Yesterday on Littor Strand I met a neighbour who turned eighty years since we last met. An improvement I saw in him! “Do you see my mouth ” he said, “I lost one of my front teeth!” And he did. “What are you going to do about it,” his family asked him. “Accept it ” I said, “didn’t it do its job long enough.”
I recalled for him an incident that happened myself while waiting for treatment in Cork Hospital last month. A polite silence settles on the waiting patients. We keep our distance yet there is an accepting, nourishing presence there. Enter a patient I hadn’t seen before or since. A Corkman. ” Where are you from, ” he said to me, ” I haven’t seen you here before.” Within earshot of all twelve of us he began his interrogation of me. “And what part of Kerry?” “Near Listowel.” ” Do you know my cousins?” he asked, naming a family I had heard of. “Big people,” I replied. “They took me to a pub, The Thatch, on the road to Tarbert. ” Would that be on the road to Ballybunion?” I helpfully added. “No” he informed me, ” you would go to Ballybunion if you were taking the ferry to Clare, there is another good pub near it, closer to Tarbert, what’s its name?” ” Would it be Tomaseens? ” I suggested. ” That’s it, a great pint there ” I realised at this stage that he wasn’t too good on geography or wasn’t for correcting either! Anyway why should a fact get in the way of a good story.
“Where have you the cancer? ” he probed. I gave as clear an explanation as I could and detailed the treatment I was going through. I feared his next question since I expected it to be about my profession so to deflect I decided to be as bold as himself and ask where he had it. His face and chest filled with air and joy collectively.
“Down there,”he pointed,” in the playground area!” All twelve of us erupted in laughter and he told us, ” they all laugh when I tell them that, nurses and doctors as well.”
Thankfully I was called soon but the humour, naturalness and earthiness made the day for us all as did the man missing the tooth I met yesterday on Littor Strand.