I have just returned from a road trip, a family road trip in which my younger brother, my mother and I traveled for what seemed like six weeks to Donegal, (it was in reality an eight and a half hour round trip, but you get my drift). We were traveling to a relatives funeral, someone who we remembered very fondly from our childhood days.
The funeral was in Killybegs the home of my father. It’s a place in Co Donegal which is synonymous with fishing and beautiful scenery. I must admit, despite the sad occasion, I looked forward to seeing it once more, for here I spent many wonderful days of Summer as a child playing with my cousins.
This was also the first home in Ireland my mother and father shared, in what my mother and others still refer to as, ‘the little white house on the hill’. They were the parents to two little girls at the time, living a stones throw from grandparents and family. My father was involved in the boatyard, and they were so very happy there. However my Dad was offered a better position in Dublin, which at the time was close to six hours away, and they decided, to see if it would suit. So off he went, leaving a wife and young family behind, to check it out.
At a time when fathers were not exactly hands on, my Dad bucked the trend. He was very kind and loving, very much a family man. I can only imagine how hard it was for him to leave. History tells us that the job was what he wanted and so he sent for the three ladies in his life to join him. They would, in time be followed by three more, myself included. I would grow up to consider myself a Dubliner, but forever hold a place for Donegal in my heart.
What it took for my parents to leave that idylic spot to move to Dublin, I cannot properly imagine. Here is an excerpt from a letter my father sent my mom, the very last letter he would ever send to ‘the little white house on the hill.
‘Before I began to write this letter I made a point of addressing the envelope, addressed to home, for never again will I write to you to the same address. There is no need to go over all the happy memories, there is no writing pad big enough to write them all in.
Soon, very soon we will go, we will go as quickly and as quietly as we can. If houses had feelings we would have to tip toe out and close the door softly to save being heard, but houses have no such feelings, only fools such as ourselves”.
“In time we will have a home of our own, and the girls will regard it as their only home, but each time we pass the little white house on the hill, we will remember. We will remember the carefree, happy days, the stormy nights, the view from the window with the moon shining on the water. We will see again tiny hands picking daisies, playing with same, or gently swinging to and fro on the swing with the familiar hills in the background”.
Yesterday we returned to my fathers childhood home and drove past the little white house. It is neither little nor white any longer, but passing it I could picture the house we know from old photographs. I turned to look at the beautiful view over the bay, with those hills my father spoke of opposite, and I wondered at how my mother felt, sitting in the front seat, remembering. Throughout the day I carried my Dad in my heart as I breathed in the fish air, as I looked out at the trawlers, as I gazed across at the boatyard, and walked the path outside his home.
Later, as I was leaving the church I had a change of mind. Walking against the crowds up to the altar I paused a moment. This was the same church my father had been brought to as a baby to be baptised. The church he had stood as best man to his brother, the day he married. The church he had grown up in.
I picked up a candle and lit it. Walking away I smiled as I thought ‘Welcome home Dad, I hope you have enjoyed your visit’.
Yes I am back. It’s been a hectic three days. I’ve not been online as such so I’m looking forward to catching up with my reading… if that is at all possible.