Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Past

Since I was in Tunisia earlier this year, then Paris and will be off to London later in the year I decided I should do the family thing and visit the important people in my life that I don't see enough.

My grandfather has not been too well lately. He's 87 and spent 86 of those years eating enough high cholesterol food to kill an rhinoceros. Fortunately for him he has the constitution of an Elephant. Unfortunately time has caught up with him and in the last few months his heart has been causing him some problems. Suddenly my last surviving grandparent isn't immortal and I realise that I haven't spent as much time with him as I should have in the last few years, especially since I moved to Dublin.

Therefore I thought it would be worth taking some time and visit him. On Tuesday I went with my Grandfather and my Mum for a drive around the area he has lived in all his life. Its a secluded part of the country and as we drove my Grandfather would point into empty fields, down overgrown long unused laneways, and through forestry planted fields. He would explain how 80 years ago my great-grandparents lived down there with their fruit trees. How over that hill was the house where my great-great grandmother lived. How a fertile green field in the middle of useless bog was land drained by a man 50 years ago "and he did a grand job of it". How that man died in an accident and wasn't found for days. How there used to be a house in another field that was a good place for the boys on the run from "the Tans". And on and on through the locality.

It was a history lesson of a countryside that has died, the young people moved to towns, the old people passed on. So slowly the the houses fell into disrepair and were abandoned and knocked down. Now few people are left that remember that past. It wasn't a glorious history but it was a personal history of far more relevance to me than distant wars, and politics. I know that when my Grandfather does pass away not just a person will die, but one of the last routes into a long lost community of many people will die with him. Its a shame that we dont appreciate the simple history of our localities and families as much as global history.

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