Sundays in Ballymay were an important marker in village life, and for most people
the Mass was central to Sundays. Of course not everyone in the village was Catholic
but there were more who were, than were not. Michael remembered all too well that
the previous Sunday Mass had been somewhat difficult and was hoping that today it
would be different.
Whereas Father Power had been on hand to smooth the way, this time he was
not. Whereas his council and authority had persuaded his brothers to behave with
some sense of decorum, this time he had stood back. And whereas he could have intervened,
wisely he was leaving the Cassidy's to behave as they saw fit, knowing that any solution
based on him could only be a temporary one.
When Michael and Molly arrived there was no sign of the brothers and so as
before they took their places on the back pew in order to get out first. In doing
so they spotted the others more or less where they had been the week before. This
time there were no backward glances or whispering behind hands.
Michael's heart sank. He had so hoped that the formalities of the
previous week might have lessened the tension, but that, it seemed, was not the case.
And if there had been any doubt about that it was removed when the service ended
and Michael and Molly emerged from the church to a dry but cloudy day. There was
no wind and it was moderately warm and soon people were milling about, some waiting
for the priest to take up his customary position, while others talked in little groups.
They waited as the congregation spilled out until the last few stragglers had gone.
Of Michael's brothers and their families there was not a sign. There had been no
confrontation; they had simply left - no doubt to avoid one - by another door. When
it was clear that there could be no other explanation Michael and Molly left too,
but it was a quiet and sombre walk home.
Before long they reached the cottage and soon they were sat eating breakfast.
Michael had just finished his bacon and eggs and was reaching for the toast when,
as though he had just remembered, he told Molly that he was going to Dublin.
"Oh; and when will that be?"
"You are a man of surprises," Molly managed to say over her coffee
cup. "What brought that about?"
He proceeded to tell her of the arrangements made by his London doctor,
and that he had made an appointment.
"Very glad to hear it," Molly replied, "It has worried me that you haven't
been getting any treatment."
"It's more of a check up than treatment," he told her, "and on my way I am
taking Connie to meet her son who lives in Waterford. It's an open day at his school
and Molly has asked me to go with her."
"Has she now?"
"I'll not stay long, but I hope to meet her son while I'm there."
Molly let the comment pass, but she had noted that Michael had said 'her son'
and not 'my son'. Was that significant in some way; she wondered, a change of attitude
perhaps, a Freudian slip, or just a mistake? She simply commented, "It will be a
long day; are you sure it's the right thing to do?"
Michael told her that he had called in at Browns and had arranged to
use one of his hire cars. "It should be alright."
"I'll pack you some sandwiches then." Molly concluded with a heavy
heart, fearing that this might be a crisis point for her brother. She was aware
that meeting Connie's son for the first time would be a key moment for him, and though
she was worried that such a long day might take its toll, she could see that it was
a step he would have to make sometime. She hoped for his sake that this would be
the right time.
Michael was up with the birds on Wednesday morning, and on drawing
the curtains he saw Brown's hire car waiting for him on the rough track behind the
cottage. After the usual ablutions, a quick breakfast of cereals and toast saw him
ready. He had insisted that there was no need for Molly to be up so early, but he
was pleased to see a pack of sandwiches waiting for him. It was now that time when
summer comes to an end and autumn creeps in unnoticed. It was not cold, but at that
early time there was a slight chill in the air. The clear sky was light despite the
sun not yet being in view, and the weather forecast was favourable. The car, a well
used Rover 75 seemed to be in good order, and a quick glance told him that, as arranged,
the tank was full. By Seven O'clock Michael was knocking on Connie's door. He was
looking forward to the day, and when Connie opened the door her smile told him that
the day was going to be special.
"Come in Michael," Connie said, "I'm nearly ready."
"Hope so; we've a long day ahead of us."
Soon they were on their way, and Michael, a competent driver having spent
so many years in the motor trade, maintained a good speed. At this early hour he
hoped the light traffic would allow him to clear the winding country roads without
any problems before they reached the main road at Limerick. From there he should
be able to make good speed on the eighty miles or so to Waterford. So it proved and
not long after nine they were in the town.
Co'lin and Connie had been proud when Matt had won his place at Dublin University,
and even more so when he emerged three years later in his mortar board and gown,
clutching his degrees in English History, English Literature and Sociology. From
there he went to a teacher training college. A few temporary posts finally led to
a permanent post in a special needs school at Waterford, where he felt that his skills
and talents might make a difference. He had progressed to become the deputy head
teacher, was well respected; satisfied and content. It was nearing twenty years since
he first entered the school, and in all that time he had never thought of going anywhere
else. "Why should I," he would say, "when I am doing a job I love."
In that time Connie had visited him several times for various events so she
knew the way to the school, and as they approached the main gates Michael was tingling
with nervous anticipation. It was an old building, once the magnificent dwelling
of a rich Dublin industrialist, but now put to a much better use, where older boys
and young men who had suffered from unfortunate physical disabilities at birth, or
some other injury at work or play, could be rehabilitated. Much of what he did required
the cooperation of all the staff in all the departments and everyone there recognized
that success depended on it being a joint venture. Depending on their needs the patients
might stay a few weeks; a few months, or even - occasionally - a few years. And every
time one of their charges left to return to the wider society, either cured or much
improved, there was a feeling of satisfaction amongst the staff which made all their
efforts and devotion seem worth while..
Michael and Connie walked slowly through the tables and displays arranged
outside of the school, giving an indication to visitors what might be found inside.
At the same time Connie was looking for her son Matt.
"Don't forget you promised me not to say anything about . . . well you know
what I mean."
"Yes I promise, Michael agreed, "but I can't deny that I am excited at the
prospect of meeting him."
"Well don't let it show."
For the first time that day Michael sensed a degree of nervousness in Connie.
Perhaps she was having second thoughts about the visit; or at least his part in it.
'Too late now', he thought, but to Connie he said, "I promise to be on my best behaviour."
Indeed it was too late now for the next thing he heard was Connie's voice
rising. "There he is - over there, by that side door. She rushed to him and gave
him a motherly kiss on the cheek. Michael continued at a more leisurely pace and
by the time he reached them their private greetings were done.
"Michael," she said, "Come and meet my son Matthew. Matt to most people,"
she added. "Isn't he handsome?”
"Give up mother," Matt chastised, "You'll be making me blush." As he spoke
he extended his hand. "Nice to meet you Michael. Mum told me on the phone last night
that someone was bringing her. It's very good of you."
"It's a great privilege." Michael answered. "Your mother and I knew each other
many years ago, and as I am on my way to Dublin it seemed like a good idea. Company
for us both."
