The People of a Place

We approached an Irish monument.  I’m always excited to see the world as it used to be, or relics of it and use my imagination to create how I think it was.  It was late in the day and only stragglers wandered about.  As I stepped through the gates I could see an elderly man maneuvering by hand, a trailer.  The kind you hitch onto the back of your car.  As he was moving it I saw a cane propped against one of the tires, the cane fell and the trailer was going to roll over it.  I hurried to the cane, picked it up, and handed it to him.  He was bent over the tongue of the trailer, as he stood up, he still remained a bit hunched.   He was a good 4 or more inches shorter than I.  I asked if ‘we’ could help him knowing full well my husband, brother and his wife would assist.  He refused each time I asked/offered.  He was pleasant, witty and told me to go enjoy myself.  He seemed capable and insistent on sending me on my way.   We parted with smiles.  I felt a little guilty, but he seemed to want to get on with his work.

When we left the ancient site, there was a bathroom across the not-so-busy road.  I crossed and walked around the public restrooms to enter.  There, outside of the facilities, on a low wall, sat my older friend.   I stopped to talk with him.  After a few minutes I asked if I could sit next to him.  He graciously turned himself so we would be sitting in a more suitable for conversation direction, towards one another.  We sat hip to hip, thigh to thigh.  At one point he leaned into me slightly.

Paddy told me about himself.  He is 87 years old, as is his wife.  They had eleven children, but one died in an accident some time ago.  His son was buried in the cemetery I had just come from.  One of his other sons, Oliver, was working with him on the grounds keeping.  This wasn’t an easy task.  The grass was aplenty, thick, and lots of it.  They were clearing the bank behind the restrooms and parking lot.  Later, he told us he was the caregiver for the monument.  The government wouldn’t pay for anyone to clean this area.  Paddy thought it was disgraceful for the government to let it get so bad.  So he and Oliver mowed it and cleaned it up.  They had been there all day and would remain until it was completed.

Paddy and his wife have been married over 60 years.  As we talked my husband, brother and sister in law caught up with me and I introduced them to Paddy.  We all talked for some time.  I again offered to help him and Oliver, he declined the offer.  He did, however, tell me that my sitting with him and talking with him was the best part of his day, which made my day.  He shared how he has been sick, with a chest infection.  He assured me that he was at the tail end of it and I had nothing to worry about, I wasn’t worried I assured him.

I sat there listening to Paddy, I could hear the slight wheeze in his breath.  It’s why he was sitting when I found him the second time.  He needed to rest he had told me.

I have been trying to figure out how to honor Paddy, and the others that I have met in my current travels.  We have traveled to ‘see’ as much as we could while here.  But each leg of our journey has brought us to true monuments, this Paddy, and his son Oliver.  Interestingly enough we met another Paddy and Oliver, Frank, Keef, and Gordon and Lesley, Rebecca, Gearoid and Gerard, and Rodger.  The list of names goes on, each with an engaging story.  They are the people of a place.  They are the salt.  The flavor.  The beauty.  The best way I can honor them is to acknowledge them, and thank them.  It is the people of a place that welcome you and accept you, encourage you to be there, and share with you their heritage.

When we said our goodbyes I turned back and saw that Paddy was up and returning to work.  We loaded into our cars.  As we drove away I saw 87 year old Paddy pushing the wheelbarrow with tools in it, having cleaned the entire grounds and leaving it tidy and neat.

Paddy.  A true monument for Ireland.