Time to be at home in Tipperary among loved ones at this time of crisis

Dr.Anthony O'Halloran


Dr.Anthony O'Halloran



Time to be at home in Tipperary among loved ones at this  time of crisis

It feels like a decade of history has been squeezed into the two weeks since An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made his early morning speech from Washington D.C.
This was the occasion which announced a partial shutdown of this country.
I listened to the speech at work in Dublin as four of us huddled silently around a laptop. The college director decided that our students who all hail from the United States would be flown home that weekend. I was denied the opportunity to say the customary final goodbyes and share reflections on the term past. This week my colleagues and I will be teaching students scattered across New England from our homes in Ireland.
I have always been happy to leave Dublin behind me for my native Ardfinnan village in County Tipperary. I like many aspects of Dublin life, but I feel a minimum of emotional attachment to my capital city. On this occasion, I felt an urgent need to get home. Undoubtedly, we all want to be in familiar surroundings and with those whom we love in times of deep crisis. Dublin felt very different as did the train journey to Limerick junction. I became particularly conscious of how proximate passengers are in a train carriage.
A fear factor permeates society now. In this regard, my five siblings and I fear for our parents because they are both very old. My father Patrick is 94 and my mother Mary is 88. We are acutely aware that this virus does not respect national, country or village boundaries. Nevertheless, my parents come from a generation who have witnessed and endured real material hardship.
To put my statement into its historical context, my Dad was born three years before the 1929 Wall Street crash. For much of their lives none of the conveniences of a what I term a ‘switch on society’ were available to them. Switch on the light, switch on the heating, switch on the hairdryer, switch on the shower and switch on the television to mention but a few!
That is not to say my parents are unafraid. The suffering which Italy is enduring touches us all, but I suspect it is impacting on many of our senior citizens quite significantly. But my parent’s generation are in my experience both tenacious and innately strong.
The sheer gravity of what was happening probably landed with me in Dublin that Thursday morning. It was confirmed though when my youngest sister told me some days later that when visiting my parents and I she would greet us from the front lawn through the sitting room window. I felt immeasurably sad.
On Mothers’ Day my neighbour’s children were sitting in the front lawn absorbing the beautiful sunshine. The parents were however, in the sitting room waving out at the children! I admired this moving presence of love notwithstanding the circumstances.
I have found the social distancing requirement very difficult. This is because like everyone else, I am unlearning the socially embedded habits of a lifetime. There remains an awkwardness attaching to distancing and whilst I have adjusted very successfully out of an obligation to myself and others, the process feels utterly uncomfortable. I feel that I am talking at rather than to my neighbours. It is deeply ironic that in order to perform a social good namely protect our fellow human beings we must become temporary asocial beings.
I have also become deeply aware of touch. When I purchased my Sunday Newspaper for example, I wondered who had touched it before. Putting groceries in the fridge and taking postal deliveries produce a similar reaction. The instinct to give and receive a hug has been put in abeyance.
There have been one or two funny moments. In this regard, my mother’s insistence that Mr Sheen polish was a purchasing priority produced a mini backlash from me. I had formed the entirely reasonable view that the purchasing of Mr Sheen was not something that should command our attention at this moment in world history!
Nature provides continuity. The rooks are building nests in the trees with a typical seasonal enthusiasm and I have observed flocks of cormorants following the line of the River Suir from our front garden. Lambing season is in full swing and I spotted a stranded hedgehog on the green opposite our estate on Sunday night last. I also encountered a content fisherman with two trout in his bag. The atmosphere, however, feels very heavy and eerie and many have remarked upon this new reality.
I send prayers to all readers of the Clonmel Nationalist. Never in my most fanciful imaginings did I think that I would be submitting an article like this to the editor.

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