While these pleasantries were being exchanged Michael was having a good look
at Matt, hoping perhaps to see a likeness to the face he saw in the shaving mirror
every morning. Sadly he did not see the mirror image he might have hoped for, but
neither, he was pleased to note, were there any obvious dissimilarities. He was taller
than himself by a good few inches, but he recalled that it could be something on
his mother's side, for most of the men in Connie’s family were tall. Michael noticed
Matt was also slightly the bigger in build of the two, a reflection no doubt of his
own recent poor health, while Matthew on the other hand was well, fit, and active.
But in one thing Connie was right. He was a good looking man and when he smiled Michael
was sure that it was not his imagination or wishful thinking, for only then did he
fancy that he saw something of himself.
His musing was brought to an end when he realized that Matt was speaking
to him, "Mum tells me you knew my dad!"
"I did," he replied recovering quickly, "and I was very sorry to hear
that he is no longer with us."
"You were friends then?"
"Oh yes; we virtually grew up together, and we were more or less inseparable."
They chatted for a while and the settled look on Connie's face seemed to
indicate that she no longer feared that Michael would spoil things. For his part
Michael was being careful, fore he did not want to fail Connie despite his desire
to throw his arms around Matt and hug him. Now there was one more thing he had to
do. He had met his son, even though that fact was not yet, indeed might never be,
acknowledged, and now he had to meet Matt's twin sons; his grandsons.
"Your mother tells me that you have two boys; twins she says. Are they
"Boys!" he gave a little laugh. "You wouldn't think so if you saw them, they're
both taller than me, but they are not her yet I'm afraid."
"That's a pity. I would liked to have seen them."
"They are both at their jobs, but they have promised to come this afternoon
and help with the clearing up."
"Good," Michael said, "I might get another chance later on. Perhaps they
will still be here when I call to collect Connie."
"More than likely I expect. You said you are going on to Dublin. Is that a
business trip?" Matt enquired.
"No; no more business for me. Had enough of that!" Michael chuckled. "No,
it's a bit more mundane than that. I'm going to meet my new doctor. See what he's
got to tell me."
They chatted for another half an hour before Michael announced that he
had to make a move. "It's another long drive, and the time is moving on."
Soon he was on the road with his head full of thoughts; positive and negative.
On the one hand he had met his son, and he and Connie were friendlier now than at
any time since his return. On the other hand he knew that he had only a short time
to achieve his dream of complete reconciliation. He arrived in Dublin with time to
spare before his two o'clock appointment; time enough to find a nice restaurant for
a meal and a rest.
Michael was reasonably content. His relationship with Connie had improved
greatly though there was no evidence of a romantic relationship developing, and neither
would he allow it. He knew that time was precious, but he would not inflict on her
the trauma of another loss. But he was glad that they were no longer at odds. Though
she had not yet formally acknowledged his paternity of Matt, she had come close to
it and Michael had come to accept that it would probably remain like that. He could
only hope that one day after he was gone the time may be right for him to be told.
That would have to do.
His doctor turned out to be a large affable man, Irish through and through,
and he had all Michael's case notes to hand, sent on from his London doctor.
They talked about his condition, and then he examined him keeping up a continuous
banter of cheerfulness as he prodded and poked. Meanwhile his nurse relieved Michael
of various liquid samples from his body; blood, urine and saliva, checked his blood
pressure, height and weight.
"Well?" Michael enquired as he was preparing to leave, "Is there anything
you can tell me?"
"Nothing I'm afraid that you don't already know. The news from your London
doctor had not been good. I'm sorry to tell you that you are not fairing quite as
well as had been anticipated due in part because of the stress of your life style."
"But I live a quiet life since I relinquished my business activities." Michael
"I was thinking of other things. I understand that you are engaged in some
delicate family matters; and the lack of meaningful medication and treatment is not
helping. My information is that if you don't make some drastic changes in your life
we may be talking of months rather than years."
The doctor had spoken with a gentle smile, no doubt concerned at the effect
his message might have. "I'm sorry to put it so bluntly, but perhaps I can give
you some advice."
"Medical?" Michael enquired.
"No not medical, I guess you've had plenty of that already."
"It's simple to say, but maybe not so simple to do, but it's this. Decide
what is most important for you in the time you have left; concentrate your mind;
discard everything else, and then go for it."
"Funny," he said out loud as he was driving away from Dublin, going over the
events of the afternoon. "That's just what I thought I was doing." But the doctors
words had gone deep, and the drive back to Waterford gave him time to think things
through without any other distractions, and by the time he had found Matt's home
he had made some decisions.
His visit to Matt's home was a bittersweet affair, and he made it as short
as possible. He met Matt's wife, a cheerful friendly lady, and his two grandsons
who were every bit as delightful as their father. Though he ached to tell them all
who he was, and who they were, he refrained.
Quoting tiredness and the long drive home they left as soon as it was polite
to do so. By early evening they were on their way while the sky was still light despite
the falling sun.
It was clear to see that Connie was content. She had a small but wonderful
family and she had enjoyed a happy day with them. Inevitably some questions had been
asked about Michael but she had dealt with them sensibly, giving no clues as to his
real agenda. They were none the wiser.
"Thank you." Connie said to Michael before they had gone too far.
"For what?" he asked.
"For behaving impeccably." she answered.
"Ah that!" he smiled. "I did what you asked of me, and what I now see was
the right thing to do."
"My word, I am surprised to hear you say that." she sad rather quietly. "Have
you had a change of heart?"
"Not quite that, but perhaps I may have been too aggressive in wanting my
"I don't quite understand."
"I want Matt and the boys to know about me; about me and you, but I have come
to realize that maybe I am not the right person to tell them."
"One day, when the time is right; you."
Ignoring her verbal gesture, Michael continued. "And if the time is never
right, they may never know. That thought makes me feel sad but I have to leave it
to your judgement."
"I'm very relieved to hear this, but why? It's a complete turn around from
all you have said before."
"It's my conscience again. That damned thing keeps getting in my way." He
laughed at his little joke and Connie laughed too, despite his lack of clarity. "You
see I was so full of wanting to redeem myself, I lost sight of the fact that in doing
so I might be doing harm to others. Especially you."
"I wish that there was a way to solve this dilemma so that everyone was happy."
Connie said, accompanying her words with a faint smile.
"Who knows," Michael responded with a weary smile, "perhaps one day there
That seemed to be the end of their conversation for the rest of the journey,
both deep in their own thoughts, but just before they arrived in Ballymay, Connie
"I may have misjudged you Michael Cassidy. You may perhaps be a better man
than I gave you credit for."
"Well thank you ma'am, let's hope I can live up to that new assessment."
