Asumpta_PONDERS

swirl

Asumpta_PONDERS -PART TWO

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It was with my fifty eighth, birthday approaching that the Commodore gave up the ghost. The car given to me by Michael had made its last spluttering noise, so far as I was concerned and with only enough steam left to chug into a parking spot a few doors away from where my shop was located, this was where it was left. With more pressing issues on my mind, the Commodore was then forgotten about for two weeks before I thought to check on it again by glancing up the road. The first thought to occur in noticing the Commodore was not where it had been left, was that it had been stolen, followed by my wondering how on earth anyone had managed to make it go? It was only by way of civic duty this disappearance was then reported. Otherwise, it was considered the car thief had done me a favour.

On contacting the Constabulary to report my missing vehicle, it was within the hour I received a return phone call from a constable with a no nonsense approach, who gave me a ticking off for not communicating with my brother. With the Commodore still being in Michael's name, even though it was me who had taken care of all else otherwise, the registration had been cancelled for almost a year due to non-payment of fines received whilst Michael was driving taxis. How pedestrian of him! There I had been, running a shop with a garden theme, attempting to uphold a respectable presence in a small seaside town, when a few doors away the number plates were being removed from my vehicle by the police before it was towed back in the direction it had come, when I had arrived two years earlier, like a big shot from the city!

News travels fast in a small town but it was of some relief that my neighbouring shopkeepers would not have been aware as to why three burly men in black suits were soon after to be seen making their way towards where I sat, chewing my finger nails at the back of the shop which was soon to be no more. These three first visited the Tin House and instead of giving Michael's details, Ma gave them mine. I was more forthcoming in supplying both Michael's phone number and address, at the same time regretting yet again the day our paths had crossed back in 1989 when I was chomping at the bit to be free of Bert. As things turned out, these men were Debt Collecors employed by Shirley who was in search of making good the funds outlaid by Shirley (or her mother), in Michael's warehousing business, CDS. Michael would fill me in on who these men were, a couple of years later, as for the time being, I was not speaking to him.
Come 2005, it was time to leave the notion of being self-employed behind and consider what I might do by way of leading a more practical existence. I had had enough of being a shopkeeper, which had never been on my bucket list. I did not want to sit about in a large space with only one product, for which there was no current need due to the drought!

self employed wonder weeder
Overall, this shop did not do too badly, I employed a woman to look after sales, whilst sitting behind a curtain, avoiding contact with any customer not after one of my weeders. With my fifty ninth, birthday approaching and no end to the drought in sight, it was time to leave an area where I would never belong, no matter how long I stayed.

Celli at this same time, in no longer being able to maintain the mortgage hanging over the timber house in Victoria, began all over again at the age of forty eight, right back in the same area of Sydney where she had arrived as a child. Dusty by then had gone to meet his maker, along with her best friend Philomena and with now two little dogs for company, Celli not only worked in the city during the week as a legal secretary but also put her newly acquired, rented accommodation to good use as a dog grooming parlour, in the evenings and at weekends.

Michael by then had not set eyes on his four boys for eight years and it would most likely be as long before he saw them again! There had been no change in Eamonn's situation, and no inquiry was made into how any of my other siblings were fairing.

If it had not been for a man and woman who sold footwear wanting my shop, I would have been stuck there for a further year by the terms of the lease. So, if I wanted to get out, which I did, I had ten days to move a large shop full of garden theme stock. The woman who had been working in sales, completely understood and stepped aside, leaving me to it.

I had not been seen much before this, but now I was everywhere. First, I got a white sheet and painted 'Clearance' on it with black paint. I then went to the corner of the street and with the aid of a step ladder, tied this sheet up high between a tree and what, come to think of it now, was probably a traffic light pole. I then painted another sheet stating: 'Free shelves help yourselves' and hung this in the shop window.

