Margaret O’Driscoll and Peggy McCarthy, currently students on the MA in Creative Writing, write about the family in crisis and the ties that bind.
The Day Daddy Cried
I only saw my father cry, once –
bolting past us in the kitchen
to the coal room out back,
his sobbing a runnel around our house
after getting the message from Dunne’s
shop to phone his brother.
I coiled against my mother,
what’s wrong with Daddy I whispered,
she blamed it on the onion he had been chopping earlier.
She swore it, so I rummaged for that onion
in the bucket kept for our hens, found one
under peelings and withering cabbage leaves,
I needed to keep stomping it
flatter than my sandcastles.
When my father emerged, shrunk into himself,
red-faced, his two eyes like trapped birds,
I took a few steps towards him
squeezing the onion tightly in my fist
in case I burst, then backed away.
Margaret O’ Driscoll
It was the view in the mirror that scuppered her as she drove away.
No more false starts and idle planning. Months and years caught in the bind of wanting to go and needing to stay. She was still young enough, it wasn’t too late, not nowadays. She knew she could find a new life somewhere else.
It had always been just the two of them. The years had piled in slowly and maybe he walked with a little less vim these days, but he was still solid and strong, stronger than most men his age. Since he’d retired, he’d become quite a good cook, obsessively watching every cookery programme on television from the mundane to the exotic.
‘I’m a man who knows his way around the kitchen,’ he’d boast.
He could drive, sometimes ferrying neighbours to and from hospital appointments. When he was caught for speeding last November, he strongly resented having a licence that wasn’t ‘clean’.
He protested to the garda, ‘I was driving lorries up and down the country before some of you bucks were born!’
So today was the day. She was finally set to go.
Just before she rounded the bend and home leaked out of sight, she caught a glimpse of his waving left hand drop slowly across his eyes as he sank down on the low white-washed wall like a balloon deflating. Jerry, she had always called him, not Dad. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel and shifted gear.