Episode 10 - A Visit from Dorothy...

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April 16, 2006

Two short days after saying farewell to Abigail and Jessie, we were back in Cork City to pick up Dorothy. My mom had been to Ireland several years ago when my aunt (her sister) was living in our tiny cottage with her husband and two kids (hard to imagine), so both the country and the house were already familiar to her. What she did get a good dose of this time, however, was good old Irish blarney: conversation that can only be had with total strangers and that lasts more than an hour.

Our first encounter was with Paul, a neighbor who lives a mile up the road but whom we had never met. His dogs ran out to greet us as we walked by his house, and Paul came out to make sure we didn’t mind. The conversation quickly turned from dogs to computers, automated voice message systems, Seinfeld, Father Ted, the Y2K scare and speedy Irish drivers before we were invited in for a cuppa tea. We stayed for over an hour and left with six fresh eggs, a package of kippers, a guide to standing stones and megalithic tombs in the Mealagh Valley, and an invitation to Paul’s birthday party on the 21st.

The following morning as Bobby and I were having tea, our front door slowly slid open and in walked a man we had never met. He introduced himself as Paul O’Neill and, since he was standing in our living room, we offered him a cup of tea. We settled in at the kitchen table and the discussion ran its course: the history of our cottage, what his daughters are doing with their lives, the standing stones in his yard, the downfalls of the Catholic Church, his job as an excavator and farmer. An hour or two later, he recommended that we spend the day on Sheep’s Head Peninsula, thanked us for the tea, and walked out the door, leaving us wondering why he ever came in the first place, but happy that he had.

Next morning, a knock on the door. It’s the British Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t understand how these people survive here in Ireland, but here they are at my door for the second time. You see, last time they came I took the book. It was just too tempting—it promised answers to intriguing questions, like “Where are the dead?” So they came back to see how I found the book. I told them that the pictures of heaven looked nice, with the stars and the dolphins and all, but that I just wasn’t sold on the religious ticket. This woman, by the way, thinks Bobby’s name is Barbie. The first time she came and Bobby introduced himself, she said “Bahbie—like the doll?” and Bobby, anticipating “Like the pin?” said yes. Would you trust this woman with your soul?

Anyway, later that day we stopped in Glengarriff to pick up some film on the way to the Beara Peninsula and once again were caught up in a random, winding exchange. I don’t remember how it started, but we spent the better part of an hour in a tiny, dark mom-and-pop variety store with two Irish men and their friend from California. The proprietor, Tom O’Shea, is a tiny man with no teeth who, at 83, holds the title of oldest man in town, and presumably the most talkative. After a while, we had to interrupt his stream of thought to thank him for the film and get on our way, as we had already gotten a late start and had a lot of driving ahead of us.

So Mom’s visit was just grand until Good Friday rolled around. It was the day before she was to leave and we were spending the day and night in Cork City. There’s not a whole lot to do in Cork City other than walk around, shop, and visit the pubs, and we planned to do a bit of each. Having walked for quite a while and shopped a bit, we decided it was time for a pint, only to find that NO ALCOHOL IS SOLD IN IRELAND ON GOOD FRIDAY. I mean none. Pubs are closed, as are off-licenses, and restaurants bring pitchers of water to the tables. So there we were at 4:00 having walked all day and just wanting a pint and then it started raining. Restaurants were closing early and the only movies playing at the theater were animated or starred Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConahay. Our moods turned sour. However, we had a good early dinner, washed it down with water, and found an art-house movie theater playing "Tsotsi" at 9 (great movie). The next morning we said good-bye to my mom, had a quick breakfast, and headed for the bus station to pick up Karen and Bob.