Home > Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(6)

Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(6)
Marian Keyes

The list is getting longer all the time, and some of it seems downright unreasonable – for the life of me I cannot see what is feathery strokery about a man drinking a smoothie. Personally I don’t favour a man in a cardigan but that isn’t on their list, so I could ask them to include it, and they would with pleasure, but why ruin a man’s life? A whole category of lives, in fact?

F is also for Funeral. I am not one to ‘gloat’ but it’s nice to see who I’ve outlived. Also a funeral is a great day out: you meet everyone, you get a glass of wine and something to eat. Frequently you get a sit-down meal. I have already picked out the clothes I’m going to wear for my funeral. Although that won’t be for a very long time yet. Mr Walsh often says to me, ‘Mary, you’ll outlive them all.’ And he’s right (for once): I will.

F is also for ‘False Goodbyes’. This is a ‘thing’ that Anna alerted me to – she can be very intuitive betimes, can Anna, she can ‘put’ her finger right on something. Instead of trying to explain what a False Goodbye is, I’ll tell you a story about how it happened to me.

It started off when myself and Mr Walsh went to visit Carmel O’Mara – well, she’s Carmel Kibble now, she married a chap by the name of Kibble. Carmel and I worked together in Limerick all those years ago, and after I moved to Dublin she stayed below in Limerick. She had three children and life seemed to have worked out well for her, even though, if you want the God’s honest, I always found her husband, Podge Kibble, to be a bit of a cold fish.

We’d ‘exchanged’ Christmas cards over the years and I always said, ‘This summer will be the one that we’ll get down to see you.’ But with one thing and another, it didn’t happen until the May just gone by.

Myself and Mr Walsh hit the road to Limerick and we found ‘Casa Kibble’ (that’s what they call it, for whatever unearthly reason) easy enough because Mr Walsh has a ‘talking map’ in his Mondeo.

Carmel and myself were only thrilled to meet up again. We did the sums and realized it was over thirty years since we’d clapped eyes on each other and she said I hadn’t changed a bit – ‘Still towering over everyone! Haha!’ And I said that she hadn’t changed a bit either, although that was a ‘white’ lie. To tell the truth, if she passed me in the street I wouldn’t have known her from a ‘bar of soap’ as Claire says. Carmel had got very tubby round the middle and her hair was short and curly and grey – why someone wouldn’t have directed her towards a ‘colourist’, I don’t know.

Well, we had a lovely visit. Especially when I took a good look round and saw that their house wasn’t any bigger than ours. We had tea and biscuits and a couple of the grandchildren were inveigled in by the biscuits to say hello to us – two teenage boys (surly little pups) – then they went back to their ‘gameboys’ and us adults were able to continue our chat.

We were there for a good couple of hours and I could feel Mr Walsh starting to get restless beside me and, to be honest, I felt we’d run out of chat at that stage – we’d established which of our ‘gang’ were dead, which was the thing I was most interested in – and I was wondering when we could go without seeming rude.

Eventually I stood up and everyone else stood up too, very, very quickly, and we began to say our goodbyes, which went on for nearly the same amount of time as the actual visit. The surly grandsons were forced to come and bid us farewell and Carmel was full of ‘You must come again soon.’ And, ‘Don’t leave it as long again the next time.’ And, ‘Don’t be a stranger’ (although I’ve never entirely understood that saying).

I was saying, ‘We’ll be back before you know it!’ And, ‘Next time you must come to us. It’s safe now – Helen has moved out.’ And, ‘Tell so-and-so we were asking for them!’

Myself and Mr Walsh finally got out into the open air and I felt a great relief, because I’d been starting to get the oddest feeling that we’d be locked into the leave-taking for all eternity. Still smiling, we got into the car and I hissed to Mr Walsh, ‘Would you slow it down,’ because he was clambering too quickly.

Carmel and ‘Cold Fish’ Kibble were standing at their front door, smiling to beat the band and watching us, and I was smiling and Mr Walsh was smiling and everyone was smiling (except the surly pup grandsons, who’d gone back to their ‘gameboys’ again).

Then I was putting on my seatbelt and I had a pain in my face from smiling and Mr Walsh started backing the car out of the drive and I opened my window and stuck out my arm and shouted, ‘Bye now, lovely to see you again. See you soon!’

Carmel and ‘Cold Fish’ were waving like billy-o and calling, ‘Bye, bye, goodbye, safe journey, bye.’ And everyone was waving and shouting and the car was gathering speed and at last we were out of their sight and we got to the end of the road and I said, ‘So, that went well.’ And I felt, that yes, it had gone well.

Then, like being gripped by a huge cold claw, I realized I’d left my handbag behind.

‘Stop!’ I said to Mr Walsh, who had his eyes fixed on the horizon and was driving like a demon, keen to get home to watch the golf.

‘What?’ he says.

‘Stop, stop, pull in, pull in.’ I said. And even then I was thinking, ‘Do I need the bloody bag? What’s in it? My purse with approximately 137 euro, two credit cards, a debit card, my driving licence and photos of the grandchildren. Then there’s my phone, my reading glasses, my sunglasses, my green scapulars, my Padre Pio relic, the thirteen lipsticks Anna gave me, my Rennies, my Strepsils, my heart tablets, my tissues, my three umbrellas, my … ’

‘What?’ Mr Walsh asked anxiously.

‘My handbag,’ I said. ‘I’m after leaving it behind.’

‘What?’ he says. ‘Back there? With them?’ And he’s looking around on the floor of the car, trying to prove me wrong.

‘It’s not here,’ I say, and I’m starting to sound hysterical. I’m patting myself and looking on the back seat, but I’ve really left the shagging thing behind. ‘Pull in, pull in,’ I say, so he does, and three or four motorists ‘beep’ us and I’m so up to high doh that I nearly ‘flick’ them the ‘V’s.

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