Removal of the shelving was of some consideration as a painter could not be employed to bring the walls back to white from ochre, until the shelves were removed. Before I knew it, the stock was flying out the door and as it disappeared, so did the shelving, people came with their tool kits to remove them! Everything was selling at half price; mostly Balinese stuff; from plain stone lanterns and fountains to colourful artefacts. Within a week, most of what I could never stand the sight of, had gone and in the last couple of days, if anyone hesitated about a purchase, I would just tell them to take whatever they had been looking at. If there was any disappointment, it was that if only I had pulled my socks up sooner, this shop would have done much better than 'not too badly'. Any profit beforehand had been paid as wages to the woman who was not really needed. My massive 'sell' off had at least provided what was required to have the shop repainted and clear up what was owing to suppliers etc. In having done all that was required, it was of some disappointment to find that the real estate agents, a smarmy middle aged couple, were withholding my bond on some drummed up pretext. I had never trusted either of them, which in a way was fortunate, as this lessened the impact of discovering these estate agents were no more than a pair of small town rogues. It was only through persistence that half my bond was eventually returned, leaving me to only wonder afterwards, how many times this couple had pulled such a stunt?

In now leaving the shop and the area where I had gone in an unrealistic quest, my share portfolio represented the only investment I had. It was in still waiting for it to head north instead of perpetually in the opposite direction, I once again regretted getting Ma to buy that safe. In now being minus an income and with a job to find, I would not have minded handling a bundle of mouldy bank notes at all.

Ma appreciated my predicament and came to my assistance without being asked. I told her I would pay her back but she was not interested in any repayment in that I needed money more than she did. She gave me a cheque, telling me that when she had been to the bank to exchange the notes, once under the fridge, the female bank teller did not want to touch what had been handed over because it was in such an objectionable condition. "Did you ever hear of such thing in your life, a bank not being interested in money, no matter its state?", she asked. I handed her one of the statements received from my share investments by way of a promissory note which equalled the amount considered borrowed. My possessions which would not fit in the shopping trolley Ma gave me, I left under the Tin House and headed across the road to catch the bus.

In the Commodore being no more, it was by bus or train I would be travelling from then on. As I climbed upon the bus that day, on my way back to Andy and Jane's, and in looking out through the bus window, Ma's grey head could be made out, hovering above some greenery, with obvious concern etched upon her still sweet face. As the bus drove away, I remembered the day, three years before. I had assumed at that time, it would take more than bank notes being locked in an airless safe to improve the quality of those wads of pulp, stashed there and wondered if my key, once hidden, for only me to know about, had disappeared by now into the crumbling plaster cement. Maybe Ma thought I had taken it? Had she been surprised each time the safe was opened afterwards, to find her fermenting stash was still there?

My new occupation was that of housekeeper, this being the area of employment where speaking English was an asset, placing me at the top of any employment queue. It was my obvious next move, to target the rich, if the working years left to me were to be recession proof. I had the solicitors who acted for me during my wrangle with Bert, to thank for coming up with this idea, as 'housekeeper' was how my occupation had been described in the correspondence sent to the other side. At the time, as no inquiry had been made into what my occupation was, being described as a housekeeper had been viewed by me as a legal ploy to point out the meagreness of the wife's existence compared to that of the husband.

In thinking again about this, the description made of my employment by my solicitors, could have been more due to an automatic assumption this was the role I played in living with Andy and Jane; an assumption perhaps aided by a Family Court judge coming there to dine. It could of course have been simply because I looked like a housekeeper, but whatever the reason, it was thanks to those representing me during my wrangle with Bert that my language skills were now going to be put to good use.

Life with Andy and Jane was a living situation better than any other within my power to claim and one I was lucky to have. Jane was one of those rare people thought well of by anyone she came into contact with and Andy, I grew to like him more as I got to know him.

The only awkwardness in living with Andy and Jane was that it was necessary to lie about my actual circumstances to them. As they were aware I had received a reasonable Marriage Settlement, I told them I had bought a large block of land up the coast with a sea view, which, was about what would have been expected, had a third party not got in first. My children fortunately never asked any questions, not even what had happened to that house I told them I had bought when I had the shop but I would have thought of something if they had.

