Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Achill's heel

Driving around Achill in the soft rain, her delight at seeing the old country was obvious. Every turn in the road we swapped stories of parallel lives in two different countries in the sixties, her in Cleveland, Ohio, me in Galway, Ireland. We had a lot in common. She had been a kindergarten teacher all her life in a leafy Cleveland suburb, my father had taught in a primary school in Duniry near the Slieve Aughty mountains, for 42 years. She said, 'My father was a fire-chief in Cleveland and he worked every hour he could to provide for his family, though money was never flush. A proud man,he instilled in us the motto, 'If you can't make it, you can't have it'. He built them two boats for sailing on Lake Erie and a cottage on the shore there for summer vacations. He could fix and make most anything. We never owned a new car, nor even a new sofa. Everything was pre-owned. He would come home from work of an evening, dressed in his captains uniform, wool suit, cap, gold braid. He'd boom, 'Anyone need a new bike? I passed a broken bicycle at 23rd and Dean, you want it, go down and get it, I will fix it up for you like new'. We always had great bikes and skateboards and ice-skates and never wanted for anything. He'd often say, 'If you know how to fix a broken shingle, you will never need to call a roofing contractor'. 'I adored the ground my father walked on', she finished, tearing at the memories. 
A mile later, on the coast road at Dooega, we passed this deserted farmhouse and I thought of her father back in Cleveland, and how he could fix a shingle and save a rooof, and I was ashamed at the dependent, throwaway society we have become, unable to keep our own house in order, fix our own roof, plant our own garden. 

 — in Dooega, Mayo.