-Niall O'Dowd, Irish Voice newspaper
Though you were born in Jersey City, there is something about the fork in the road on the n17 on the way to your grandmother’s house in Ballyglunin near Athenry that tells you that you’ve arrived home.
You are loathe to buy into reincarnation, but there is an undeniable sense of silent company walking with you down a hill on the thin tongue of black top between Uncle Matty’s house and your grandmother’s place next door. The hills that your grandfather worked and so suddenly died on are a green patchwork, with cobblestone fences dividing the fields from our neighbors.
You can hear the soft murmur of the livestock braying at either side of you and lambs calling out for their mothers as dusk settles. A rickety car makes its way toward you and a man you do not know waves his hand in greeting anyway. That’s the kind of people that live here. The smell of the bog belches out of the chimney in soft black puffs, telling you that Granny Farragher has lit the turf fire and it is time for dinner.
You walk in and there is a weathered table on your right. There is butter and crumbs from the morning’s bread where ‘herself’ would have sit, her hawkish blue eyes devouring the contents of the newspaper that lays folded near the mug of tea. Sensing you are judging the dirty dish, there is a call for you to come into the parlor.
She is there, her hair an impossible shade of brownish red that is pulled back into a hard bun. She tried going to her natural color once and when she saw pictures of the gray hair at 87 she exclaimed, “jaysis, who is that old woman staring me in the face” before quickly dyeing it again.
Her thin frame is perpetually in motion, contained within a thick blue apron of a dress that she wears regardless of the weather. She smokes half of an unfiltered cigarette, the other part of the ‘fag’ with the filter in the top drawer because it is her way of only smoking half of what she used to.
With a knowing glance here and a head gesture over there, she directs the aunts in putting out the big spread without ever saying a word.