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May the force by with her

It’s with great sadness, again that I announce that there has been another passing in Woodhaven. My blog posting was on hiatus for a bit and will be for a bit longer. But I’m going to take this time to tell you all that Yoda has been put to sleep after an emergency visit to the Vet.

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Yoda was a lone stray kitten when Richie’s cousin, aptly named Cat (short for Catrina), found her on the side of a road in Co. Wicklow. Cat and her boyfriend Derek, brought the little tike home to nurse her back to health and she became their pet and companion.

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She was a content house cat and rarely went outside, and this allowed her to observe Catrina’s day to day routines. She even knew when to wake Catrina up in the morning by licking her nose gently. It wasn’t uncommon to see Yoda perched on the shoulder of Derek as if she was replacement for a pirate’s parrot.

Catrina spilled luxury on Yoda. She had the best pink litter tray palace and all the best foods and treats. This luxury would be removed when she came to live in Woodhaven. As it happened Catrina and Derek moved to Canada (they are there now and hopefully reading this with a sense of fondness and nostalgia), so Yoda became a new resident of Woodhaven.

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We tried to slowly break Yoda out of the luxury she was used to and help her adapt to other comforts and to begin a life outdoors. She slept happily in the boiler house and was indoors most of the day, always longing to be close to one us. We were her creature comfort. She made valiant effort to the transition outside and we’ve seen her hunting with success. This, we hope, opened her world to a bigger life. Or well, that’s what I’m telling myself, the poor little thing.

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When she came to us, I was used to Victoria and her youthful ways and Yoda arrived with a quiet maturity that I didn’t understand all the time. But this didn’t take away from the fact that she was to become a member of the family. Sometimes I thought she acted peculiar but I can safely say that this was probably down to her new found condition and reason for her passing. You see, Yoda, or Yody as Catrina mostly called her, had underdeveloped kidneys. We sometimes felt she looked off but would bounce back. Obviously this was causing her pain and it all came to a head yesterday evening. Richie could see she didn’t look well at all and seemed to have lost weight overnight. He went to the vet and it was confirmed about her kidneys and the vet confidently expressed that they believed Yoda hadn’t very long to live. The pain was likely unbearable.

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The decision was made to allow Yoda to be put to sleep. Richie wanted to be there for her and stayed with her until the end. I don’t think I could’ve done that. He found it very upsetting, for Yoda, for himself and for how Catrina and Derek might feel, especially since they are now in a different country.

I can only take consolation in knowing that Yoda is in a better place and probably with Victoria. Her passing has left another sense of melancholy in my heart, as it has with the rest of Woodhaven. RIP Yoda.

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I said that this site would also be for my thoughts and opinions. Home décor, etc seems to be taking over. So I’m going to use this opportunity to tell you about a special person in my life…..my Mum…..me Ma (as we’d say in Ireland). She passed away a few years ago from Colon Cancer. Let me tell you about this wondrous woman. I know, we all say that about our mothers.

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‘Fine feathers make a fine bird’

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‘If you join the army you have to soldier’

My Mum was born in inner city of Dublin to Mary and Billy Cullen. Mary was a street trader so she was also a very busy woman. This meant that some of the mothering duties fell to my Mum and the rest of the older members of the family. These obligations equipped my Mum with the skills she’d eventually need for her own family. Of course, that didn’t mean she was the perfect parent. She made mistakes too, but she learned from them. I can see these skills in my brothers and sisters that have their own children. She never molly coddled us and she knew when to step back and allow us to discover some things for ourselves.

Back when my Mum was a young woman, she was known to her pals as Rony, short for Veronica. With maturity and age that nickname became Vera. After she died, I asked one of her friends what she was like when she was younger. Out of her 66 years, I’d only known her for 28 years. I was surprised to learn that, in early adulthood she was quite like the rest of us at that age. She had told me of the dances she’d attend but never mentioned how sometimes she’d creep in late at night, quietly not to disturb the household or awaken her father.

It was at one of the dances that Vera met my Father (Paddy) and they settled down and had a large family just like the ones, they themselves were from. My Mum gave birth to 11 children over the years. That’s 8 ¼ years pregnant. She became a better mother with each child. She was supportive and encouraging. Maybe not with my older brothers and sisters entirely but by the time she got to me she understood who could and would accept the encouragement. She knew each of us was different, we were our own person, ready to live how we choose, make mistakes and decisions, and take advice, or not . I remember deciding whether I wanted to go to college or not. Her advice was simple, ‘Whatever makes you happy. You could be selling papers on a street corner and I’d be proud, once you were happy’. That was all the encouragement I needed.

