In the time after the funeral, after the people who had attended and passed on their condolences to Tackas and Paddy, and after the procession to the cemetery to lay Mary to rest, the boys led everyone who was interested and it seemed to me about everyone back to Mary’s house where a wake was to be held.
Through the generosity of neighbours the wake was organised while the boys laid their mother to rest.
During this time I met some amazing people.
Mary had been surrounded by some truly wonderful people. Jana who lived next door had taken the preparation of the wake under her wing. Jana was a truly remarkable woman, incredibly generous and compassionate, she told the boys to go do what they had to do for their mother and leave the rest to her and her band of helpers.
There was Briano, the elderly neighbour who cried rivers of tears when told of Mary’s passing, but he put in to get all the alcohol organised and it seemed a labour of love for Briano who approached his task with great gusto and dedication.
Jana’s right hand girl was this curious woman called Isabella who had lived in France and was now for reasons I didn’t quiet grasp now living in the same street as Mary.
Tackas’ cousins, Jenny and Helen had organised so much of the service at the church, and Jenny had been a great help to Tackas and Paddy in getting the funeral service so beautifully organised. His cousin Helen was very beautiful woman, somewhat aloof but at the same time possessing a most beautiful singing voice sang during the service and her singing brought tears to my ears so filled with emotion was it.
It was essentially a meeting of family and Mary’s neighbours. It was the most fun filled and laughter riddled wake I had ever been to.
Paddy welcomed everyone, said they were to eat and drink to Mary’s memory as she would have insistent that ‘all the feckers who turn up for me wake better be pissed with a gutful before the evenings over, I’m tellin’ you that now’
One after another the people came forward with their own Mary story. Briano remembered the boys coming home from school one day and complaining to their mother that the teacher had hit Paddy with a ruler. So up to the school went Mary, her boys in each hand and presented herself to the teacher. ‘Listen here you dumb feck, where do you get off hitting my boy?’ He was so taken aback by her outrage that he ran from the room and refused to speak with her again. Then again the boys were never hit at school again, and they both got good grades.
Jana, who Paddy referred to as living saint, recalled coming to see Mary one day and finding her tablets spread all over the table. When she asked Mary why the tablets were all over the table Mary had replied, “those feckers at the hospital think I’m a retard, the dumb fecks, look here Jana, you see those blue ones and those red ones? Well they have to taken in the morning, the green and white ones in the afternoon and the red, the white round and the white oblong in the evening. What Mary had done was put the tablets in piles in various parts of the kitchen table she recognised as morning, lunch and dinner.
It was a wonderful afternoon of cheer and drinking, a lot of drinking and in amongst the many stories about Mary there was Tackas. By late in the afternoon he was well and truly plastered. And a plastered Tackas was a very mournful Tackas.
I found him sitting in the corner with another neighbour Rosy who for reasons best known to her had attached herself to Tackas listening intently to what ever it was that was coming out of his mouth. Thinking she may need rescuing I went over:
‘She was the best mother a man could ask for you know that Rosy, of course you do, you knew her too didn’t ya. A wonderful woman, she could do anything you know. A feckin miracle was what she was. A feckin miracle.
Did I ever tell you about the day she took us fishin’? Mammy loved fishin’.
Well this day she took us out in a boat she borrowed and along with her fishing gear, just a few reels you know, mammy never went in for any fancy rods and shit like that. She’s say: “The little feckers will jump on anything you give ‘em the right bait. Why the feck would I be wasting me money on a feckin’ rod for feck’s sake.”
You remember my mammy don’t you Rosy, she was a beautiful woman, that’s right isn’t it. You’ll back me up on that wont you Rosy? Of course she was.
Anyway now where the feck was I?
Oh yeah, we went fishin’ didn’t we. So mammy gets the fishin’ gear and bought some worms on the way down to the boat, she love the worms you know, loved the worms.
Anyway that day she takes a hessian bag to carry home the fish you see. My mother was a wonderful woman Rosy; did I ever tell you that?
Ok, anyway so off we goes in the little boat, I was rowing out to the third peg she’d say. Now why the feck the third peg I was never sure about apart from it being where she’d heard the fish were bitin’.
So I was rowing and it was feck of a distance but I made it. Mammy had her reel out, worm impaled on the hook and she cast it out.
You wouldn’t believe it but within seconds, seconds I tell ye, there was a bite. Mammy hauls in the fish, lovely size, though mammy wasn’t all that concerned about size, if she thought if it fitted on a plate she’d keep it.
So the afternoon went like that, mammy’d cast, haul in a fish, cast out, haul in, it was the best days fishin’ I’d ever been on I can tell ya.
I think I’d counted about twenty before she said: “I think that’s enough, now we can’t be greedy Shaun.”
Mammy had a fair heart; I’ll give her that. The hessian bag she had hangin’ over the side of the boat so the caught fish could be kept wet and fresh until it was time to clean them. Mammy was always insistent on cleaning the feckers before we’d heard for home as she says Shaun, bring that bag in and we’ll clean the little feckers ‘afore ya row back home.
So I brings in the bag, and dumped it into the bottom of the boat. There were two fish floppin’ about.
“What the feck,” she screamed and holds up the bag to discover there a whole in the bottom of the fecker.
I mean we’d spend a good couple of hours out there fishin for these two fish.
Mammy was fuming; there was steam comin’ out her ears she was so livid. Then she started laughin’. I couldn’t see anything funny.
She grabbed hold of one fish and looked at it square in the eye and says to it, “I knowed I’d seen you before. I been catchin’ ya all afternoon, you bin, swimming out the bottom of me bag and jumpin’ on me hook again ya little fecker.”
That’s the sort of woman me mammy was Rosy, a beautiful woman with a wicked sense of humour.
She put up with a lot ya know. Me and Paddy, well me more than Paddy, I was a right feck at times. I gave her a hard time, she was glad I think when I went to Australia. She suggested it, said plenty of Irish had gone there and made something of themselves, like me cousin Michael and his family, all six kids he has turned out ok. I visited him once but I couldn’t stand all those kids at me all the time.
Me mother Rosy was a wonderful woman, did I tells you that today?
Twenty times? Really should be a hundred and twenty.’
Tackas went on like this for some time and eventually as the friends and neighbours left he was sound asleep on the lounge. Jana and I helped cleanup. Her helpers were also a bit the worse for wear, Cousin Jenny was asleep under Mary’s table and Paddy pointed out that the sight of a grown woman under the kitchen table was not uncommon with Cousin Jenny.
Eventually it was just Paddy, Jana and myself. We cleaned up, washed and put everything away.
There was still time for one more drink; we toasted Mary, toasted Tackas, because of his wonderful eulogy and we toasted the success of the whole afternoon.
We all agreed we’d given Mary a good send off.