That said they arrived at Connie's home, happy and sad, tired and confused,
wiser, and yet in their different ways, curiously optimistic. Michael refused the
offer of a drink complaining of tiredness, and this time it was true for as predicted
it had been a long day.
It had indeed been a long day, and for Michael one that had been the most
paradoxical one of his entire life. He had met his eldest son for the first time
and the joy he had felt had been almost unbearable. And, as if that were not enough
he had met two young men who were, as far as he knew, his only grandchildren.
Maintaining regular contact with Jean after his expulsion from her life had
not been easy despite his efforts. He had tried but despite her insistence before
he left that he should not forget his son, found her to be taciturn in her response.
He had occasionally corresponded with Ben during his early school years and during
this period he had learned that Jean had remarried. The inevitable consequence of
that event was that the little contact that there had been dwindled to almost none,
and eventually it literally became none. The further consequence of that was that
he knew nothing of Ben's progress through his youthful years and into adulthood.
Had he married? Michael had wondered from time to time. Had he fathered his own children?
Another question he could not answer.
But now more than ever before he was convinced that he had another son. His
first son! If there had been a lingering doubt it was gone for good for he had seen
something in Matt's eyes and he knew. Just as he knew that his two grandsons would
carry his genes, if not his name, into the future.
Another week progressed with little change, little progress and inevitably another
"Will it be another battle of wits?" Michael asked Molly as they arrived
at The Sacred Heart. He expected that there might be some hostility as he had previously
experienced but this time he was prepared. They went through the same routine, arriving
at the church to see Father Power on the steps talking to one of his parishioners.
Outwardly it seemed just the same but it was different. It was an overcast but dry
day, and despite a breeze people were still milling about on the steps leading up
to the main door of the church. But the thing that was different could not be seen
for it was in Michael's head. He had increasingly come to realize that by aligning
herself with him, Molly was in danger of becoming ostracized from the rest of her
family. Her position as its head might even be challenged. He could not have that.
Also as a consequence of his outing with Connie, and meeting his son he had changed
his thinking completely. In a way that he would never have been able to explain it
it lifted a weight from his shoulders, and for perhaps the first time he had a real
sense of direction.
Molly was surprised as they approached the steps that instead of them making
their way to the priest, Michael had taken a firm hold on her arm and guided her
behind him, up the steps and into the church where he chose a pew near to the front.
This was also part of his new strategy. His brothers, their wives and families
could now see him without turning around, something Michael was determined not to
do. Neither would he seek them out after the ceremony.
Now it was Molly's turn to be uneasy. Michael had spoken of his new thinking,
but only in a vague kind of way which she had not fully understood. She did turn
her head and when she saw the family groups looking in their direction she nodded
to them. Unlike Michael she was not concerned about a possible reaction from her
other brothers by supporting Michael, or that her position in the family might be
challenged. She had been the matriarch for so long it never occurred to her that
her authority might be threatened. Despite all that she was nervous following Michael's
"Are you sure that this is the right thing to do?" she whispered, not wanting
the congregation to hear.
"If they wish to speak to me then they will have to come to me." he replied.
He too spoke quietly, but not as quietly as Molly, and people in the pews close to
them would certainly have heard his words. "They know I am here; I am not hiding
from them, but from now I am not grovelling."
Molly was shocked. "No one expects you to grovel, but you have to understand
how they feel."
"No one has tried harder to understand how they feel than I, but it works
both ways. They must try to understand how I feel."
Further conversation was halted by the arrival of the priest in his fine alter
garb, followed by a clutch of alter boys, also dressed, if somewhat less flamboyantly,
for the purpose.
Michael's firm attitude was not to be the only surprise for Molly. The Sunday
Mass was a largely routine affair, more often than not with little to separate one
from another, but this one was going to be different. There were more surprises to
come which would leave her open mouthed.
She did not have to wait very long. On their previous attendance's to the
Mass when all the congregation had gone forward to have the consecrated bread dipped
in wine and placed on their tongues, Michael had remained in his pew. He had not
felt himself to be in a suitable state of grace to receive God's body and blood.
But that simple act had clearly set him apart from all the others who wished to receive
the sacrament. This time however at the appropriate moment Michael was the first
to stand, only slightly before everyone else, but enough for all to see.
When he reached the priest, instead of offering his tongue he lifted his hands,
side by side so that they formed a cup. As he did so he said, "Bless me Father."
whereupon the priest placed the small disc of unleavened bread on his hands, while
at the same time offering to Michael that which he had asked; in Latin of course.
The Mass ended as usual with the priest leading his young helpers up the nave
and then back down the side isle to the sacristy. The congregation at this point
continued forward, through the large doors, out of the church and onto the steps.
Michael however did not rise until they were the last ones to leave their
"My word you're full of surprises today." Molly said, no longer trying to
whisper. "I hope that you'll not live to regret it."
Michael ignored the obvious implications as he was sure that Molly had not
intended to be cruel. "I hope so too sis." he answered. Then, gently taking her arm
he asked, "Shall we go?"
They walked unhurriedly to the big doors were they caught up with those who
were waiting patiently to speak with Father Power, still slightly breathless after
his quick change into outdoor clothing. They too joined the queue, and slowly emerged
into the porch where a dozen or so people were still waiting their turn to speak
to the priest. Beyond him were those parishioners who received his brief greeting
and were taking their leave.
Michael was pleased to see that beyond the steps the Cassidy's were waiting
in two close but separate family groups. They stopped for a moment to receive the
holy man's blessing, and for Michael a whispered "I have not seen you at confession
yet!" Then they set off on their walk home taking a route that was close enough to
the waiting Cassidy clan for Michael to speak the words "Good morning everyone; peace
be unto you." but he did not stop. Molly, caught unexpectedly by her brother's
decisive action turned back and slightly out of step waved to her astonished 'family'
calling out, "Good morning."
It was neither the time or place for taking issue but Molly could not wait
until they reached home.
"What was all that about?" she asked, her aggravated state somewhat exacerbated
by the fast and determined pace her brother obliged her to make.
"What was what about?"
"You know very well. Going to the front, standing up first," and then leaving
them all standing." she almost shouted. "And to cap it all taking the sacrament when
you haven't been to confession."
"How do you know that I have not been to confession?"
"I know because you would have told me. And anyway I heard what Father Power
said to you."
Michael threw back his head and laughed. "There' are no secrets from you are
"Not if I can help it." Molly looked at him with a slightly puzzled expression
on her face. "There's something different about you today. Something's happened hasn't
"You're right sis, something has happened, but it's mostly in my head. I think
I have come to realize that if I am patient things will fall into place."
"I do hope so," Molly replied, aware that time was part of her brother's problem.