My Mum’s skills were extensive and varied. She was a Manager, a Chef, a Nurse, and a Chief Financial Officer, to name a few. I’m beginning to think a Matriarch could be the choice of our next government. She was even a hairdresser, or so she told me when she’d chop my locks as a kid. My Mum was also very Loving, tender, sensitive, firm, a songbird and a lady. She did have a stubborn streak. One time my Dad and Mum had driven the five youngest kids to the beach. On the way home he and My Mum had a row over nothing. She told him to pull over and let her out. He drove off and we all cried and pleaded with him to go back for her. I laugh now but we even shouted our hatred at him for leaving her stranded. She eventually returned home late that evening. I was very young and was really concerned she’d be kidnapped or not come home at all. I was astonished that she knew her way, having to take two buses!!! I believe she even stopped over in the City Centre for some retail therapy.

‘Treat them as you’d want to be treated’.

A moral compass lay in my Mum’s heart. I don’t know what she did but she seems to have engrained that in all of her kids. Sometimes it comes under a strange field and stops working but most of the time it gets us back on the right course. My sister Karen told me of a story when some of her friends were talking badly of her. She told my Mum and her response was ‘Well if they’re talking about you love, they’re leaving someone else alone’. How cool is that?

My Mum must’ve gotten a lot of her morality from her mother, but also from her faith. She was a devote Catholic and though that religion states to love one another but sometimes doesn’t, my Mum definitely did love everyone and prayed for everyone that she felt needed it. Of course, she’d meet people she didn’t like and she didn’t quite hide that very well but she would still love them. Does that even make any sense? In my view it does. It’s difficult to explain but it’s true. I used the word Devote. I think that’s the best word to explain her conviction to her faith. We aren’t born with a religion. We learn it. And my mum learned her faith well. If others in the world considered their faiths as well as she, the human race would be better at taking care of each other and of the planet.

Her faith extended to her discipline of not using bad language. ‘Your father does enough of that for both us’, she’d say. I did hear her say ‘shit’ once. She dropped a roast chicken out of the oven. I nearly fell from my standing. She even sniggered. I used to think she didn’t have much of a sense of humour. What had I been seeing for so long? I wasn’t seeing her as a person, more as a Mother going about motherly functions. I felt I was no longer just her son after that. I was someone she could be herself around. I’d finally gotten to see her humour, where I’d never really seen it before.

‘Elephant Juice’

Of all her traits, her Love for her kids was her single most prominent one. My mum knew when to give us a hug. Her hugs were integrated in our family life as much as rows and fights were. She and my Dad knew when to tell you they loved you. (She’d Love you the most even when you hate her for saying no). ‘Elephant Juice’ was more my father’s thing. He’d mouth those words and we’d respond with ‘I Love you’ and he’d laugh and say, ‘No, Elephant Juice’. It became our fun way of saying I love you.
Don’t believe that our home was like some aspiring Brady Bunch repeat. Far from it! The Love that was spread around was distributed evenly and easily but at the right moments. There was no fear in using those 3 simple and very effective words ‘I Love You’. They weren’t used to convey one message. They weren’t just used for their literal meaning. They were used to impart support, reinforcement, strength, understanding and to apologize.

‘Children should be seen, not heard’

She’d say this but I really don’t think she believed it. She’d only use it when all of us were running ‘amuck’ in the house and screaming the place down. We were everything to my Mum. Not hearing us would’ve been worse for her.
She would do anything for us, heap loads of laundry, grilling sausages every morning for breakfast, or wrapping old duffle coats around your feet in bed after arriving back to a freezing house from a long weekend in Cork.

Road trips, excursions and mini vacations were a stable of my rearing. Both my mother and father ensured we got out of the house. It could’ve been a jaunt to Dollymount, a day trip on the DART or a holiday to Killarney. There were so many places to go and we’d been to them all. ‘You’ll see your own country first, before you see any other’, which was a nice way to say they couldn’t afford to bring us on a holiday abroad.

Another thing she’d do is bring us to Roches Stores Café, usually on the first Tuesday of the month. This didn’t happen every month mind you, and taking a child off school back then was simpler than it is nowadays. When the National Lottery launched in Ireland my Mum won over £1000 with matching 5 numbers. That was a lot of money back then (I’ve turned into Vera). On this occasion, she thought she’d treat the 3 youngest to something more special than just Ice-Cream and wafer in a small metal bowl. Instead it was time for a Pear William, the elite Roches Stores dessert, which was essentially two sliced pears from tin can, in a sundae glass with ice-cream and fresh cream. The very thought of this excited us but sadly it fell very short of the normal choice. I can recall the confused look on her face. It was precious and as young as I was I could see the glimmer of a smile emerge at the corner of her lips, secretly delighted that we wouldn’t be expecting what was considered the best dessert from the café, every time we visited. I have to admit, I did inherit her sweet tooth though. I’m quite partial to an aul coffee slice, unfortunately for my waistline. I have to couple that with being an early riser. I get up at the crack of dawn, just as she did. As soon as the sun is up.

