I Had Forgotten Her Again

I Had Forgotten Her Again

By the time the family came to live in Cork, in March 1959, we were a full seven strong, not counting Ma and Da, with another one on the way! By 1967 we would be the full dozen! It was Da’s dream to have twelve!

But to say ‘there were twelve of us’ wasn’t quite true. There were thirteen if you count Pauline who was the ‘cot death’ child!  What do you mean “‘If’ you count Pauline?”  Why wouldn’t you count Pauline?  She was born the third child so why not count her? And yet we didn’t! And we don’t!

We always boasted twelve children, never thirteen!!

What was that?

We had to make a positive and determined adjustment to say thirteen! She died when she was only six weeks old, back in 1950 and in those days, in Ireland, most things of so painful a nature, were dealt with by sweeping them ‘under the carpet’. Ma and Da, along with other troubles they were to have at the time, swept Pauline ‘under the carpet’.  We often asked after her, only to be told that it was ‘the worst day of our lives’.

They couldn’t bear the memory, let alone speak of it!

Before she died herself many decades later, Ma would tell us how the years that followed Pauline’s death were the worst of her married life. Da had also found the grief too much. He strayed a while from the marriage leaving Ma alone at home with three crying babies. They patched it all up eventually of course but I do wonder sometimes if our internal wounds ever fully heal. Funny how the solutions, or lack thereof, in one generation’s time can pass a deafening echo on to the next

‘If one generation doesn’t cry the next one will’, they say!

She woke suddenly to the plaintive cry of a child. Her long white gown flowing in the breeze was flapping about her feminine form as she raced her raging thoughts, down the long hall.  “Not again” she thought. “If only I hadn’t let the doctor go … but you couldn’t keep him here all night just in case … could you?” He went home. She put Pauline back to sleep. At dawn, when she went to lift her little baby and she was gone!

By the time she reached me, my body was frozen stiff. It was my twin sister Patricia that cried when she felt the cold of my touch. The doctor was called and again and like the last time, the child was fine when he arrived. This time she wasn’t letting him go!  She fed him tea and biscuits for hours through the night until eventually I cried again. The doctor prescribed penicillin and I survived, but only because Pauline had died – she showed us how. She lived for only six short weeks and yet she left a turbulent wake that has shaped and formed my life in oh so many ways!

Every ripple matters, it seems.

One beautiful sunny morning, many years later, I was headed for Galway to sing on the streets during my ‘Frilly Years’. This verse came to me out of nowhere …

I had forgotten her again

For years I believed I had seven sisters, each and everyone so very beautiful

At age fifty-five and on my way to Galway

I wondered which one of them had influenced me the most down all my living years

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, my car was full, completely full … of Pauline

My eighth sister, long since past

* * *

I cried aloud and filled with tears

I had forgotten her again

* * *

She was everywhere, she was in me, around me, on me and about me

She filled a space without taking any room

She was alive, she was a soul, she was alone, she was dancing and she was talking

She spoke so gently, so completely, without a word and I wrote poetry

My colourful, creative, confused and wonderfully alive shape, had been formed and fused

In and about the die of her turbulent wake

* * *

I cried aloud and filled with tears.

I had forgotten her again.

* * *

I knew she had died at just six weeks, the same as I so nearly did

Just four years later on

But I survived that night to tell my tale and live my life so full

Because, in her passing, she had told us how

Poor Ma so sad, so sorrowful, so hurt and disillusioned

Fell foul of faithless love

And Da so broken-hearted and alone, so tossed and thrown

Gave up a while and lost his self-control

They screamed at one another, in ‘desperate hope’

Crying out for help as lovers often do

They vowed to never speak or hear of it again, to never bring it up

It’s all that they could do

But in their silent broken hearts.

* * *

They cried aloud and filled with tears.

They had forgotten her again.

* * *

I was born when all their pain was gone or so it was they said

But as they suffered in their silent roles, I saw their pain and felt their grief

Newly born – more emotional than physical

I slept inside their tender hearts so strong and dreamed their deepest wounds.

I thought they thought their thoughts of me

That’s all that I could see

I felt abandoned. I was wrong.

* * *

I cried aloud and filled with tears.

I had forgotten her again.

* * *

On my way back from Galway that very day, when all the fuss had passed

Clare, the eldest of the eight, texted me

A short but poignant powerful message – for no reason at all, it seemed.

“Did you know that today would have been Pauline’s 60th birthday?”

* * *

I cried aloud and filled with tears.

I had forgotten her again.

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