Monday, April 23, 2012


He'd been a quiet companion, without the liveliness I was told to expect from a red setter. And yet, in those first few days, the absence of a wary scratch on my door each morning was as loud as it was silent. Unmistakably, I was alone.

Bridget's cherished rockery seemed as close to a headstone as I could offer him, as if death would make such a formality any more important to him.

“She wouldn't mind” I thought, despite the scoff with which she had always dismissed the idea of getting a dog. But even she couldn't have ignored Rua's gentle disposition when he sat tactfully with me at her graveside.

 “Do you see this?” I would ask her, “This is what keeps me going.”

How right I was. After a week without him, I had buckled under a tide of nostalgia, if such a word can be toned with regret. The memories were, at first, unremarkable. When returning from mass, I waited in vain to see a ginger silhouette moving erratically through the front door's frosted window. Then came more seminal recollections, like the forlorn expression with which he first looked at me through the shelter cage.

With a heart so heavy, Ciara and Rachel's visit today seemed less than ideal. It began routinely, as Ciara fidgeted with her phone at the kitchen table.

“They're called smart-phones Dad” she explained. “You can go online from anywhere.”

“Really” I replied half-heartedly, hoping to feign some sort of interest.

It didn't matter. She was too busy poking at something else to detect my lack of sincerity. Sometimes I think she'd be better off just sewing the phone to her hand.

Eventually I wandered out to the garden to find Rachel examining the upturned soil by the rockery. I stood for a moment and watched, remembering the accord she and Rua had enjoyed since, as an uncertain toddler, she first patted his long lean head. Then came her inevitable enquiry.

“What's that Grandad?” she asked.

“That's where Rua is” I replied bluntly, forgetting she had but the littlest understanding of life and death.

“Mum said Rua is in heaven” she retorted.

I smiled faintly, thinking it the most diplomatic response.

“I miss Rua” she continued, “It's so boring here now.”

My laboured grin gave way to a genuine chuckle. It was the first time I'd laughed in weeks.

“Rachel” I whispered, “I couldn't agree more.”