctor.
Well, before I tell you the story about the doctors, I have to let you know that at the end of the evening the Palestinian cook and the Israeli plastic surgeon were having tea together in the kitchen and laughing. But let me move on to Dr. come back
“My father was a very interesting man,” he tells me. “He was an ear, nose and throat surgeon in the 1940s. One day while examining a patient, the man coughed into Dad’s left eye. Within a few months he went blind.
“That was just the beginning. My father’s counselor on Harley Street gave him large cans [antibiotic] Streptomycin – causing him to be both deaf and blind. I remember him coming home from London holding my uncle’s arm.
“I mean, Dad was a big fit guy, a man who played rugby who could swim and dive in the sea. A trip to Lourdes gave him renewed optimism.”
Despite his father’s situation, he decided to study physiotherapy, which was new at the time. The newly crowned Queen Elizabeth gave him special permission to attend lectures in London, accompanied by a secretary who interpreted the lectures for him on his palms, a process known as tactile signing.
Within six months, Dr. John’s father an honorary doctorate.
“When he came home,” says John, “he used to meet Eddie Heron, the Irish master diver, at the Blackrock Baths in Dublin. Swimmers were shocked to see Eddie lead my dad up the high diving board, then he would pat Dad on the side a split second before they jumped in the water.
In 1961, John’s father’s heart deteriorated and he traveled to Lourdes against his doctor’s advice – as he had done every summer since his diagnosis. After visiting the shrine baths, he died in the local hospital and was buried in the Irish compound in Lourdes.
He was a man for a man. The cowboys were so moved by this story that they almost burst into tears.
And would you believe that? The following Friday I had another storytelling night – and who was sitting in the same seat by the fire? A woman who told me about her extraordinary uncle – the blind doctor, the same James Hanlon.
It was all completely random. Ireland is certainly a church.
Her children abandoned her for years. All they wanted was money
On Friday I trudged into the village to make my will. Yes, you heard right. Sincerely, a will is made.
Wills are synonymous with two things, relatives and money – a pretty deadly combination. And where there’s a will, there’s a fight. That’s a certainty.
Our beautiful Maeve Binchy has changed her will no fewer than 40 times, and she was right. She was very specific about how the money should be spent. Her friends got over it very well. Mine will too.
But honestly to God, I had singed my poor head trying to figure out who to leave my little house and little things to.
Well I’d say Aul Cottage would be worth a few shillings. The son would certainly sort that out, but would the nieces like my limestone sculptures that took me months to carve in Donegal? Would the nephew fancy a folk art painting or an urn stand from the 18th century? Would my sister like my yellow dresser with brown and white wicker panels?
I doubt it.
See, when I turned 60, I decided to settle it. What did that do? I will tell you. A dear friend in her late 70s has two bitter little child brat who never came home to see her from abroad until the hospital called a few months ago.
I thought she was on her way out, and so was the medical team, and so were the spoiled offspring. I found my poor mate lying in bed, eyes tightly closed, trying to nibble on a rich tea.
Her children abandoned her for years. All they wanted was money. Bank transfers to be exact. I always remember her dragging herself into Western Union’s O’Connell Street offices in the midst of an acute depression to wire them money.
They were both in their 30s. As they say in Donegal, no spring chocolate.
Of course they couldn’t stand me.
That one Christmas when they came home many years ago, they saw three books – Stop Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Alienated Adult Children, Why Hasn’t Nobody Told Me That Before and Walking on Eggshells.
“Who gave this to you, mother?” They asked.
“Biddy,” she says.
That’s where the shit really hit the fan.
On the rare occasions that I met the daughter, she always stated that she was “overwhelmed”.
wouldn’t you go for a walk I would recommend. “No,” she said. “The overwhelming feeling of being at home is tough.”
hmm The mother worried about her daughter’s health. There’s nothing wrong with her, I’d say, except for a penchant for expensive Chloé handbags and weekly self-care.
When I called to see my friend, I was particularly disturbed to see your mother massaging her mother’s hands with lavender oil. This is a well known trick to remove rings from near dead people. She noticed me watching her so luckily the diamonds stayed intact.
And the son? He’s hung out abroad, drank craft beers and hit the gym for most of his adult life, all encouraged by Mummy.
He’s a self-confessed alcoholic and gambler, a real piece of work. When he heard she was on her deathbed, he couldn’t get home fast enough.
I listened as his mother gently rebuked him to go home. Do you know what he said? “Mom, stop right now, you’re triggering my addiction.”
Well, guess what happened? Mom recovered dramatically. I would even say miraculously. She invited me to spend a week with her in Croatia.
“You don’t need to bring your credit card, Biddy,” she says. “We’ll go through ‘her’ legacy.”
It’s an offer I just can’t refuse.
https://www.independent.ie/life/since-ive-turned-60-ive-decided-its-time-to-make-my-will-41975491.html “Since turning 60, I’ve decided it’s time to make my will”