Eamonn was getting on fine in his Government housing apartment. After securing a job on Sydney Harbour as a housekeeper, I travelled by train to see him on my day off and asked him what he would like for Christmas. ''A dozen bottles of wine'', came back the answer, without a moments' hesitation, which we both laughed at. He was as aware as I was that he was not meant to drink. It was Jane and Andy's daughter who suggested I buy him a cat. I remembered then how Eamonn had always liked cats, hence the jig saw Ma had been putting together for him two years previously. So, with the decision made, I was out in whoop, whoop, where the R.S.P.C.A was located, in late December, not expecting the place to be as packed as it was. As the day wore on, I got the only kitten left, which had a wonky right eye and would have been considered the runt of any litter.

Excited anyway at my purchase, I entered the traffic in my hire car, listening to a continuing chorus of meowing coming from inside a blue cardboard carry box for the hour or more it took to arrive at Eamonn's place. In then placing my surprise on the steps outside Eamonn's flat, I knocked on the door. Eamonn opened the door as usual but this time instead of immediately entering, I asked him to come and see what I had got him for Christmas. Just as soon as this was said, he came out through the door like an exuberant three year old and at the sight of the box on the steps, he exclaimed: ''Aha you got me the wine!" I said nothing as I waited for him to pick the box up. "A bit light", he said which I thought was just so funny.

ROSIE Anyhow, now intrigued, Eamonn carried the box inside to place it upon the old sofa bed he had once slept on at my place, now serving as his couch. He knelt on the floor and looked up at me with his face aglow and his blue eyes filled with childlike anticipation, to ask: "What is in it?" ''Find out for yourself'', I replied. He then lifted one fold on top of the box, to glance inside, only to look back up at me to say: ''It's empty''. Then, probably after noting the smug look on my face, the three other folds were lifted at once by large hands. In two tiny paws and a funny little head then popping up to greet its new owner, Eamonn reeled back and gasped, ''It's a cat, how can I look after a cat?'' ''You like it?'', I asked. I had never, and will never again see anyone as happy as Eamonn was that day. When I left, the kitten collected from the R.S.P.C.A, had been named Rosie and Rosie would live with Eamonn for some years to come as a one man cat, with its wonky right eye suiting well its scrawny black and brown mottled body. He moved closer to the box then to collect a small furry bundle and put it in the palm of his hand and his answer was: ''I love it''. ''Then if you love, it you can look after it", I said, ''Anyway, cats look after themselves''.

DICE
From the day Eamonn left where he had been living with me, he had been back into hospital on two occasions and as one of these had been after Rosie came along, I was soon contacted, as above any other consideration Eamonn had, Rosie must be fed and as Rosie had been my idea, this chore belonged to no one else.

Momentarily taken aback in finding two ‘of them’ there, she went to the freezer to place her offering with more than her usual haste, and in it not seeming appropriate to zoom straight back out the door, seated herself for the time it took to refuse the cup of tea offered but long enough to extend her generosity beyond the T.V. dinners already being supplied. Whether the lights were on in Eamonn’s flat at the time when they did not need to be I have no idea, but Patsy asked him how much his electricity bill was?

Eamonn answered by informing Patsy, his electricity bill was around $80 per quarter. His answer was then contemplated for a moment before Patsy responded: ''Well, I will pay your electricity bills from now on, so just readdress them''.

After appearing like the good fairy, Patsy then took hold of her handbag, saying her farewells as she headed for the door. Eamonn kept pace behind her along the narrow pathways of his housing complex, continuing to express his gratitude, until reaching the car park where he held the car door open for his sister, to then stand waving until her car was out of sight.

Returning to his flat, he felt ten feet tall. This was not only because the generosity afforded him had been witnessed by his new friend, this gesture by his older sister went so much deeper. Eamonn was not interested in whether some member of his family had been prepared, beyond the frozen dinners already supplied, to leap bounds to offer him much more than could be put on a dinner plate when he may have been in need. It was much more about his longing for support which to date had been in short supply. I had been filled in enough by Eamonn to give me a fairly accurate picture of how things had unfolded when Patsy called in with her latest delivery of frozen dinners.

