It will be eight years next month since my father died. I’ve written about how much I miss him in this column before. I’ve also bemoaned the fact that the kids never got to meet him on these pages. And of course that hasn’t changed and it never will. They would have adored him and he them.
Nobody will ever take his place, and, having moved home, I think about him even more. He would have loved to have had Aidan and Sarah living beside him. We probably would never have made the move if he was still alive, though. It’s mad how things work out, isn’t it?
The kids may have lost a grandfather before they met him, but since our move they have gained a surrogate one. My uncle Mick, who I saw once or twice a year before we moved, has turned in to Aidan and Sarah’s ‘new grandad’ and I’m so delighted they have him around. Of course there’s their grandad Chambers too, but he lives in Galway and we don’t get to see him half as much as we’d like to unfortunately.
So let me tell you about the new grandad in their lives. He’s my dad’s brother, one of six boys and two girls born in to the O’Brien clan. He’s a retired teacher, a history buff and a man that never took a wife or had any children of his own. He’s all about his family though. When my father was really ill and in the ICU in Tallaght Hospital, he was there every single day, having travelled to Dublin by bus and then on the Luas. After dad died, and although he was grieving, he rolled up his sleeves and lent us a hand. He organised Dad’s headstone and his mass cards at a time when myself and my mother just didn’t have the emotional strength to be organising anthing.
Not long after dad died, myself and Daddy Chambers got engaged. I knew from the second I got engaged that I wanted Mick to give me away/walk me down the aisle, and of course he had no problem fulfilling my request. I could have asked my mother to do it but I’m not too sure she would have been totally comfortable with it. I could have asked any of my other uncles but they all have daughters and either have had or will have the chance to walk them down the aisle.
And what a job he did too. People still talk about his ‘father of the bride’ speech, it was utterly hilarious. It’s what he did after it that literally moved me to tears. He handed me his All Ireland Senior Football Championship winning medal as a wedding gift. I treasure it so much and I always will. In fact it’s one of my most prized possessions.
Thereafter though we didn’t see a whole lot of Mick. We lived an hour away from him and life got seriously busy when the kids came along.
However, that has all changed now and although nobody could ever replace my own father, I, and the kids, are loving their alternative grandad. He calls to our house every Tuesday. He helps Aidan with his homework. He draws funny pictures for them and makes up funny rhymes with their names in them. He plays football with them and most importantly, in their minds anyway, he always brings treats!
On Saturday mornings he arrives at football training, and stays for the hour to check up on their progress. After training of course he unveils more treats!
I’ve always felt my kids were missing out not having their grandad around, but they don’t know any different even though I tell them about him all the time. They are only concerned with the here and now.
And now they are so thrilled to have Uncle Micko in their lives. They are always so excited when he arrives, they still love the novelty of him having dinner with us of a Tuesday evening and they love the treats.
If my father does happen to be looking down on us I think he’d be very pleased with his deputy. I also think that somewhere in the back of his mind Mick kind of feels like he has a grandad-style job to do as far as my kids are concerned.
He has plenty of other nieces and nephews with kids that he visits. But up to this point we didn’t really have anyone visit weekly.
Aidan and Sarah didn’t have a grandad figure this side of the Shannon. Their lives are enriched by his presence. And of course Aidan’s football skills are improving steadily thanks to one-on-one coaching from an All Ireland winning footballer!
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