Last Monday I learnt from my FB feed that Dermot Healy, Irish writer and Sligo resident, compared to Beckett and highly rated by Seamus Heaney, died. Suddenly. Prematurely (he was 66 and had a massive heart attack at home). I didn’t know the man though I’d heard him read twice and after one of those readings he’d signed my copy of his book. I didn’t know the man but I somehow ended up in a pub nook with him, his wife, Patrick McCabe and a couple of other local artists residing in the West. Sixteen years ago. And on Monday when I heard he’d passed I felt a light go out. Not that I thought we’d meet again but the world seemed a little duller without his literary illumination. The last time I felt that was when I heard of Garret Fitzgerald’s death. He was the grand old gent of Irish politics, super intelligent and principled. Polite too. He was a frequent traveller when I worked with the airlines.
I went into a funk for a while after Garret and now I could feel the same happen for Dermot Healy. A day later I heard I didn’t win the Turkish commission and the following afternoon I get a text from my bank about an out-of-character transaction in New York. Was it me? I wish. So my card is cancelled and I’ve the headache that goes with it.
And then the final blow, the swipe that totally winded me. I arrange to meet an old pal. We only get to catch up a couple of times a year. Glorious sunshine, a cafe in a walled garden. Air kisses. I tell her she looks well following an op she had in the interim. She tells me she feels good too. She asks what I’ve been up to and I tell her about the school reunion. She wonders why I’d have wanted to go back. She’s had an invite from her alumni but is quite definite that she won’t be attending. We speak some more on that. I might have moved on to some of my projects and then she erupts. I can’t remember the tirade verbatim but it went something like this – Would you ever come back to the PRESENT. Stop living in the PAST (and in Ireland). Stay in the HERE and NOW. What does your husband make of all this introspection? You’ve got a good man and two kiddies and there you are buried in the past. Are you depressed? Do you need to see someone? You’re always trying to save other people – you’re in no fit state to help anyone. Sort yourself out first. If you were going to be a writer it would have happened for you before now (ouch).
There was no malicious intent on my friend’s behalf. She was speaking her mind but it wasn’t what I needed to hear. Who knows what was behind it all or what I triggered for her. Her stuff is her own and for her to sort out but what was weird was my reaction, how readily I took on what she said. Doubt (who I’ve written to and about here) was back on my lap, winking up at me. Take me home it said and I did.
I felt utterly crushed. It didn’t start as a niggle either. It was a blow and it was instant. All the work I’ve been doing on me and on fear and doubt dissipated over our coffees. My hopes and dreams annihilated. Her words crushed me because I let them and that’s what really bothered me. My compliance.
There followed a few days of suspended projects and impotency. I was spent. When I told DH, I wondered if he’d say “Ah,ha’ and chime in with her about how he and the kids are being neglected. He didn’t at all. He just offered me encouragement and his continued support. Five days on and I’ve rallied. I don’t need concern. Hers or anyones. And if that’s all that’s on offer I’ll take a wide berth for the moment. I need to be around optimism and faith. Luck will always get a good reception here too.
I’m toping and tailing with Irish literary greats. It’s fitting and fits in
The Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
RIP Dermot Healy.