On the face of things, there was no reason for him to doubt he had found another ally in a sibling or see any hump in a straightforward gesture of generosity but then Eamonn was of a trusting nature, for the doubts held by me as to longevity of this arrangement to not even enter his head. And the reason the doubts held by me could not be aired, was because Eamonn never uttered a detrimental word against anyone and did not appreciate being in the company of anyone who did. So in this instance all to be done was wait and see.

It was around two months after Pasty had appeared that Eamonn was back in hospital. This had nothing to do with those frozen dinners, though it has to be said, the content of those dinners was definitely questionable. It was just that he had not been kept in as long as he should have been on his previous visit. Over those two months, due to the advice given to him by the friend who was with him when Patsy called in, in order to lessen the electricity bills which henceforth were to be directed to his latest guardian angel, Eamonn had been turning off the small electric meter which sat on the wall in his kitchenette, to only turn it back on an hour before he needed to shower.

On the occasion of this longer stay in hospital, I came over to feed Rosie and check the mail. One of the envelopes taken from the mail box was the electricity bill. I thought, due the effort Eamonn had gone to, the bill would be under the $80 Patsy had put her hand up to pay. Readdressing that envelope felt as if I was assisting in what I believed would be only a short term arrangement, to soon undermine the faith in family Eamonn was hanging onto.

When Eamonn returned from hospital, as none of his electric appliances were working, the Department of Housing was contacted and an electrician was sent to attend to the problem. It was then he was told he should not have been turning his meter off as it was meant to be left on and not to do it again.

After three more months passed, it was Eamonn who readdressed the next electricity bill which was paid as the one before it had been. However, due to his lengthy stay in hospital, plus the fact he had been turning the meter off, aware that this latest bill would be higher than the first one sent on by me, Eamonn called Patsy to check, it, had not gone over $80. A frosty reception is what he got for his bother as he was told: ''Well yes, in actual fact it has gone over, Eamonn it was $89''.

On the next quarterly envelope sent, Eamonn, hoping against hope he had remained within his limit, wrote on the back that he wanted to pay anything in excess of $80. A week or so then went by and in having received no feedback it was assumed by Eamonn that all was okay but in order to settle his conscience absolutely, he rang Patsy to double check. On this occasion it was as if she imagined he had been deliberately taking too many showers at her expense. Eamonn told me she sounded, really, really, put out that this latest bill had reached $90 and that when he had tried to explain that he wanted to pay the difference, Patsy had no time to talk.

It was at this point I bore witness to what I considered should be a jailable offence, as it was just after this call was made that I arrived to find Eamonn rocking to and fro in his chair. He told me he could not concentrate until he had cleared up the business of the electricity bills with Pasty. He told me he had tried to speak to her about it and although Patsy had claimed to be busy, he could tell she was angry. I sat down beside him as he picked up the phone again. One of Patsy's daughter's answered on this occasion and he was told her mother was not home.

He then began to pace up and down as he ran through the whole thing over and over from go to whoa. The extent of his anguish was in fact so severe, I formulated an image of Patsy burning at the stake and me being first in line to throw logs onto the fire. Eamonn then sat down and picked up the phone once more. On this occasion, with my ear pinned to the other side of the receiver, I heard Patsy answer. Eamonn said; ''I need to sort out what to do about the last electricity bill".

Patsy replied: ''Yes, gone up a bit since the first one". Eamonn explained that the reason for this was because he had been switching the meter off, when he should not have been and that he had been in hospital throughout much of the period before the first account was sent. It was in hearing Patsy's reply to this that I thought of a better use the phone cord could be put to. Dismissing what Eamonn had said, her next comment was: ''So, were all the flats in that complex affected by the meter being switched off or was it just yours?" An assumption was made here that the electricity usage among fifty or so flats was run off a communal generator.

