Mary Elizabeth Tackan
My mother Mary was born in 1925 in the town of Loughrea in country Galway. She grew up with an older brother Bill, who is sadly passed now.
My mam lived in what in those years would have been a comfortable family.
Her mother was an enterprising and social woman and their home was complete with a tennis court and mam spent many an afternoon and weekend out on the tennis court. She would even receive phone calls from her mother asking her to come home during her lunch break to make up a foursome for a game.
My mother was given an elementary education, which in her day meant she could read and write. More importantly she was taught by her own mam the art of housekeeping, repairing and fixing all and everything you could possibly imagine.
And she could fix most things, from the toaster, the washing machine to the taps and the toilet. Unblocking the toilet she was very adept at.
She could cook anything and it was always a grand feast even on those nights where she didn’t have much but we always felt we ate like kings.
My brother and I both know of the sacrifices she made to give us the things we have in life. She was fierce about education; she pushed us out the door every morning no matter what we said was wrong with us telling us ‘you’ll be alright once you get going.’
She did work, before she met my dad she worked in an office as I said before not too far from home where she would ride her bike back and forth, quickly enough it seems to get in a game of tennis during lunch.
She met my dad when he and some mates came to town to attend a dance one summers night. She fell in love with the handsome young man, who was shy and stumbled over his first request to ask her to dance.
They married six months later in St Joseph’s Church and settled here in town.
And so married life began. Soon there was a small boy called Patrick, Paddy, and two years later meself.
Because mam was a sporty type of person we were all encouraged to play a sport.
Paddy became a tennis payer like mam, and me well I was more into football and that’s where she was happy to send me.
Our mother was a fiercely political woman and I am going to use a few of her sayings here so please excuse the Irish, of politicians she’d say: ’You could trust the feckers as far as ya could throw them, and you’d never be able to chuck the feckers far enough then.’
On sport she’s say: ‘Now listen you boys you got to get out there and do of ya best, you hear me, no mamby pamby excuses for getting hurt or not havin’ a go, I want you to come off bloody.’ I should point out that our mam didn’t mean literally bloody, though she probably wouldn’t have minded as she did enjoy a good donnybrook, but rather she wanted to see us come off the field exhausted from giving our best.
‘I don’t care how hard you play, and how disgusted you might be by your efforts, as remember this boys the best players have a bad day every so often, but I’ll tan your fecking hides if I don’t see ya’s shaking hands with your opponents, when the games over, its over, none of this sulking and picking a fight, or you’ll be havin one with me.’
It was this quality that endeared us to our mam, and which we hold as a truth, play hard, play fair but always be gracious in victory or defeat. We have our mam to thank for that quality about us both. And believe me we’ve had more than our fair share of defeats.
When Mam was diagnosed with her cancer, we were shocked, Mam was philosophical.
‘I’m not getting any younger boys in case ya’s haven’t noticed. Something’s gonna get me in the end you know, I wont live forever, God forbid. But this feckers gonna know what he’s about by the time he’s finished with me.’
And so our mam set out on her hardest fight of all. She went to and received every treatment she could. She never complained, she fought with every inch of her being.
Our mam’s the bravest person I’ve ever known.
She stayed with us up until the end. She was so pleased to see me when I returned, I now feel some pangs of guilt over not coming home earlier, but she said to me, ‘Shaun, you go through life doing what you do, you take responsibility for you, the rest of us feckers can go feck ourselves because in the end, my boy, its you who has to live. You will live beyond me, you will grow to be a man I know I will proud of, you do what you believe is right. The rest will sort itself out in time.’
When Paddy and I were called into the hospital, we knew what we were in for, but as always our mam surprised us, she stirred when we arrived, it was like she was expecting us. Paddy and I sat either side of her, we held her hands, and she held ours, I could feel her grip, then she looked at each of us, smiled, and I saw what I will always know was her love given to us at that moment, like we were to hold it within us. Her grip lessened and she slipped from us. After such a long fight, she was ready to go and leave us with the greatest legacy of all, her love.