Tom waits as scarecrow
Family Life Personal

What Will I Take With Me When I Go?

I have lots left to do and lots that will be left undone

In our estate there is a house. And in that house there is a home. But it is a home with something missing. Someone forever gone and forever unforgotten.

It is a handsome three-bedroomed corner townhouse. Different from most of the other houses. Outside and in.

In it lives a still young enough Dad and his half-grown son. Mom passed a year ago. Cancer.

In the house just across the way, a man still in his early 40s lost his wife some years previously, to leukemia. When she died, aged 40, she left a son not long past toddling age and his sister a couple of years older.

Their stories, their tragedies.

I looked across at the corner townhouse this morning as I walked Stadler and Waldorf, aka our doggie duo Bella and Lily.

I took in the tall two-story edifice, the red-bricked bottom half and the plastered walls of the second storey, still pristine and creamy white, unlike the wine-red lichen-pocked facades of the adjoining abodes.

The mother of the house had a job done on the lichen about three years ago.

As we ourselves did.

A small company was in the estate cleaning the outside of a number of houses that were being remediated for pyrite.

Spotting a business opportunity, the head guy came door to door offering to clean down the outside of our houses using a super duper technique for which he claimed to be the sole agent in Ireland. Or something like that. They would do it for half the usual price, for €300.

We went for it, the only ones in our cul de sac to do so, and we still see the benefits every time we walk towards our house on the park side of our estate: those walls still creamy white, bright and gleaming.

And I got to thinking about the passage of time. And my lichen-stained bones that no super duper process can rescue from the ultimate in time’s ravages.

We all have to die sometime, but, as Leonard Cohen said, there’s no need to participate so actively in the process.

I grow old, as must those of us who remain.

I ache in places and all that, but it’s much better than the alternative.

Hopefully, I have still much to do, see and experience.

But who knows?

Those who know me know my age, or can make a damn good guess,  but I have never revealed my age in these ramblings here.

I think of my old Aunt Nancy who died aged 104, but would not give away her age for years because she felt  – and she was right – that people treated her differently when  they thought she was “elderly”. Took her less seriously.

And this was a woman who had many, many golden years to come when her husband was cut down with a stroke, and she embarked with gusto on a new phase in life as carer, stroke club founder and all-round force of nature.

She drove till she was in her mid-90s and only stopped when the doctor eventually made her.

No … no … I am nowhere near that ancient, but I am nonetheless an older dad, to two young teenagers, still in the low foothills of life’s vast mountain of adventures.

I am conscious that my time is limited, and so find myself sometimes not taking in the milestones on our kids’ journeys as deeply as I should, because I want to get on to the next ones. To not miss out on seeing them grow  … to adulthood and beyond.

Like those two Moms in our estate.

I suppose I have to separate those aspects of my life that will respond to a good shake-up, hose down and lichen removal process, and those irredeemable ravages or losses I cannot avoid, or resist.

And endeavour to make the best of what I have got, for as long as I have it, maybe.

So to ponder or contain those mixed feelings of the other evening when my daughter and her pals clopped into the kitchen in their made-made-up finery, to say good-bye before they went out to a friend’s Mom’s birthday party in a function room down town.

My daughter looked so pretty and I wanted to cry, without being seen, and I smiled deeply and fearfully inside. Taking in her peachy-creamy young beauty and thinking of all that life has in store for her and her cohorts, her brother too.

Good and bad.

Some of these things I will witness, or share with them. Others …

I pondered too the lichen that will attach itself in time to that zestful beauty and the cracks and fissures that will come.

Some removable, some not.

And not all of which I can help them with, no matter how long I stick around.

Still better than the alternative.

As I hasten down the ages, I know that old seniority and its slowing down and ultimate stillness are not that far away.

Indeed it’s a lot closer chronologically than my own first giddy forays into a crazy world of heart-jumping longing, love and loss, uncharted adventure and accidental career paths.

And yet, those indelible days of first kisses and last buses are forever fresh in the recalling.

And I think again of those indomitable white-haired ladies singing at Aunt Nancy’s funeral, a song called Where We’ll Never Grow Old, and the sweetly melancholy  of the words they sang with all their beating hearts:

All our sorrow will end and our voices will blend

With the loved ones who’ve gone on before

Never grow old …

 And the celebratory lament that is one of my favourite Tom Waits songs, Take it With Me, comes to my mind, and the lines:

Children are playing at the end of the day

Strangers are singing on our lawn

It’s got to be more than flesh and bone

All that you’ve loved is all you own

Not a young man’s song, but not an old one’s either.

One still gathering lichen.

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About endardoo

A newspaper sub-editor for many years, I am now a freelance sub-editor, blogger and content writer. Husband of one and house daddy of two: a feisty, style-crazy 14-year-old girl and a football nut of a boy aged 13. My website: endastories.com.