Eamonn then started to splutter as he said: ''You do not have to pay the electricity bill, all I ever appreciated was your friendship. Just call round from time to time for a cup of tea. I will get some biscuits. I have never asked anybody for anything in my life".

Stopping short of reminding Patsy whose idea paying his electricity bill was, we both listened to what was said in response to Eamonn saying he had never asked anyone for anything in his life: ''Well, yes, Eamonn'', Pasty said, ''I know you did not ask, so let us just say, I stepped in when I should not have. How have you been enjoying those T.V. dinners by the way?" Eamonn was stuck in not knowing how to answer immediately as we had both had a good laugh about those dinners which were scrappy bits of something unrecognizable in foil boxes with 'No frills' written in black print on a white cardboard top.

But after glancing at me, he answered: ''They were very nice thank you''. ''Look Eamonn, the fact is that the money used to pay those bills is Ian’s as well as mine and as we do not want you, or Sumpta, sending any more of them in our direction, what has been decided is that we instead make a $50 quarterly donation directly into your bank account''. What had been said resulted in nothing more than leaving Eamonn and me looking at each other in disbelief if not horror, at the only light to be shed in this phone call, was about the amount of that first electricity bill readdressed by me being in the region of $50.
Eamonn said he did not want a donation and that he would rather have her friendship. Ian's voice was then heard in the background, ''Get his bank account details''. Ian was partially deaf and had a very loud voice as a consequence, which I always thought strange as Ma was as deaf as a door post but always spoke softly. Eamonn said he would get back to them with the details but this was only said to end the conversation as he had gone beyond being able to continue on with it.

When the receiver was replaced, I was left to watch as Eamonn paced back and forth once more, going over and over it all again, trying to figure where he had gone wrong. ''Donation, donation'', he kept saying, as if this in particular was what he had been most offended by. The torment displayed did not end that evening. It went on with just the same intensity for years afterwards. I will never, never be so angry again in witnessing the toll this episode took on Eamonn. The saga of those electricity bills had not quite finished. The mention of 'donation' together with what he had been put through over the previous months, saw Eamonn then avoiding Pasty. But in her determination to pin him down, maybe to settle her conscience, there was no let up until he finally folded and gave her his banking details.

$50 appeared in his account three months later, and in my visiting him around the same time, Eamonn asked me if I knew how much I was worth? Not knowing what he meant I allowed him to go on. "Well", he said, "I know how much I am worth". "And how much is that?" I asked. "Sixty cents a day", he answered. Eamonn had done his sums as the $50 quarterly donation he would now be receiving from Patsy and Ian placed his value to them at less than the daily cup of coffee he purchased at the cheap bakery he frequented. There would be a side to Eamonn appear after this that I had never seen before. He was about to exorcise the pressure building inside him with the son of God nowhere to be seen. The way he went about this brought both of us so much laughter over the months to follow. There were times when what had happened over those electricity bills had almost seemed worth it. Eamonn had a deep, rich voice and big lungs, perhaps due to years spent having singing lessons but whatever accounted for the roar he could produce, it was now going to be put to another use.

Patsy, as it happened, had not received the expected 'thank you' with regard the first donation, so Patsy rings: ''Did you receive the money put into your account?'', Patsy asks. ''Yes I did'', replied Eamonn, 'Thanks''. ''And how are you?'', Patsy then enquires. ''Well with your sixty cents a day, I am on top of the world'', is what Eamonn shouted back, before slamming the phone down.

Another three months then went by, and with those TV dinners now belonging in a forgotten era, Eamonn rings Patsy and shouts: ''Where is my $50?" "Well, I thought you said you did not want it", Patsy replies. "I never said I did not want it, I just wanted you to know how much it was, Eamonn shouted, before slamming down the phone again".

