Tuesday 12 December 2017

This rural homestead paints a picture of isolation and fear

The old and vunerable need not go unnoticed as kind neighbours step in to help, writes Patricia Murphy

No country for old men: Paint peels off the wall in a bedroom in the rural home where three male family members once lived together before the last remaining son was taken into care Photo: Donal Moloney
No country for old men: Paint peels off the wall in a bedroom in the rural home where three male family members once lived together before the last remaining son was taken into care Photo: Donal Moloney

Patricia L. Murphy

Few things are certain in life, for everything else there is an insurance policy. House, car, life, health, pet, travel. Every angle of our mortal existence is covered. Life is sorted and all at a premium. Or so it seems.

A short drive from one of our major cities is a small cluster of rural houses. Most of the residents have been lifelong neighbours. They farm together, they pray together, some have worked the railway together. But that's often where the familiarity ends and the isolation begins. Behind closed doors just like any neighbourhood is a story of love, loss, neglect and speculation. A whole world of uncertainty.

The kitchen is left without floorboards Photo: Donal Moloney
The kitchen is left without floorboards Photo: Donal Moloney

In the autumn of his life now, the owner of this house is no longer able to care for himself following a car accident. He left the priesthood to become a garda, never married, and grew up surrounded by other males, namely his father and brother.

There was no woman's touch, no comfort in the storm. Locals say a visit to the house would be greeted with the front door being opened just a crack, just enough to have a quick chat and no more. These men protected each other and showed little interest in widening their circle of friends. A day out was a dinner downtown followed by people watching from the side of the road as cars travelled back and forth to the nearby racetrack.

Yet despite this impenetrable defence, the selflessness of a few of the locals has brought glimpses of human warmth and kindness into their lives.

Christmas dinners were prepared and delivered year after year to the three men. The cats who still occupy the house are fed by a local lady. The same lady who helped the current owner and last remaining son carry out basic day-to-day chores before he eventually went into care. She continues to bring him on weekly outings from the care home and takes him back to the house once in a while to check things over. She too is approaching the autumn of her years.

Flat caps left behind by the former occupants gather dust Photo: Donal Moloney
Flat caps left behind by the former occupants gather dust Photo: Donal Moloney

Nothing it seems is ever certain, no matter how over-insured and risk-adverse we become. But we can nevertheless make a few assumptions. Nature abhors a vacuum and will quickly rush in to fill in the gaps. And love, no matter how we resist and protect ourselves against it, will wangle its way in and around us, embracing us and connecting us to the most basic but beautiful risk of all.

Sunday Independent

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