I am seated in front of a coal fire in a cottage on Lough Arrow, deep in the Western Ireland countryside. Yeats country.

Statue of Yeats near his grave in Drumcliffe

My dear friend Tess Gallagher has been coming to this area since the 1960s, originally to visit a woman she met named Dymphna Gray. About 20 years ago Tess was introduced to Dymphna’s older brother, Josie. Both widowed, they took quite a fancy to each other and eventually fell in love. The cottage on the lake belongs to Dymphna. Josie lives up the road in Ballindoon, and Tess now owns a little place nearby where she spends a few months every year.

Tess and Josie

It’s quiet here – profoundly so. It’s easy to sleep the morning away. If Aaron hadn’t been arriving on the train from Dublin today, we might have slept till noon.

Lough Arrow from the cottage

I had a vivid dream last night in which both my parents died in a car crash. I then found out that my mother was not dead after all; instead, she had been languishing in a nursing home. I was devastated to realize I had been neglecting her all this time and searched for what felt like an eternity before I found her.

The dream stayed with me all day and I thought about it as I drove the narrow roads to the train station in Boyle to pick up Aaron. I was also thinking that it was a good day to give away €50.

The station at Boyle

We got to the tiny train station and I immediately noticed a woman with a big green knapsack standing on the platform to Dublin. I went over to say hello. “Looks heavy,” I said, nodding my head toward her pack. “Oh, I’m used to it,” she answered. “What part of the States are you from?” Turns out she has a cousin in Oregon.

Erin and her haversack

The woman said she was heading back to Dublin: “Unfortunately.” I asked what she meant. “I grew up in Dublin, and I can’t stand the noise of the city. I just despise it.” She comes out to the country to get away from the bustle. “Even an hour out here, you know, it just refreshes you,” she said. I agreed.

She told me her name was Erin and that she works in a nursing home for people with dementia. “I love it, I really do. But you have to take a break, step back a bit every so often. It can be very tiring.” Her gaze was steady and kind; her Irish eyes a clear gray-blue.

Last night’s dream still shimmering, I found comfort in the thought of this woman at her work.  I told her I had something I wanted to give her, and then a little about my mother. I was acutely aware of the surroundings, my accent, my polar fleece and my tennis shoes.

When I handed Erin the €50 bill she paused for a beat and then leaned toward me with a serious expression. “Oh, I can’t accept this. It’s too much!” I told her it was hers to do with as she pleased.

“I know what I’ll do,” she said with a nod. “I’ll use it to buy some beautiful flowers for the residents. They love pretty things, especially plants and flowers. Lots of them used to garden when they were younger. “

“You can do something nice for yourself, too,” I suggested. But she already had a plan. “I’ll pick the flowers up during the week; they’ll be so pleased! People sometimes think the elderly don’t have an appreciation for beauty and it’s just not true. Oh, they’ll just love this. Thank you!”

Aaron arrived and we walked down the platform toward the car. As we passed Erin, she smiled shyly and I gave a little wave.

Was my 50 Euros too much? Hardly.

Erin and her plan? Now, that’s too much.

Erin

 

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4 Responses to Too Much

  1. Pru McDonald says:

    Somehow, Jill, you manage to choose the “givers” in life, on your journey of love. Erin is surely one of those… a “giver”, and there are more out there than any of us would begin to guess… Their other name is ANGEL. Like YOU…
    Love, Pru

  2. Pru McDonald says:

    Interesting to learn of your friendship with Tess G.
    As an amateur writer and prolific poet myself, I am familiar with her life story, her relationship with Raymond Carver, and I own some of her lovely work. How rewarding for you BOTH!
    Pru

  3. DJan says:

    What a lovely story! I am having such fun being on your journey with you. Funny, the past two nights I have had some profound dreams that have stayed with me during the day. Hmmm…

  4. Ginny says:

    You find the right people to give to, like Erin, what a wonderful idea she had about giving flowers to the people that she cares for. They will love it!
    Thank you for share your experance with us. I look forward to reading about it.

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