I couldn't write about her without writing about him. At some point normal service may resume.
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Tissue paper hands, a round big belly and a bald head was Finghin, my grandfather. He had a good face, and my granny said that was why she married him. He had a great voice but never sang, a warm heart but I never saw him kiss. He was as stubborn as older gentlemen had every right to be but whatever she wanted, any thing she needed, he gave to her.
When I think of him now he's reading. It infuriated me as a child. I'd walk into that kitchen on the other side with a packet of Eclairs, offer him one, and wait five minutes until he'd looked over every last ingredient, carbohydrate percentage and best before date. I used to think Corn Flakes boxes were written just for him.
He's in my earliest memory, my hand in his, walking around Funderland. I must have been four or five. I used to fall asleep to the sounds of his tummy while he watched Highway To Heaven with her, and constantly harass him to bring me for drives.
"I'm bored!" I'd say. "Read a book!" he'd say. "But I'm only SEVEN!"
"Let me tell you something. Throughout your life, as long as you have a book to read, you will never be bored."
Then he'd relent and bring me to the Phoenix Park with a stick for conkers, or elsewhere, but he never did it without playing the book card first.
He made furniture, the best of which a great big desk that resides in Limerick now. It had four drawers on each side, and a middle one for lighters, pens, ink, papers and nonsense. He even fitted it with a clandestine hideaway for his whiskey. It was so secret that only he and my da knew where it was. My granny's blind eye turned to it. She was gone to bed by then.
He'd come back from "Superquinn's" with random rubbish that would never be heard from again. There was a can of Spam, two unopened cans of McArdles ale and a single packet of Smash in their utility room as long as I knew them.
We used him, myself and the girls, for homework duty. He could never turn us down. He'd start off by trying to talk us through it, but in the end we'd just come back and collect it when he was done.
He got older and weaker but the books and the steady hand remained until the end. The best intellect I'll ever encounter too, even if I live to his eighty years.
He passed away in Limerick on the fifth of December in 1996, five months after my granny. He was in his bed, reading, when it happened.