I don’t think I really be­lieve in the no­tion of a truer, deeper self

The Irish Times - - Lifefriday - Hi­lary Fan­nin

I find it hard to re­call any of those child­hood times of care­less in­sou­ciance that some peo­ple cher­ish and rem­i­nisce about

I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out if I agree with the no­tion that the death of both par­ents can be a cat­a­lyst to be­com­ing one’s truest, deep­est self.

I sat out­side a cafe on the pier last week­end, idling, watch­ing a woman of my vin­tage park her car in the dis­abled space, place a per­mit on the dash and dis­em­bark, pulling her coat tight against a mean wind that was yo-yoing the seag­ulls up and down over the fish boxes.

I watched her pa­tiently help an el­derly woman from the pas­sen­ger seat and wrap a scarf around her neck, and I kept watch­ing as they walked hand in hand through the salted air to­wards the fish shops. Who’s to say, I thought, that those two woman, most prob­a­bly a mother and daugh­ter, aren’t be­ing their truest, deep­est selves with each slow step to­wards the salmon darnes?

I walked home along the beach, ne­go­ti­ated dry rock pools and en­thu­si­as­tic un­bounded hounds, stop­ping at the dis­used slip­way to look at the wet sand, pock­marked with lug­worm cast­ings. A pale yel­low re­triever bounded over to see if I was ed­i­ble. A hand­some, sym­pa­thetic dog, he looked like he could rus­tle up a spaghetti Bolog­nese, un­cork a bot­tle of plonk and sit with you late into the length­en­ing au­tumn night dis­cussing the ten­u­ous con­cept of true selves.

“I have noth­ing to give you,” I apol­o­gised. “No doggy bis­cuits or saliva-threaded ten­nis ball. I’m sorry.”

He stood look­ing at me, head cocked, un­til his owner whis­tled from the depths of his wa­ter­proof jacket. The dog de­parted, his wet, dis­ap­pointed eyes re­mind­ing me of a nun I once knew.

Later, ly­ing on the shabby couch in my kitchen, ig­nor­ing the iron­ing and the aban­doned potato moul­der­ing un­der the press, left there so long it was grow­ing ten­ta­cles and dig­ging it­self into the foun­da­tions, I ten­ta­tively asked if any­one would like to get a dog.

Ig­nored

The cat looked so hor­ri­fied you’d think I’d eaten the last sa­chet of her pul­verised goat gen­i­talia. One of my sons ig­nored me com­pletely (ac­tu­ally, I think he’s de­vel­oped some kind of in­ter­nal fre­quency blocker that au­to­mat­i­cally mutes any­thing that comes out of my mouth) and, all in all, the gen­eral con­sen­sus seemed to be that no one rel­ished the idea of pick­ing steam­ing dog s**t up off the streets and pop­ping it into scented nappy sacks. So that was the end of that.

I had a dog when I was 13, a black Labrador. I loved him with the kind of ar­dour only 13-year-old girls can truly muster. Ours was a mad, toxic kind of love. I had been lonely – our home had been re­pos­sessed, my older sib­lings had scat­tered, even the fur­ni­ture had left.

We’d moved, my par­ents and I, to a rented cot­tage on the edge of a cliff. I didn’t see my friends, who were far away in a street-lit sub­urb, and the nuns had ex­pelled me when my fa­ther was no longer able to pay the fees for the smug pri­vate school he had mis­guid­edly sent me to.

The ad­vent of the dog, though, with his bound­less en­thu­si­asm and in­sane af­fec­tion, was enough to com­pen­sate for all of it. We’d go to the beach, the dog and I, and he’d sniff out the swim­mers’ care­fully tucked-away un­der­wear and eat it, be­fore bury­ing their shoes in the sand. It was bril­liant. We were pi­rates.

He was killed chas­ing the lit­tle lo­cal bus that whipped my mother and I away to the su­per­mar­ket, mis­tak­ing it, I sup­pose, for a mon­strous ri­val.

Grief

I re­mem­ber the grief. I re­mem­ber the hope­less­ness. I re­mem­ber the bru­tal ac­tu­al­ity of fur and blood.

I find my­self remembering a lot these days, spliced-up im­ages from ear­lier years bun­dled up with re­cent mem­o­ries of death. I find it hard to re­call any of those child­hood times of care­less in­sou­ciance that some peo­ple cher­ish and rem­i­nisce about.

Not to say that I was un­happy; just cau­tious and watch­ful.

That dog, though, brought some won­der­ful an­ar­chy to our lives; he ate up sad­ness with the same rel­ish as a pair of dis­creetly se­creted frilly knick­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t think the free­dom to be­come one’s truest, deep­est self lies in pet own­er­ship. In fact, I don’t think I really be­lieve in the no­tion of a truer, deeper self at all.

I think life con­tin­u­ously con­strains and re­leases. It’s just the slow ad­just­ment to the un­fa­mil­iar that takes get­ting used to, the tremor of pos­si­bil­ity when you re­alise you’re off the leash.

We’d go to the beach, the dog and I, and he’d sniff out the swim­mers’ care­fully tucked-away un­der­wear and eat it

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.