An extra guest at the table

Aug 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Ireland

‘There have only been eighteen days without rain since the 1st April’.

It seemed an improbable statistic, in memory, eight would seem a more likely figure, but the man’s employment as an agricultural contractor depended on the weather, so the number would be exact.

Calling at a house on one of the warmer of those eighteen days, the kitchen door was open and three adult daughters of the house sat around the kitchen table, with a countrywoman, dressed as if it were winter sat at the head. ‘Is your dad at home?’

‘Dad’, went a call down the corridor.

He appeared. We sat and talked at the kitchen table. Tea was made and biscuits were shared.

The countrywoman sat looking into the middle distance, making no comment. After half an hour or so, she stood up and left, without a word of comment or farewell. Each day, she arrives at the house before six and sits in the kitchen. The family share breakfast with her and, if they are eating their main meal at midday, they set a place for her. On that day she had decided that she would not remain for the meal.

Leaving the house, the heat of the day had about it a stifling humid, heaviness. It was one of those rare days when wearing grey and black seemed unwise. Turning onto a narrow side road, not much wider than the car, the countrywoman was ambling along ahead. She stepped onto the left hand verge to allow the car to pass.

It seemed appropriate to offer to drive her, wherever she was going on such a day. ‘Would you like a lift?’

‘I would please. God bless you. It’s a warm day’. She got in, ignoring the suggestion that the seat belt might be fastened.

‘Where am I driving you?’

‘To my house, I live down here. It’s the second house’.

We passed a few houses. ‘Is your house here?’

‘It’s the second house after the bend’.

We drew up at a small, neat bungalow set back from the road. ‘God bless you for your kindness’. She got out of the car and walked slowly in through her gate.

Looking in the mirror, it was hard to imagine what might she might be thinking. What would she do for the rest of the day? Did she just sit at the table of her own house and stare ahead into nothingness?

Were it not for a family of outsiders who allow her to walk into their kitchen early every  morning and to share  their table with them, what might her life be like? Who would she see? Who would talk to her?

On winter days, when she walks that same road, do other people pick her up and wonder what thoughts might be passing through the mind of the woman in her big coat and old shoes?

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