"but what has happened?"
Michael stopped abruptly. "Well I'll tell you. I want our brothers to know
I am not going down on my knees. They all know that I am here because I want to be
part of the family again while there is time." He took a sideways glance at his sister
only to see that she had done the same to him. It was a very brief eye contact, but
in it there was a kind of understanding."
"Why don't you tell them; I'm sure that they will sympathize."
"Because Molly, and I want you to understand; I don't want their sympathy.
I want them to love me, but for who I am with all my faults and sins. I want them
to know that I am truly sorry for what I did and that I beg their forgiveness. But
what I do not want is for them to accept me just because they think I might be dying."
Walking steadily now they were home in a few minutes, tired and both aware
of the tension that had developed. Michael flopped into an easy chair, while Molly
set too with the breakfast.
"It's alright Michael," he heard her say, I'll see to things. You sit back
and get your breath."
Michael laughed again. "You're a wicked slave driver," he said getting up.
"What can I do to help?"
He walked into the little kitchen with a hand in his pocket, "Ah; and there's
something else." he said, suddenly remembering. He had removed a clean handkerchief
from his pocket which he had taken with him to the church for a specific purpose.
Now slowly he opened up the folded square of linen to reveal the small disc of unleavened
bread which the priest had place into his hand. "I will not take this until I made
my confession, but I wanted the boys to see me ask for a holy blessing."
"You certainly did that, but heaven knows what they'll make of it all."
"Well we will soon know because tomorrow I intend to visit them all and
tell them. Accept me or reject me; it's up to you."
"OK," Molly responded, "what about them having tome to you?"
"Yes i did say that, but I didn't mean physically, I meant metaphorically;
if you know what I mean."
"I sometimes wonder if you know what you mean but that's for tomorrow. For
today, your breakfast is ready."
"Ah Molly," Michael laughed, you always seem to know what is important.
For years in Molly's home breakfast was a modest affair of cereals and
toast, except on Sunday. On Sunday a full breakfast was an indulgence to be savoured;
bacon and eggs; tomatoes sausages and fried bread, followed by toast and marmalade.
Coming as it did after Mass, which allowed the mouth to remain unsullied in readiness
to accept the body and blood of the Lord, it was inevitably a late affair. It was
also a meal not to be rushed for Sunday was, notionally at least, a day of rest.
There would be no mid-day meal, it simply being deferred to the early evening, and
Michael had come to know the quality of the meal would more than make up for the
wait. He was happy to fall into this pattern, even though he no longer had the appetite
to accommodate his sister's idea of a man size meal.
Michael spent the time between these two large meals in quiet contemplation,
knowing what he had to do, but uncertain if he had the courage to do it.
The weeks come and go and it was Monday again, and as usual Molly was up and about
before Michael, busy about the house. Being active was her normal state and though
the cottage was not in itself demanding, now that she had a guest there was more
to do. But her present activity was not to do with housework, but rather a means
of maintaining some sense of normality, for life, despite her recent attempt to reassure
Michael, had not been the same since his return.
Her conversation with Michael the previous day had left her thinking of nothing
else and as she set the little table for breakfast her thoughts went back to where,
for her, it had all started. She remembered the day she received Michael's letter
telling her of his intention to return to Ballymay.
Even now, months later just thinking about it made her feel week at the
knees. It was a rare event to get a letter in the post, and the few that did arrive
were almost always of an official or semi official nature. On that day she remembered,
she had gone to the shop in the village with it's post office in the corner, and
from behind its counter the lady had called.
"There's a letter for you Molly; I, and it's from London."
Luckily she hadn't opened it there and then for when she did she screamed.
Michael, her brother, who had walked out of her life more that forty years before,
and who had long been given up for dead, was coming home. She remembered how she
had sat down and for what seemed like hours was unable to get up again. Unable too
to stop the trembling that had taken control of her body, and hardly able to control
her body's need to expel all that was in it. For hours she was in a dream-like daze,
her brain unwilling to grasp what she had read. Despite several attempted re-reads
to see if there was some kind of mistake it took all that time before the words started
to sink in. It was not a mistake. Michael was coming home.
It was so strange. Sometimes it seemed such a long time ago, while at others
it could seem like yesterday. Then again it was sometimes hard to tell which it was.
Whichever it might be however, one thing was certain. The time since Michael's arrival
had been the most paradoxical period in her life. There had been a whirlwind of emotions,
but at the same time in many ways the days and weeks had gone by without much sign
that anything was different.
One thing had changed however about which Molly was concerned. Since Michael
had settled with her, she saw less of her other brothers. She knew, simply by her
own reactions that they would be equally unsure of their feelings, and how to deal
with them. Unfortunately it seemed to her that they had tried to deal with it by
the simple expedient of simply staying away. Of course they had not had the benefit
of Michael's presence in their homes like she and had therefore not been able to
judge for themselves if the remorse he expressed was real or managed.
She herself had little doubt that what she saw and heard came from the heart,
but they it seemed were yet to be convinced. So they simply stayed away. Unfortunately
by cutting themselves off from Michael her brothers had effectively cut themselves
off from her too, and so she had fewer opportunities to convince them of their elder
Yesterday's news therefore was welcome, and Molly prayed the Michael's determination
to confront his brothers would have positive results.
"I do hope so." she muttered. "We can't go on like this; none of us."
The sound of Michael coming down the stairs put and end to those thoughts,
at least for now, but Molly was shocked when he came into the kitchen. "My word,"
she said, "you don't look yourself at all; are you alright?"
"Not too good today sis, but I didn't think it would be so obvious." he said
as he took his place at the table.
"Well it does. You've been gradually going down for a week or more but it
seems more noticeable this morning. Have you had a poor night?."
"I'm afraid it's not often I get a good one these days." Michael told her.
"I think it's about time you sorted yourself a doctor closer to home. It's
all well and good having posh doctors in London and Dublin, but they're no good to
you when you’re ill here."
"I've got some pills!"
"Pills," Molly almost spat them out. "What good are pills when what you need
is some proper care and treatment."
"I think it's a bit late for that, but anyway my pills seem to be doing a
Molly put two dishes on the table and then stood before her brother, looking
him in the face. "It's all in your head; that's the trouble. What is it that you
want; can you tell me that?"
But Michael's response was not the one she expected. "Oh Molly," he said
as he raised himself on to his feet and in one continuous movement put his hands
on her shoulders, "What a tragedy that you were never someone's wife."
"Tragedy is it?" she scoffed. "Do you not think I have had enough to do all
these years without a husband getting under my feet."
"No I wasn't just meaning a tragedy for you. I was also thinking about some
young man out there who you have probably never quite forgotten; someone who loved
you but because of the way things were, could not have you."