Patsy and Ian's phone then began ringing in the middle of the night and when it was answered, Eamonn would shout, ''About time you two got some new blood?'' When the phone was finally taken off the hook, he began writing to them. There was nothing offensive in what he wrote, he was just passing on little notes containing the obscurities he was known for. He never used stamps, writing Ace instead in the top right hand corner of the envelope, and I know these got through the mail as Patsy was complaining to Ma about them. Pasty was not telling Ma though, that on the back of the envelopes were captions like: 'If you take the P out of Patsy and change it to an R you get Ratsy' and if you take 'Christ out of Christian' all you are left with is Ian, or that they had been addressed to Mr and Mrs Bad-stock. No, Pasty was not telling anyone anything other than how Eamonn was pestering them and this coming after such generosity had been shown towards him.

There had been a time when Ma and I would have agreed that the treatment Eamonn had received at the hands of Pasty and Ian was about as wrong as it could get, but she would now defend what had taken place in stating that as an accountant, Ian needed to keep his books in order and this could only be achieved if he knew the exact amounts payable per quarter. Ma also said she would have done the same herself. By now, I would not have been surprised at anything Ma might say. It was nevertheless surprising that she would take such a stance where Eamonn was concerned. Maybe the response she gave had less to do with the 'here and now' and more to do with recognising she was not the only one affected adversely by the tentacles of inherited traits.

Michael had only been seen a couple of times in the two years I had the shop. The same applied to Celli. I guess so far as the Infamous Five went, it was only Eamonn and I who were constants. I was still visiting the folks who lived in the Tin House where a car would be hired to travel to a place where public transport was as much in the doldrums as it had ever been and whilst there, like the saint I was, I would cut Dad and Ma's hair, vacuum the place and on my way back, drop the old man off at the bowling club in order that the pocket money allowed him could be spent on keno and beer. It was with a great difficulty Dad managed to move about after his stroke but he nonetheless he continued to frequent the club scene. As far as I knew, he never had an inkling as to the extent of his wife's activities, but there was one day when I wondered if he knew more than he had ever let on. On placing his left hand on the roof of the car on this particular day, the only hand fully operational, to lever himself out, he turned back to me to ask; ''Where will you now be headed?'' ''Back to Andy and Jane's'', I replied. ''There was I thinking you had no home'', is what he said next before I watched for longer than usual, as he staggered toward the building where his mates were waiting.

After leaving the shop, I enjoyed the concept of not owning a car. For the following two years, I was more than happy to travel by public transport. I continued to live with Andy and Jane and my occupation as a housekeeper did not change. There were still hundreds of those garden tools left and they were deposited at a Wholesale outlet where the owners of garden centres, scattered far and wide, came to buy their wares.

My new occupation was quite well paid but it turned out to be a mistake to mention how much I was earning to Ma, as she told me I should get a loan, buy a flat and considering I was living with Andy and Jane, this flat could be rented out in order that it pay for itself. When I argued, which bank would give a mortgage to someone of my age, Ma told me she had read in the paper how a woman only a couple of years younger than me had managed to get a Housing loan. Thinking I was clever, I replied; ''Yes, but this woman would have had collateral''. Ma, however, had been underestimated once again. Quick as a flash she answered: ''Plenty of collateral in this place''. I could not believe what I was hearing, as there she was after all that had happened, expecting me to use the collateral on the Tin House to ensure my financial future when it had already taken care of any prospects I might have had.

I did not respond when this was said, which I had learnt over the years, served best to derail the fanciful ideas Ma was never short of. Nor did I laugh out loud at the thought of the Commonwealth Bank being approached again to issue a third party loan on the same property, for the same applicant when, the previous occasion was probably responsible for ongoing seminars in order that their loans officers understood the requirements regarding 'third party' loans.


No matter what was said by either Ma or me, it only took a little time before anything 'out of whack', was stored away by me. I just carried on. If ever I had been grateful for this way of operating, it was as the old man's health worsened. It had only been respect which made it possible for me to still visit the Tin House and not be eaten up with resentment. My wish had always been that Ma experience a few good years after rearing her family but this was not to be and it was the eleven years spent looking after Dad which took care of any hope in this direction. The lung cancer diagnosed was not the variety put down to smoking but one more likely caused by the years spent in the coal mines. Either way, the old man was not concerned and simply asked the doctor: ''How long have I got?'' The doctor, Ma told me, looked surprised, when after replying, ''Only a few months'', Dad just grinned and said: ''Well in a hundred years not another word will said about it''.

