children wondering why papa
Or will not play;
His heart joins them
While his body cannot respond
Those are the lines of a poem that my grandfather wrote towards the end of his life. Out of a whole book of poetry, I have always remembered those particular words – mainly because they gave me a connection to someone who went out of my life when I was only eleven years old. But now, I am recalling them because I am beginning to truly understand the struggle behind them.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a chair in Donegal, affectionately known as ‘papa’s chair’, forced off my feet with a bout of MS fatigue, and watching my husband and two children play hide and seek in the garden. I suddenly caught a glimpse of how my papa must have felt, sitting in that very chair, watching me, my siblings and cousins play outside, and looking beyond to the fields he worked hard in when he was young.
And yet, it struck me that it was most likely when papa was in that chair, often not out of choice. that he plumbed deeper depths of thought and feeling than he ever had before. In the closing lines of the poem, he writes:
Maybe I’m missing a lot;
Sunset is always
The most beautiful part
Of the day
I have hoped that in my struggles with MS, the same deepening of insight will be brought to me too. I never really knew papa, but strangely now, taking a few small steps in his huge ones, I feel like I am closer to him.