Family tales II ~ Ritamary’s thoughts
My mother would have been a great psychologist. She had a sure-fire cure for sibling rivalry.
She gave the current youngest jurisdiction over the new baby. Their duties were to wave rattles, hold bottles, be very gentle, and most of all put up with the noise and disruption that any baby causes. Mammy made it clear that without their help she would be lost. Who could refuse? So when I arrived, this was Robert’s mission, and he accepted it.
As I got older Robert continued to look after me. He hung around with the neighbourhood boys of course – but he included his little sister. I was part of the ‘gang.’ Together we waded in streams, forded rivers with wobbly planks, caught tadpoles and tiddlers, climbed trees, and played cowboys and Indians. Robert decreed I could to be an Indian warrior, I didn’t have to be the helpless maiden. I think somebody’s visiting cousin got that role. He taught me to ride a bicycle. I wasn’t allowed to do the more dangerous things like going down to the Dodder valley, or running the gauntlet of the billy goat who lived there: that was for the older boys only, Robert said.
He defended me when I arrived home with my sandals ruined with mud, one sock missing and the other covered in oil. None of the other boys ever objected to having me around, and in retrospect, I think it was because Robert had a sort of charismatic quality. He wasn’t a boy who postured, shouted or bullied, but the other children found it easy to fall in with his ideas. He was always fair. It was only later I realised how very tenderly I had been treated.
Robert has a naturally sunny disposition, he is genuinely affectionate to all of us and would spend time with Ann and Eamonn, who was 12 years his junior. He has a quirky sense of humour and a real appreciation for the absurd. After one of Ann and Eamonn’s squabbles, he drew a little sketch (Robert can draw too!) of both of them, Ann with a halo, and Eamonn with horns and a tail. That sketch is still around somewhere, I think Eamonn has it – a reminder of past sins!
In a typical outbreak of mischief, Robert once tied Eamonn up on my father’s workbench – safely, I hasten to add. The workbench was in a shed, and couldn’t be seen from the house.
My mother called Eamonn in for his lunch, and Robert stood beside the trussed – but invisible – Eamonn, assuring her that yes Eamonn could hear her, but he couldn’t come right now, and yes Robert had told him to go inside right away. This went on for quite a while before my mother lost patience and went out to retrieve Eamonn. In fairness, she did see the joke. I’m not sure about Eamonn, who incidentally also has a great sense of humour.
I don’t actually see Robert as a musician, although that is a large part of what he is. The pair of us could talk for Ireland when we get together. I am sure that Angela must have groaned whenever I rang, she would have known that an hour and more would pass with Robert and I nattering away on the telephone, righting the world and discussing our latest plans.
Robert is a much-loved brother and I miss him terribly. I can’t really express how much I want him back. Our family has been shattered, and we are trying to hold ourselves and each-other together as best we can. To everyone who has sent good wishes and encouragement, a very big thank you.