I had always figured Dad was a bit different, that his propensity to be singular was his own trait. But what type of man does it take to just carry on as usual after receiving the news he was not long for this world, with the conviction that all this meant was he would soon be going off to join a few mates that he had not seen for a while. What type of man would have said to a neighbour, calling in to enquire after his wellbeing, ''I am not going to be around much longer, will you be coming to my funeral?'', not to notice nor care that he was the only one laughing. No, when I came to think of it, after hearing about his reaction to his imminent death and being aware of how he genuinely did not give a toss about this, anymore than he had anything else, Dad no longer fit so snugly into the mould he had been placed in by me. Instead, the last weeks he would be spending on earth would be spent by me looking at him differently. Although he may have sometimes operated short of my expectations, his philosophy had always been, 'in a hundred years not another word will be said about it'. It was only towards the end of his days that I was to wonder how much having been kept in a box after the death of his favoured younger brother and then being given away until he was old enough to be of some use, had to do with the way he now was.


Three weeks before Dad died, I was once again up at the Tin House one night to find the front door locked. And as the doorbell was not heard, I took the key from where it was buried under a small rock and entered. Ma and Dad enjoyed different television programs, so in order to accommodate them both, there were two televisions in the upstairs quarters, one in front of the armchair in which Dad sat in the living area and the other three meters away, where Ma lay on a bed propped up with a mountain of pillows.

There was nothing to close these areas off other than a pair of cowboy-style, louvre doors which hung at the entry to Ma's bedroom. The reason I had not been heard was that with the two of them being hard of hearing and preferring different TV channels, it was necessary for them to have both televisions turned up to full volume.

In climbing the stairs past the timber planter box, a built-in affair and part of the original design, which was now filled with dust laden silk flowers and snooker trophies won by Dad over the years, the first sign of life was in seeing the old man sitting in his armchair with his head back. His mouth was wide open and his top set of dentures were resting on his chin, and had it not been for the fact he was snoring, I would have thought he was already dead.

Ma looked up as I popped my head around the corner of her bedroom, and on seeing me, she turned the television off. Upon her bed were a pile of half completed crosswords and a writing pad, of course! It was a tiny room, just big enough for a smallish double bed and a dressing table, yet crammed in there also in the foot of space at the end of the bed, were an array of more louvre doors where her clothes were kept. A gypsies caravan, is what always came to mind when taking in the crocheted mats and the adornment of the walls and curtains of Ma's bedroom. It was in this small space that the creativity throughout the rest of the house was most visible.

I sat down on the bed and as I did Ma asked me what plans I had for the future. ''I am not in a position to be making any'', I answered. ''Well'', she then said, ''As it looks as if your dad will be going before me, why not sell this place and buy another house which you can choose but which I will pay for?'' Just as soon as this was said I smelt complications but I did not say anything. Ma continued, ''If you would prefer to live closer to the city, this would be of no matter to me as at my age it is of no account where I live''. So far so good, I thought, as she went on: ''Whatever is purchased, half of it will be yours if something happens to me'', which was Ma's way of referring to someone dying, ''And the other half can be divided equally among the others, but it will be up to you to decide when this takes place as you may prefer to remain there, for your lifetime''. I did not respond immediately as the smell of complications had just become stronger.

I asked myself, why would such a proposition be put forward, when the only difference between it and the one made by me six years earlier, was that I was now no longer in a position to pay my share? Why at that time, had she gone back on telling me the balance left on that loan was Shylock's to repay, to then start sending me those crazy letters? Why had she chosen to increase the burden on me when to have ensured Seamus did not lose his moral compass would have meant a house made of bricks with a real sea view could have been purchased between us?