"Well there were one or two," Molly conceded, "I was quite pretty then you
"You were beautiful." Michael said softly, for a brief moment remembering
that bath-time encounter.
"Oh, go on with you. In any case it was a long time ago; it's all forgotten
"Not quite I think; not quite. But I hope you've had a happy life in spite
of all that?"
He spoke in a way that the remark seemed like a question, and Molly felt obliged
to answer if a little awkwardly, turning away as she spoke.
"I suppose there is something in what you say, and at times I did feel cheated,
but there were compensations. And I finished up with a bigger family than I could
have managed if I had been married."
"And I want you to have that family back again, with you at it's helm," Michael
sat down once more but turned slightly to face his sister, "just as it was before
I came in and spoilt everything."
"You haven't spoilt anything. Not really. You might have upset the balance
a bit, but things will settle down, you'll see."
Michael smiled at her. "I hope so." he said, "I truly hope so."
I had been one of their occasional tender moments, moments that convinced
Michael that he was right to come back to Ballymay, even if now he was beginning
to doubt his motives. The more he saw and heard of the life he had left behind the
more he wished he could, if only for a while, be part of it once more. But to be
part of it he knew that he had to embrace the bigger picture, and abandon, or at
least modify, some of his narrow objectives.
After breakfast he took a leisurely stroll to the end of the green beyond
the beech tree, but instead of turning left to Main Street he turned right away from
Ballymay in the direction of the 'Cradle' the same route he took when he was going
to Connie's house. He was determined to put into motion his new strategy, and he
was convinced that it had to start with her.
It was a pleasant warm morning and he hoped that a gentle walk along the country
lane he had known so well in his youth, would go some way to reviving a body that
was rapidly losing its physical ability. It might also help to reconcile a mind that
was trying to come to terms with conflicting emotions.
In that it seems that he was right for by the time he reached Connie's home
he did feel much brighter. He was more than a little shocked therefore to discover
that although he felt better, it apparently did not show.
"Michael." Connie greeted him when she opened her front door, "Are you alright;
you don't look very well?"
Despite that, Michael was pleased with Connie’s reception for it confirmed
his belief that she no longer regarded him as an enemy. He did not however believe
that her mistrust of him was gone completely, or that her suspicions as to his motives
were entirely allayed. But what was clear he felt, was that her antagonism which
earlier she had not tried to hide, was now gone. Perhaps, it occurred to him, she
had simply got over the shock of his sudden re-emergence, and was becoming accustomed
to his occasional but gradually increasing appearances.
Just the same he was none too pleased to be told once more, and so soon, that
he did not look well.
As usual Connie took him into the front room, tidy and spotless as always,
and invited him to sit down. "Will you have a cup of tea?" she asked.
Usually such a question is more a polite gesture than a desire to sustain
her visitors, but this time she really felt that a cup of tea was required so she
was pleased when Michael accepted her offer.
"What brings you here so early?" she asked, when she returned with the tray.
"You mostly; and Matt, and my brothers." Michael replied somewhat enigmatically.
Connie was immediately alarmed. "That sounds a little ominous," she said,
trying not to let her concern show and determined to maintain a calm disposition.
"Does that mean that you are going ahead with your claim?"
Michael was on his feet in a moment. "No no; just the opposite in fact; well
perhaps not quite the opposite, but not what you may be thinking."
"It's very confusing." Connie said as she put down the tray. "Now sit down
again and tell me what is on your mind."
Michael laughed quietly as he took the cup that Connie offered. "Confusing!
That just about sums it up, and I want your advice."
"I don't think anything I can say will sway you away from what you want to
"Ah but that's where you are wrong. What you say is very important. The truth
of the matter is that I've been making a lot of mistakes so I am thinking it might
be best all round if I leave Ballymay."
"Leave! Now that is a surprise. But what about . . . what about the reason
you came back?"
"It's no use Connie, all this time I have been thinking only of me," Michael
started, "and not about what my actions are doing to everyone else. I seem to be
causing nothing but anger and resentment."
"Does it surprise you that coming back from the dead like you did has caused
some reaction?" Connie asked. "It was bound to be difficult."
"I thought that they would be pleased to see me, but I was wrong."
Connie was very thoughtful before she spoke again. She could see that a significant
shift had taken place in Michael's head; a change of attitude which might help to
prevent Matthew discovering his true parentage. But she sensed that there was more
to what he was saying.
"But you haven't given them enough time to get used to you being back amongst
them. It was quite a shock you know; for us all."
"You seem to have got over it." Michael said, looking directly at Connie.
"But I'm not family."
"If I had not been so stupid and cowardly you would be." It was little more
than a whisper, "and that is what troubles me most. I abandoned you to your fate
and someone else created a happy family for you and my son," he raised his hand to
stop Connie protesting, "so what right do I have to destroy that. Why should I spoil
the memory of a good man in the eyes of my son?"
This time Connie did protest, but it was a gentle rebuke. "My son!"
"I know; and now that I have met him I realize that no good can come from
changing his perceptions of Co'lin, and of you."
"My word." Connie said, "That is quite a change of direction."
"I guess it is; but when I'm gone I don't want you to be sorry that I came
back into your life." he said quietly.
"Then don't go."
"Ah! But in some things we do not always have a choice."
Michael left Connie’s home and started the slow walk back to the village,
pleased that he had taken the first steps on his new path. He was still confused,
just as he had been on his outward walk but somehow it was different. Despite the
fact that he had given up his fight to be recognized as Matt's father he felt a lightness
in his step. Now he felt that he could face his brothers with a renewed sense of
Connie too was confused, for Michael's unexpected change of direction had
come as a complete surprise. But that was not the only cause of her confusion, for
she felt she had seen for the first time something of the young Michael she had known
and loved. And for the first time since his return she felt a warmer feeling to him
that she had not thought could be possible. Her main cause of confusion however
was that he had said that he was going to leave.
Not so long ago she had been mortified to hear that he was returning.
If only one week earlier she had heard the news of his leaving she would have
But now she felt different. Not just because was she unsure if she would miss
him or not, though she suspected that she would. Also she had come to realize that
he was not a well man; a man who for years had been carrying a heavy weight, who
needed someone to help him to put it down before it crushed him.
Was that someone to be her?
Molly had been busy during the morning, first of all with a little walk of her own
to buy some bread and milk from the shop in the village. Considering its relatively
small size Ballymay was well served with half a dozen shops on Main Street, which
also included a pub, a police station, and the church. It was not what one might
describe as a busy place, but there were always people about, and Molly was greeted
a number of times by other villagers; mostly known to her, but a couple who were
not. 'Newcomers' Molly mused as she passed them, assuming that they were from the
new estate that had sprung up behind the church. Some twenty five years had elapsed
since it had been built, but it was still referred to as the 'new estate'.