‘I met a man today without a smile so I decided to give him mine’

Have you ever seen a parent cry before? I have but the first time was the most poignant. Close to her Sixties, my Mum started to lose her short term memory. Nothing major, just tiny lapses and small episodes. She was diagnosed with petit mal and given pills to take daily. I found it funny to think that a person with memory issues had to remember to take pills. Luckily she had my eldest sister Deirdre on hand to remind her. I’d never seen this as a particular problem until one day when she had misplaced her purse, one of many times. It was the first time I’d seen my mum weep like that before. It obviously frustrated her. Imagine what it would be like to forget where you put something but be fully aware that you had a memory loss condition. Watching the tears trickle down her cheeks was a strange sight. I’d been a fool for not seeing her self-annoyance and consoled her as best I could. After that incident I think my relationship with her grew even stronger. The generations of years between us shortened somehow.

‘Do you know who died?’

These words are uttered to almost every visiting son or daughter from an Irish mother that hasn’t seen them in a while. My Mum knew death and knew how to accept it. I might not be that accepting of it right now but I know that death is a part of life and it comes to us all. It’s was my Mum that explained that to me when her mother died. She forced me in to the open coffin to kiss my Granny on the cheek. I was afraid but she whispered in my ear, ‘This is death and you will know it. It comes to us all eventually’. I was really young but the words have stayed with me. Plus I remember understanding them. When it came to the end of her own life, I’d seen her fearlessness. She was prepared for death. I should’ve mentioned earlier that my brother Philip also died of Colon Cancer, a few years prior to my Mum. I’ve never seen her so heartbroken. Maybe she believed his death was worse than her own. I wasn’t in the hospital the day she passed away. I think I subconsciously decided not to be there. It’s conceivable that I wanted to remember her differently. From my point of view she wasn’t fighting her illness but I think that’s ok and it was her choice. It’s possible she might have been burnt out from taking care of everyone else that she was tired and she wanted to meet Death on her terms. Or she was the constant warrior and was suffering in silence. I may never know.

One of my regrets is not telling my Mum I’m gay. But she wasn’t stupid, she knew. She knew well enough, to allow me to come to terms with it, when I was ready. It was my own fear, of nothing, that stopped me from confiding in her. By the time she got sick, I didn’t tell her because I wanted her to concentrate on getting better. She definitely knows now. I’m sure she’s watching over me and I’ll never stop having a few quiet words with her before I sleep at night. I miss her more than anyone will ever know and my Love of her and for her will last forever. I walk in her shadow.

Some of the rest:

‘My Jingo!’

The fine words spoken for complete Astonishment

‘Sis she’

Absolute translation is ‘She Said’.

‘No one will play with you and you’re on your own? Well, you couldn’t have better company’

Since she was from a large family, and knowing all too well myself, it’s difficult to find ‘me’ time. My Mum must’ve known the peace of being on your own and enjoying your own company. I remember she used to take private moments with Deirdre. I’ve always wondered why she went in her room and what they discussed. Most likely to get away from the rest of us for a bit. ‘Ma’ was the most frequent word heard in our house.

‘I’m not Mandrake’

This one has to be my favourites. I had to explain the background of this recently to my sister Ann-Marie. Mandrake is a comic character, usually joined in publications with Flash Gordon. Mandrake was a magician, so now you get it right? 11 kids screaming for this and that. My Mum would announce this to us all. Essentially telling us she can’t conjure up everything thing we want.

‘This is not Woolworths café’

In other words, there isn’t a menu for dinner; you’ll get what you’re given.

‘The best cure for anger is delay’ or ‘Don’t let the sun go down on a fight.’

I’m still trying to put these to use.

‘You were well reared; you can stand with the best of them.’

I try to remember this every time that inferiority complex comes over me for particular people I meet. To be honest, I put it to good use. Another one my Mum’s brother told me was, ‘everyone has to wipe there own arses and lose all the dignity’, so we’re really all the same no matter our social stature or wealth.

‘Kill them with kindness’

I love this one. Best to use this on the rude cashier in your local supermarket. You know the one that hates his job. Don’t relish in this, it’s to be used to pass on the kindness or pass it back.

‘The devil makes use of idle hands’

I wonder if this is the reason why I’m starting to get more active with some of the projects on my site.

‘Nothing in here but a load of dirt’

Best used when you scour a full clothing store for something new to wear but find nothing.

‘It’s like Heuston Station.’

A busy train station in Dublin, quite like my family home when Christmas day arrives.

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