Tackas would be the first person to tell you he didn’t like flying. But I managed to get him organised and to the airport.
In the days before we left I had never seen him so tense.
‘Clancy do you think she’ll know me?’
He must have asked that question fifty times and each time I had to reassure him that your mother would always know you. But still he worried about that and about of all things his car. Where to leave it, would he get one of the boys to care for it, lock in a garage or just leave out in the street like he always did.
‘I’m not leaving the feckin thing with those feckers Clancy I’m telling you now, no telling what them fecking bastards would be doing with the poor thing.’
To Tackas his car was like a child and he treated it accordingly. Every Sunday morning he be out the front washing it, we used to joke he’d wash the duco off if he kept it up.
‘Now what would feckers know about a car and its care. You can barely look after yourselves, ya poor fecks.’
And so the banter would go on as we sat on the veranda of his house watching him meticulously wash and rub down his pride and joy.
Ultimately Timmy was decreed the most trustworthy and was given the keys and made to take an oath on his mothers grave to care for the car, to start the engine on Sundays and Wednesdays and to not let anyone sit in it. Tackas was very particular.
On the plane he sat staring ahead, every so often looking at his watch as if wishing the time would go by quicker than it actually was.
On long plane trips there is always plenty to eat, it seems they are always feeding you, probably to get you take your mind off the long flight, but to Tackas the food was a life saver. He devoured every thing they put in front of him and sipped on a beer most of the time beer was available.
‘You ok?’ I’d ask every so often as he was unusually quiet.
‘Course I am ya dumb feck. Just let me be gettin’ on with it will ya.’
What ‘getting’ on with it ‘ actually meant I was never certain so I resolved to sit back and sleep as much as I could until the landing announcement was made. Tackas stayed awake the whole time. It was as if he felt the plane would land and he’d forget to get off if he should fall asleep.
Eventually we arrived in Dublin. From Dublin it was a two hour train ride to his home town. He was now on familiar territory and took over as tour guide, showing me the way and pointing out land marks that meant something to an Irishman but nothing to me.
At one point he spoke on his phone to his brother in a language I didn’t know he spoke and after what seemed to me a series of grunts he hung up and sat back.
‘She’s not going so good Clancy. Me brothers just saying she might not last beyond taday.’
‘We’ll make it Tackas, we’ll make it, and I think your mum is probably hanging on for you.’
‘Oh Clancy lad, I’m not sure I can do this. I’m shittin’ meself I am.’
‘Tackas, your mum will be there.’
Then he sat quiet, and I knew that inside that head of his there were thoughts in turmoil. Thoughts he’d been putting off, thoughts which he knew he was going to have to deal with very soon, today in fact.
At the station we were met by Paddy, Tackas’ brother. They embraced, a few words were spoken, Paddy shook my hand and we were off in Paddy’s car to the hospital.
The brother drove in silence the whole way. Tackas said nothing but rather sat staring straight ahead at the road.
There was a sense of urgency about the whole business as Paddy drove like a man possessed through narrow streets and I was so relieved when he finally stopped outside the St James Hospital.
I walked behind the two brothers who still had not said a lot.
We reached a room where Paddy intimated their mother was. Tackas stood at the door and I was standing behind him.
Through the doorway I could see a bed in which lay a small wizen old lady. Tackas just stood there and looked. Finally Paddy said to him, ‘Shaun you better go say hello to your mam.’
Tackas took a step back almost landing on my foot. I took his arm and said; ‘Come on mate, it’s your mum.’
I felt myself give him a gentle push and then he was there beside the bed, his mum looking up at him. She lifted a bony hand towards him and he reached out and held his mum’s hand. I watched as the two of them spoke, I knew Tackas was doing it hard as I could see his mum stop every one often and say something that comforted him.
Then he turned to me and beckoned me over. He introduced me and the same bony hand reached out and took my hand, it was warm, and strong for someone so frail. She drew me closer and said, “Thank you Clancy for bringing my son to me. He is a timid little boy you know, he probably puts on a show of bravado but he’s really a soft child. You look after him for me will you. He says you look out for him and I think that is just the thing.’
‘Yes Mrs Tackas,’ I said.
‘Tackas?’ she said, ‘Is that what you thought was our name, be gone with ya, the silly feck, it’s Tackan be our name. We all get called Tackas, I’m Mary Tackan, so you be callin’ me Mary, you hear?’
And to my surprise she burst out in a chuckle that racked her entire body, she had nurses running everywhere, it seemed Mary hadn’t laughed in quite a while.
The afternoon passed slowly. Tackas sat beside his mum and the two of them chatted away, Tackas telling her of his time in Australia. I went off to find a bite to eat and to bring something back for Tackas.
Around six o’clock we could see that his mum was very tired and Tackas had tried to give her some dinner but she wasn’t very interested. The nurses advised us to go and to give Mary some rest, after all she had had a big afternoon.
As we walked out I looked back and saw that Mary was watching us as we left. There was a glint in her eye that I recognised Tackas also possessed.
It’s called love.