48 comments on “What Will I Take With Me When I Go?

  1. A lovely post, Enda. We all have thoughts of our own mortality, I don’t think there is anything wrong in that. It doesn’t help that you have those tragic reminders so close by though. You have many more years left in you, I’m sure (and although I won’t tell anyone I do know how old you are from clues you’ve given in comments to me!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful post, Enda. It brought tears to my eyes. I was the opposite as you – a very young mom, still in my teens. I was 27 when my youngest was born. I have felt the same feelings you have for your children, only I feel them now for my grandchildren.

    I don’t know your age, but I’m going to guess – 52. Close?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful post, Enda. Maybe it’s the impending beauty of Spring, in all of its warmth and glory, that has us geezers (sorry to put us there) waxing eloquent… I have so many of these very same thoughts. Again, bravo. #globalblogging xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seán G. MacAoire

    Close, but you’ll not be collecting any coconuts soon! Didn’t even feel the breeze! From one who knows where to throw!

    My youngsters a little older, not necessarily more beauteous. The thoughts on my part not any less pessimistic! I expect I may be called to the song contest in the sky a bit earlier, but then again, maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Danny Kuhn

    Beautiful piece, Enda.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a deep and reminiscent post. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  7. beautifully written – a beautiful read . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Death seems almost ever present at the moment, with the famous faces of my youth making their exits, most of them much too soon, it seems. Maybe this is what it’s like being over 40? You see people go, and wonder how soon it’ll be your turn? I hope we’ll be around for a long time yet, but as you say, who knows..?? I try to put it at the back of my mind, most days. But ther reminders keep coming.
    Thanks for a beautiful post, and nice to see a reference to Tom Waits x
    #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tracey Carr

    Just gorgeous Enda. And a forever reminder to try and live every day to the full. Soak it all up. I wish I could say that I do but a lot of the time I don’t. The mundane tasks keep getting in the way. But right now I am going to close the lap top for a while and sit and cuddle my little girl (and probably have to watch Peppa Pig!), as your post has inspired me to stop for a minute. Thank you! #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stunning read, as always. I get so sucked into your writing. I often wonder and worry all at once about the day my time comes – I never gave it a thought before I had my little boy. Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lovely read and secret safe here X #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  12. beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Age is a state of mind, I’m not fessing up to mine, I don’t feel it, but with kids in their teens and 20s the evidence is there. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I got taken for early 40s the other day and felt some of that lichen on my bones dissolve. Only cost me the price of a pint:-) The post resonates. Ta.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love that Leonard Cohen quote. Nice post #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is such a lovely post Enda and one I can truly relate to . I too know of Mum’s that have been taken to soon and It certainly makes you think of your own mortality especially as parents. I’m an older parent with young children and I just want to stay long enough to see them grow and start making their own way in the world. Maybe even longer, who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anne … thanks for taking the time to comment. My 15-year-old daughter is already older than I was when my Mom died … but I knew my Dad as an adult, and feel grateful for that. A more rounded individual emerged! Him and me (I hope)

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Beautifully written post Enda. I’m classed as an ‘older’ mum, 40 this year and my twins aren’t even two yet. But I reckon you’re as young as you feel – so that’s pretty old and exhausted most days in my house with a three year old too!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a lovely, reflective post…makes me want to reflect on the things I’ll be able to do and the things I’ll leave behind…

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I suddenly find myself wanting to do something crazy and reclaim a bit of my youth. But I also love the comfort of home as I grow older each year. It’s a dilemma I’m not very comfortable with at the moment. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Just as beautiful, here at #mixitup xo

    Liked by 1 person

  21. diynige

    A beautiful post Enda very moving love it Thanks for linking to #Thatfridaylinky hope to see you next week

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Always enjoy popping by for a read Enda, one day we’ll get the truth from you about your age. 😉 #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m coming back with the #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  24. This is a lovely post. It got me a bit teary to be honest. I’m not scared of dying, not one tiny bit. But I am terrified of leaving my girls. Thanks for linking up to #itsok linky. I hope you will be back next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. mackenzieglanville

    Having a 14 year old I find so many memories flooding back watching her come into her own. I look forward to seeing my children become more of their own people and yet I fear some of the painful lessons they may learn. When I almost lost my life when pregnant with my third, I had to really look at what life would be like if my daughters grew up without me, my husband and I made some plans and I made things that are important to me known to him and my parents in case the worst case scenario occurred. It was hard to think of not being there for them beyond the age of 5 and 2. So I truly feel so grateful to be here, healthy and part of their everyday lives. I hope to live a long life and be here for all 3 of them! Beautiful post! #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

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