I must have been twelve or thirteen when Danny died, & not even a year later Kate had met the same fate. She was grandads sister, & they were like two more grandparents for me.
I remember journeys down to their little bluey-grey bungalow with Dad. We would call in to see Granny first. She might have something for us to eat. It was usually a beef stew, a really soggy beef stew, which we would accompany with some generous scoops of mash & Dad would take peas with his. She still always has the flat 7up and kimberly biscuits.
Dad would drive slowly down the road with the grass growing through the old tar down the centre. I was always in a rush but he had always lived in the country & always will. He liked to stop occasionally & get out of the car. He'd admire the view & sit back in. I'd help him count Grandads cows sometimes but I'd always miss one or two. Before we'd even reached Danny & Kates, Brandy would be out running in the way of the car barking and sure enough Danny would be waiting at the door when we got there. The door was made of slightly rotting wood & I think it was painted red, different to the front door which was a dark brown, but no one ever used the front door. Dad would have to bend his head quite a bit coming in. The back kitchen smelt of dry dog & cattle nuts, & the floor was just concrete, no cover. Most times it would be late afternoon when we called & the Griffins weren't fond of light. I'd try to find Kate across the darkened kitchen by following her breathing which was loud & sounded a bit like a low growling. Kate was a dime though. Her voice was indeed like a bark when she spoke. She was the boss & everyone knew it but she kept quiet all the same. Danny was from Kerry & he had the wit & kept conversation flowing. The fat pewter kettle was always boiling away fueled by the Aga between their two seats. They'd offer us tea & we took it. Dad & Danny would chat about the stuff men talk about-football & weather. Kate sat in silence. I spoke when I was spoken to. I liked looking at the dog but never once petted it. He was old & couldn't be trusted. When it was time to leave, Kate would throw the eye to Danny & he'd slip a fiver into my little hands telling me to "buy an icecream". I knew a fiver was a lot more than the price of a Golly Bar & so did he.
Then Dad told me Danny was sick. He had cancer and he wasn't going to get better. I went to the hospital to see him but I was too young. I shouldn't have been exposed to someone dying & I'll never forget it. Dad told me not to say anything. Apparently hearing is the last sense to go. Dad lifted up the corner of the crisp white duvet. Dannys legs were frail, half the size of mine, maybe the width of my arms. I helped moisten his lips with a cotton swab dipped in water. A week later he was dead.
The wake was terrible. He was such a close friend to the family that Dad & I sat with the family & had our hands shaken. Then everyone left & it was just us & the family. He was lying there in the coffin & I watched the undertaker close it.
It's a moment I'll never forget. Walking down their road now (pictured), I don't feel them there anymore. I petted the horses in the next field a few weeks ago. There was a new foal. New life in a place where they had been & gone. It's funny how one day you're there & the next you're not. I think it should be everyones goal in life to live life to the fullest, be a good person, & not to take yourself too seriously. Maybe then when you're gone people will remember you.