When she returned to the cottage she found Michael waiting for her.
"My word," she greeted him "your walk seems to have done you good; you've
got a little colour back in your cheeks."
"Yes," he replied, "it was a couple of hours well spent."
"You seem pleased with yourself; anything you want to tell me?"
Michael sat down and told Molly of his visit to Connie, and of his decision
not to pursue his claim to be Matthew's father.
"It was little more than a selfish indulgence, I can see that now, and it
can only cause pain and upset. I don't want that to be my legacy."
"So what now?"
"Now I will go and try to make peace with my brothers."
Making peace with his brothers proved just as complex as he expected it to
be. His first port of call was at Richard's farm just a five minute walk out of the
village. Before he reached the farmhouse he saw his younger brother working on a
tractor on an area of rough concrete to one side.
"Good morning Brian," he called out.
Brian turned from his task, straitening himself as he did so and took a hard
look at his unexpected visitor. They had not spoken since the occasion of Michael's
interrogation weeks earlier.
"Good morning yourself." Brian replied "What brings you here?"
Ignoring the fact that Brian had chosen not to use his name, Michael maintained
a easy attitude. "I want to talk to you; and your brother. Thought that it was time
to clear the air."
"I; I think there's a bit of clearing to be done."
It was just like their last meeting with Brian seemingly taking a tough attitude.
"That there is, and I mean to do it today." Michael said in a tone that matched his
youngest brother. "Is Richard at home?"
"He's in the field some where."
"Will you take me to him please."
"I've got work to do."
"And I'm sure it will wait. What I have to say is important, and will not
Brian took a hard look at his long lost brother, perhaps sensing an urgency
he had not previously had the opportunity to observe. Perhaps even becoming aware
of an authority which had hitherto been unknown. "I'm not sure if he will want to
see you." Brian answered, his manner a touch less aggressive than before.
"Well I want to see him, and you. There are things I want to say which will
not wait any longer, and I will not leave until I have said them. Now please take
me too him."
"Very well. He's working in the far meadow. It's a tidy walk; can you manage
For the first time Brian's voice had softened to a normal tone, and Michael
even thought that he sensed some concern, for in truth he was not feeling, and no
doubt not looking, his best. The walk to the farm and the tension that came with
his pending confrontation had conspired to tire him. He guessed that Brian had seen
for himself that Michael might not be up to a long trudge through the fields. But
before he could answer Brian spoke again.
"Better still, we can go down on this." he said, patting the side of the
Two minutes later they were making their way, side by side, their closeness
forcing a slight thaw. Down the side of the first field, through a gate at the end
which took them into another field bounded on the left by woodland.
"It's a pretty place." Michael said, trying to maintain what he perceived
to be a friendlier atmosphere. "How long have you been here?"
"Richard came a year or two after Ma and Ma died; and I came about five years
"And his other farm?"
" It's a smaller place than this about seven miles down the road. His two
eldest sons look after that, and his youngest son pitches in here with us."
"You're a partner here then?" he asked.
"No; Richard is the boss, but he offered me some shares to give me an interest
in the place; and my house is here."
Michael remembered his uncomfortable interview. "Oh yes. It was dark and
I was trying to keep up with Seamus. I wasn't sure just where I was.
A hint of a smile appeared briefly on Brian's face. "Yes, he can take some
keeping up too. Our Ma always used to complain about him."
The smile didn't linger, but the mention of his mother and father gave Michael
a pang of guilt. Another layer of shame to bear, for he had hardly thought of them
since his return. When they reached the end of the wood Brian stopped the tractor
to open another gate.
"Nearly there." Brian said as he climbed back up. This is the far meadow;
we've got some nice horses down here."
It was a large meadow and having been left fallow for a number of years was
a wonderful vista of wild flowers and grasses. They turned left following the bottom
of the woodland, and dropping quite steeply Michael could see where a small river
flowed into a modestly sized lake mingling in its expanse until eventually it took
its leave to wend its way quietly along the valley before it disappeared amongst
the trees. Beyond the river and lake the fields and woodlands rose gently away until
they merged into the higher horizon of rolling hills.
It was a breathtaking view which captivated Michael immediately. "How beautiful."
he muttered, thinking to be speaking to himself, but Brian heard him.
"That it is."
Before they reached the lake the trail seemed just to fade away into grassland,
a wire fence on stout stakes some eighty meters back from the water's edge being
all that separated the wild meadow from lush grazing. Behind a stone wall to the
left the trees of the woodland stopped at the water's edge while the stone wall continued
until it became submerged. Some two hundred meters along the water's edge a similar
wall came out of the water running the full length of the back of the meadow until
the curve of the hill took it out of site. Within that space by the water some two
dozen horses grazed peacefully. There were a variety of colours but all the horses
had one thing in common. All were sleek and graceful thoroughbreds.
Michael caught his breath overwhelmed by the beauty, the peace and tranquillity.
"It's a sight for sore eyes." he said to Brian, but he added a little more. "Why
wouldn't I want to come back?"
Brian made no comment on that, but Michael felt that he saw a sign of understanding
in his expression. They had stopped a short distance from the man who was working
near the water, breaking the calm of the day in the noisy machine. He had stopped
to see who it was approaching him, his hand shielding his eyes against the sun, as
Brian jumped down from the tractor and walked to him. Michael observed a short conversation
before they both came back to the tractor. Michael dropped down, rather less elegantly
than had his brother Brian, and waited to great his brother Richard.
"Michael." Richard tersely uttered just a single word.
Michael did the same. "Richard."
For a while they looked at each other, neither speaking.
It was Brian, the youngest of the three who broke the impasse. "Michael told
me he wants to speak to you." he announced.
"I want to speak to you both." Michael corrected.
"Have you come to claim your inheritance?" Richard asked unsmilingly.
"I am nearly seventy. Why would I want to do that?"
"It's worth a lot of money."
"I have as much money as I will ever need; more than I can ever spend."
"No I have not come to take anything from you, or Brian, or Donald." Michael
said in a measured tone. "But there is something I want and I want you to give it
For a minute the three men faced each other, none speaking, each 'side' waiting
for the other. Michael broke the silence.
"It's simple really; I want your forgiveness. Forty four years ago when I
killed my friend I ran away like a coward, a thief in the night. I deserted my family
and all my principles. Now I stand before you naked. I have nothing to offer you
except sincere regret and sorrow for what I did. Now I want you to take me back.
I cannot undo what I did and maybe I do not deserve your forgiveness, but that is
what I want. I want to be part of the family again. Nothing more; nothing less."
