A Short Sketch
I heard the bleating beyond the fuchsia hedge as I walked down the lane. Loud, persistent, mournful.
Reaching the gate to the field, I saw Mary standing surrounded by six-month old lambs, bleating and nudging at her legs.
“How are the lambs doing?” I asked, concerned that there might be something wrong. I leaned on the gate.
“Aw, we’re just after separating them from the ewes. We move the young ones here and the ewes to the high field above so they can’t hear each other. They miss their mothers, so they do,” Mary answered.
“But isn’t it a fine day to be standing in a field surrounded by lambs?” she went on. As always in Ireland, the talk turns to the weather.
“It is indeed,” I reply. “A lovely day for a long walk.”
“And aren’t you the grand man for the walking?” she compliments me. She sees me often along this stretch of lane.
The talk turns to the other topic nowadays.
“And how are you keeping down below there? With the Covid and all?” she asks, referring to the constant worry about the pandemic.
“We’re doing just fine, Mary, but we only go into town early on Thursday to do our shop at Garvey’s, Jerry’s, and O’Connor’s. How are you and your husband getting on?”
Her husband is “The Old Man Who Suffers from the Terrible Gout.”
“We’ve only been to town once or twice to go to Conor (the local GP) to get the gout medicine for the old man,” she tells me. “I still have Garvey’s deliver our shop to us on the Friday.”
After a few more minutes commiserating with each other about the complications to our lives caused by the virus, she asks me:
“And how is your care?”
Normally I am good with local colloquial phrases, but I was stumped by this one.
Mary recognized the quizzical look on my face. “Your care, your family back in the states,” she explained to me.
“Aah,” I said before telling her how our family back home was getting along and enquiring after her own family here in Ireland.
After a few more minutes of chat, circling back, as always, to the weather, I said goodbye and left Mary to her bleating lambs.
As I walked down the lane to the Old Ventry Road,with the mournful bleating fading away, the lovely phrase she used ran through my mind: “How is your care?”
Early on in the fight against Covid-19, a poem called “Take Care” by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins,was in circulation. It offered comfort in trying times.
The last lines read:
Images of our friends and family around the world flew through my mind. Ohio and Oregon. California and Pennsylvania. New Mexico, Michigan,and Connecticut. India, Singapore, and Ireland. Our care.
Take care, each and every one, I prayed as I walked along the lane. May we come home together.