Two years before I lost my dear wife, I experienced a detached retina in my right eye. The wonderful surgeons in the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin restored partial but adequate sight, more than adequate because of my good left eye. Within weeks of losing my wife,
however, my good left retina detached twice, so after more wonderful surgery and many months of slow recovery my sight returned to
a satisfying level and even allowed me to drive locally.
One day near the end of the period of 'visual impairment', my daughter parked me on a bench in Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre and went off to do her shopping.
A lady, who was probably in her early Eighties, joined me on the bench and quickly established that we were both widowed, she a year or so longer than I.
I will call her Sheila.
In case it's relevant, I had last dated a girl in 1951, sixty three years earlier. A widower can be highly trained, very flexible and agreeably compliant, but, if he has been married for around sixty years, he will not be very good at negotiating a possible new love life.
Like saying to a lady you have just met in a shopping centre: "Do you come here often?"
We talked for about 15 minutes and then, when my daughter re-appeared, Sheila stood up to greet her and went straight to the point. My daughter was obviously the one in charge.
"I would be happy to meet your Dad again." Handing over her phone for my number to be entered and asking for hers to be recorded on my phone. It reminded me that whenever my wife took me shopping for a suit the assistant would greet her and, apart from measuring me like a race horse, would ignore me completely. My wife would even produce her own credit card. I had now, apparently, reached a new stage where a possible love life for me was being transacted without my being consulted.
My daughter responded to Sheila in a friendly way and quickly and efficiently entered the phone numbers. They exchanged some further small talk, excluding me entirely. Sheila, it appeared, met any requirements for dating the elderly father. At least for the time being.
After a few more days in Dublin, I returned to my main home in Wexford.
That was around the end of 2014 and Sheila called a few times after that asking whether I was in Dublin or in Wexford. I assumed that was the end of it, but almost three years later in 2017 she sent me a long message to say that she would be in Spain for four weeks in case I was trying to reach her.
There has to be a dramatic turn to this story. Well here it is.
One Sunday in May 2017, I enjoyed a glorious few hours in nearby sparkling Kilmore Quay, watching angling boats being lifted onto the slip and surrounded by adults and children who
were responding to the first hours of real summer. The spot where I sat is mentioned in
a related story as one where I sometimes sit in reverie and on this occasion I fantasised that
a deep enough reverie could affect the very fabric of Creation itself - in other words cause certain things to happen. A harmless enough fantasy for an old man. Or so I thought.
After dinner, Creation responded and my phone rang.
It was Sheila, But it was no mundane are you still in Wexford call.
"Brian, I am down in Glendalough on this glorious afternoon with two friends. They are off walking and I am sitting here by the car on my own. I have just been thinking that if
you were here we could go for a walk together."
Talk about a bolt from the blue! A trumpet call from on high! Pushing all my buttons!
For a woman to say to me if you were here we could go for a walk together sends me rushing for my rucksack and vibram boots. It would only be a short further step to holding hands, singing Bavarian songs, and tramping together along the forest track of the mountainside.
There was more. I was to write down her landline number and call her at eight that evening after she got home.
I had two hours to prepare. Which day would I pick to go up to Dublin? The time for resolute action had come. To step up to the plate. To be a man!
I braced myself for the coming action.
What would the first step be?
I called my daughter.
As I explianed the problem, I could picture her whispering over a covered receiver to reassure my son in law.
It's okay, he hasn't had a
stroke or a fall - it's just his love life.
His totally non-existent love life.
My angle to her was simple. I know that up to now I have not fancied her, but now that the call to 'walk with me in the woods' has come I will simply have to rush to her side.
Talk about the bucket of cold water. "Dad, she's too pushy."
Like, I've had so many offers in my five years of widowhood that I can pick and choose.
"If you jump on a train and come up, you might regret it. Tell her you'll call her the next time you are up
For God's, sake what next time? I'm in my Eighties!
I'd never realized that my daughter could be so hard-hearted.
From my daughter
Ha, don't blame me if you messed up! Did you phone her?
From Mary (widow and friend)
Pick up that 'phone and make a date. What the hell are you waiting for? It's only a walk and if it turns out to be more, get down on your knees and Thank God.
Love, Mary XX
From Allison (Younger friend)
Just get on the bloody train already! Lol
PS - I have an amusing image developing in my mind of you singing heartily on a mountainside whilst wearing lederhosen ;-)
From younger friend, Rosemary.
But, did you go rushing to make that walk?
Is (daughter) satisfied? This story could go on for aeons and neither of us has that time!
Thank you for bringing a warmth in my smile.
love you Wonderful Man!
From (former) friend Darren
Reminds me of coming across a young couple engaged in a deep embrace as I walked my dog in the woods, the young man saw me, and with a glint in his eye said...
'I would if I could, but I can't'