Both men looked at Michael, again neither speaking. A minute went by before
Richard broke the deadlock. "That's a lot to of us after all these years. I know
that you are my brother but you are a stranger. How can I, how can we, believe that
what you say is true?"
"Because I swear it before God, and if you believe in God's mercy I ask you
to believe it too."
"I must think about this before I say anything more." Richard concluded.
"I hope you will include some compassion in your thinking," Michael replied,
"but I will tell you one thing more. It was never my intension to break up the family,
and I will not let that happen. If I ever feel that my presence continues to be divisive
I will leave Ballymay for ever."
It seemed to Michael in the silence that followed that he had done all he
could do, and said all that he could say. Nodding to Brian he walked towards the
tractor. Soon both men were on board and as the noisy engine once more roared into
life they slowly moved away. Michael turned to look back hoping to see a sign from
Richard that he might not be sending him away empty handed, but there was none. He
stood there unmoving as the tractor slowly climbed the hill by the wood until neither
could see the other. The rest of the journey back to the farmhouse was conducted
in silence, both men deep in thought. When they stopped Brian jumped down and quickly
rounded the vehicle to assist his older and ailing brother. What happened next was
both remarkable and unexpected. Michael reached to take Brian's outstretched hand
and as he moved to climb down he caught his foot on some protrusion causing him to
descend more rapidly than he intended. Brian grabbed him and held him fast, his arms
wrapped around Michael's frail body. But he did not let go, not even when Michael
uttered his thanks. Some time went by with the two men clasping each other, clearly
unwilling to release their grips.
Eventually they drew apart, each looking at the other without speaking. Only
when Michael turned to leave and start his slow walk back home did he say "Thank
Then he heard Brian say just three words. Quietly, almost a whisper, but
Michael heard it as though it had been shouted.
"I believe you!"
By the time he reached Molly's cottage he was weary. Not so much from the
physical effort but from the emotional strain, and he was glad to find its sanctuary.
Molly of course was worried to see her brother so weakened, just as she was at his
deteriorating condition. To see him falling apart like this made her wonder if it
might not have been better for him to have remained a distant memory. Angrily she
shook away that thought, knowing that, come what may she would support him, even
if that meant ostracism from the rest of the family.
Soon Michael was sleeping soundly in the armchair, while Molly busied herself
preparing a light lunch. He awoke an hour later feeling somewhat refreshed, and told
Molly about the mornings visit, making light of his farewell hug with Brian for fear
that it might have been a 'spur of the moment' thing, rather than a genuine expression
"Now I must visit Donald," he announced, "this afternoon."
Molly was appalled. "But you can't, you’re not well enough to go today."
"If I don't do it today, I may not have the courage to do it tomorrow, and
every day after that it will get harder. No, it must be today.
"I'll use one of Browns hire cars. I'm sure I'll be alright."
"You're a stubborn one that's for sure Michael Cassidy." Molly almost laughed,
but it was tension rather than humour that caused the chuckle. "But I suppose that
just makes you like the rest of us. At least let me go with you."
"No Molly. I know you mean well and I am grateful, but this is a battle I
must fight on my own."
"As you wish my little brother, but remember, whatever happens out there
will always be a home for you here."
Michael was unable to respond at that moment; something in his eye perhaps
causing it to moisten, but a squeeze of her hand conveyed his thanks.
The day had remained bright with light cloud only blocking out the sun when
Michael called in at Browns to hire a car for the afternoon. The Rover he had used
before was not available but a smaller less sumptuous one was, and it was more than
suitable for his intensions.
It took only fifteen minutes or so to reach Donald's house. It was large
house by the standards of other members of his family reflecting his better off circumstances,
due mostly because of his wife's inheritance of a significant legacy following the
deaths of her mother, then some two years later, her father.
Michael had of course been there before, and remembered well how he had been
cared for by a lady he assumed to be his sister in law. As he drew up to the house
he wondered what kind of reception he would receive this time. Sadly it took only
a moment to realise that history was not about to repeat itself.
It was Donald himself who opened the door, and he looked at Michael almost
without recognition, despite them having been introduced by father Power. Finally
he did speak. "Michael! What are you doing here?"
It was cold and empty greeting, but Michael tried to hold on to his dignity.
"Good afternoon Donny." He had remembered Molly's insistence that he must not call
his brother Donald, a name which for some reason he did not like. "You will not come
to me, so I thought it was about I came to you."
It was an unfortunate start. "Forty years ago would have been 'about time'
I would have thought." Donny responded, causing Michael to draw a deep breath.
"I know that you are right but I cannot put the clock back."
The conversation took place at the front door and Donald seemed determined
not to offer Michael any hospitality as he repeated the jist of what he had said
to their other brothers earlier that day. It seemed to fall on deaf ears and Michael's
last plea before he left was that they should not hold any grievance to Molly for
giving him sanctuary.
"She has loved you all for all these years. Don't hold it against her that
she found it her heart to share some of that love with me."
It was clear that he had not made any headway with Donny but before he turned
to leave he said that if he was not wanted by the family he would leave Ballymay.
Donny's failure to respond to that proposition seemed to send Michael a clear message.
He could feel no other than that he had failed, just as he had failed with Richard.
Only Brian seemed to have accepted him. But, Michael wondered, had his declaration
been nothing more than a spontaneous gesture brought on by his emotive words? And,
when he later discovered that Richard and Donny had not been similarly moved, would
he still feel the same?
It was a weary man who returned to number Eleven The Cottages, Ballymay.
Weary, but even without the satisfaction of success, not broken. He was determined
to see this out as far as his body and his family would allow. Then, and only then,
if the chasm that was dividing him from them could not be breached, he resolved that
he would leave the village of his birth for ever.
The rest of the week was uneventful, allowing Michael to enjoy a period of complete
rest. The weather, which in that part of Ireland enjoyed rather more rain than the
rest of the British Isles, had been relatively dry, but now it was true to its reputation;
a further incentive for Michael to stay indoors. The only thing that happened, which
was not entirely unexpected, was a visit by Connie. Molly had attempted to leave
the cottage, feeling that the other two would need privacy. However she was persuaded
not to. "There is nothing we will say to each other that we would not want you to
hear." Connie had said. And Michael added, "We have nothing to be ashamed of. Besides;"
he added, "we can do with another on our side." It was a weak attempt at humour,
but it was clear that the situation was taking its toll.
In the years that had elapsed since their adolescence, Molly and Connie had
never managed to form a friendship. While they knew of each other, and occasionally
met, circumstances had conspired to keep them apart, but recent regular meetings
had brought them together in a way that neither of them could have imagined.
"I hope you don't mind me calling unannounced, but I wanted to know how Michael
was. He did not seem at all well last week." Connie confided in Molly, while the
two ladies were in the kitchen.
Speaking quietly so that their voices would not carry into the next room
Molly replied, "I'm very worried; he seems to have gone downhill during the last
week or two."
She looked directly at Connie. "There's been too much going on if you ask
me." she said.
"I know, and part of that has been to do with me, but I think that we have
resolved our differences."
"I'm glad to hear that. I wish I could same the same about his brothers."
From his easy chair in the little front room Michael could hear the two ladies
whispering and smiled. He knew that they were talking about him and was content that
they should. Nothing would please him more than that they should become friends,
for he knew that one day he would not be there, and such a friendship would help
to fill a void in both their lives. He smiled again but this time at his own thoughts.
He fancied that they would both take him to task for thinking too highly of his own
The week drifted on and before he knew it Sunday was upon them once more.
During the week's many quiet times Michael had been able to think things through.
Weigh up his options. Make some decisions. He had done all these things and now,
perhaps for the first time since he returned to Ireland, he knew what he was going
to do, and where he was heading.
The week's enforced rest had also allowed a degree of reutilization, and,
armed with his new agenda he actually looked forward to the challenge ahead.
There was nothing to suggest to Molly that there was anything out of the
ordinary when Michael led her into the church; not even when the two of them took
their seats near the front of the congregation knowing full well that her brothers
and their wives were all behind them. Neither was she prepared, when the time came,
when Michael went forward to receive his communion, that instead of taking the little
disk of bread in his hands, as on the previous occasion, this time he lifted his
face and allowed the priest to place it on his tongue. Kneeling at the alter rail
next to him Molly was shocked at what she saw, and almost missed her turn when the
priest moved to her. But she had not missed the smile on Father Power's face as he
carefully placed the disc to where it was so clearly directed.
The Mass was over and as they approached the main door Molly was whispering,
none to subtly, about his blasphemous behaviour.
"What do you mean?" he asked feigning surprise.
"You know very well what I mean. You have not been to confession so you are
not in a state of grace."
"But I have."
"When I took Mr Brown's car back. I called in and Father Power did it there
"Well why did you not tell me?"
"Because I wanted to surprise you."
"Well you certainly did that." Molly said, almost breathless.
By now they were at the top of the steps and entering the sunlight , which,
against the odds had managed to find it's way through the clouds. Now it was Michael's
turn to be surprised. He took a sly look at Molly, who was displaying a look of either
satisfaction or astonishment. "Holy mother of god." she muttered as they took yet
another step down, being careful not to lose her footing, and also looking to see
if Father Power had heard what she had said. Shortly it was their turn to receive
the priests blessing, and for Michael a little extra, a few words spoken in his ear.
"I am glad you managed to make it to confession Michael; now go and make peace with
What had startled Michael, and to a lesser extent Molly, was to see the Cassidy's
waiting at the bottom of the steps in a close family group. Michael was at a loss
as how best to deal with all these relatives in one go, but in the end it was the
ladies who took the lead.
First Cathleen; the wife of his youngest brother Brian. "Nice to see you
again Michael." she said.
Then it was Mary, the wife of his oldest brother Richard, who he had not
previously met. She expressed a similar greeting.
"Thank you. I am grateful for your support, but I would have been happier
if Richard was standing beside you."
"The Cassidy's can be very stubborn, but I'm sure in time he will come round."
"Ah, time. My enemy and my friend." Michael responded enigmatically.
Next came Bridgett, Donald's wife. She looked at him with a curious gaze.
"I feel that we have met." she said.
"Yes;" Michael responded. "I'm rather dressed up today, but when we met I
must have looked like an unwashed vagabond." He paused to see if there was a sign
of recognition, but when he saw none he continued. "But it didn't make any difference.
You took me in and rested me, made me a drink, a scruffy old man. But you saw a
man who needed help and gave him that help. I thank you for that."
The recognition he had looked for was now apparent. "That was you?" she breathed.
"Why did you not say?"
"Because I did not know if I would be welcome. Also I was not sure who you
were and I did not want to take advantage."
Bridgett moved forward, a lady who had perhaps passed her prime but as she
smiled she had youth in her face. "You are welcome." she said as she kissed his face.
"And Donny?" Michael ventured for he had noticed that Donny had stood back
from the rest of the family. "Does he welcome me?"
"Please be patient with Donny. He moves in different circles than some, but
he always gets to where he wants to be."
"I hope that when he gets to where he wants to be I will be there too. I
wish I knew whatever it is that holds him from me," Michael said somewhat wistfully,
"then i could maybe do something about it. I guess I will have to be patient."
Gradually the younger ones had moved close and soon there was talk across
and behind and around. A little laughter and the sound of children playing. Michael
felt a thrill, for at last he felt close to becoming part of the family. But he knew
his task were not quite complete. He could not help being aware that Richard and
Donny had remained on the periphery, seemingly determined not to join the throng.
Despite that it was a beautiful and unexpected moment, and when the opportunity
occurred he whispered to Molly, "How on earth did that happen?"
"We had a little get together; just the ladies, and we decided that something
must be done so we arranged this little demonstration; but to be honest I wasn't
sure if they would do it."
"I'm very grateful," Michael said quietly, "to know I have their support."
Just then Michael felt a tug on his sleeve, small at first but then insistent.
He turned to see Seamus standing there. Seamus whose face had an indefinable strangeness
to it smiled at him. He was by no means an ugly man, far from it. Indeed many a young
man would have been pleased to be so gifted, but something about him was oddly vacant.
Life had played a dirty trick on him, but in his innocence he did not know it. Without
the full understanding of life and the world around him he did not see the deceit
and the dishonesty which others see, or the cruelty that for some is just another
day. Seamus was part of a big family who loved him, and Michael wanted to be part
of that family too.
"Hello Seamus," he greeted his nephew, "what can I do for you?"
"Uncle Michael, I..." he seemed to have forgotten his words. He tried again.
"Uncle Michael; have you come all the way from Australia? I've seen it on a map.
It looks like a long way."
"It is a long way Seamus; it's as far away from Ballymay as you can go."
he added, unaware whether he would understand that concept.
"Well I'm glad you're here; welcome home Uncle Michael."
It was probably the most he had spoken in one go for many a long day and
Michael thought he must have been practicing. He put his arms around the shoulder
of this thirty five year old child and squeezed. "Thank you Seamus." he said. It
was all he could say, and he was glad he was turned away from the others or they
would have know what only Seamus knew. That Uncle Michael, trying his best to maintain
his composure was just managing to hold back the tears.