But all of that paled in comparison to being the start of my not recognising the mother I thought I knew, followed by me figuring, after working out how much better off she would be if her golden haired boy paid the interest due on that loan directly into her account, that her motivation might be only to profit. How could I ever have thought along those lines, when looking after the old man could not have been easy and for all I knew, it could have been the tension caused by this effort, not to mention the shingles, which had been the cause of her earlier lack of reasoning?

Cautiously, I said: ''If anything happened to you, the preferred arrangement would be that things be sorted at that point as I do not see myself hanging onto anyone else's inheritance''. ''Whatever you like'', came back the response, and for the first time in a long time added to this was: ''After all, money is only a commodity''.

Dad was still snoring away in his chair with the television in front of him still blaring and even though he was fast asleep, it still felt most inappropriate that such a discussion should be held only a few meters away. But then Ma was only human and could not be blamed for finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel of being married for sixty three years to a man who had been'seen in a pub'.

It was after fifteen minutes or so that we ventured downstairs to make some tea in the damp, dark, laden with tat, kitchen that I became more optimistic as to Ma's proposition. Putting a lighter spin on my previous caution, I thought to test the waters of her resolve by stating: ''Your domain will be the garden, while I take care of the house. You can do with your bedroom anything you choose but other than that, it will be me in charge of any internal decoration'', as an afterthought I added; ''Not one item from here will be making the journey with us''.

I had never been sure what value Ma placed on the conglomeration of scrap she was surrounded by. Some of which had already seen better days since being initially purchased to furnish the Coconut House when first arriving in Australia over forty years before. It was the fear of her crafts which led to my emphasising things the way I did, as under no circumstances could I ever live among indistinguishable bits of painted trash stuck wherever there happened to be an inch of space. But I need not have been concerned, as Ma became all coy and asked: ''Can I bring my record player?'' In hearing this, I put my arms around her for the very first time, to give her a big squeeze and she hugged me back just as tightly. ''How much do you think can be afforded?" I asked.

She then looked up at the ceiling and answered; ''Oh, enough, as I will be getting another three hundred for him''. Another three hundred sounded really good but as things went, this was the point at which I missed the only chance I would ever get to ask, ''Three hundred what?''

Had my parents been running a farm rather than to be living in a shack on the coast, the first thing to spring to mind would have been her desire to increase the livestock which beforehand her husband had objected to. As things were, however, there was only insurance to contemplate, which left me between a rock and a hard place. To have enquired further would have been even more inappropriate than the discussion held a few minutes earlier when Dad was only three meters away. There had been a time before when I knew how it felt to breathe easy after a trying spell. That time had been when Ma phoned to tell me that loan was now Seamus' to repay and that it would be put into her name. But this relief did not compare to, at long last, being able to completely steer clear of any more lies needing to be told by me.

With the day now upon me when my children, or Bert, would be given no cause to ever look at me sideways, all I felt was joy. Everything was about to fall into place with the faith in Ma lost along the way, now regained. Soon I would be living just as anyone else, with nothing to hide and have the perfect explanation as to how my Marriage Settlement had been spent. Ma had come to a time in her life when she should be looked after and who better to attend to this duty but the daughter born on the same date Our Lady, rose into heaven? Over the three weeks to follow the discussion held in the kitchen of the Tin House with Dad snoring away upstairs in his chair, I imagined how well the two of us would get along once again, with Ma in charge of choosing the plants for the garden and me the internal decor of the house we would live in. There would be a quaint Church close by to which Ma would be accompanied each Sunday or on any other religious festival important to her. And even though she never admitted to wanting the rift between her children mended, it would be in knowing this was of the utmost importance to her, that whilst it would be easier to welcome some than others, no matter who came to call I would always ensure my manner was chirpy for her sake. At Christmas time she would be given free reign, to decorate the whole of the house to her choosing, so as not to be robbed of her preferred decorative style completely and would have a spanking new oven in which to bake the turkey and cake. We would while away the evenings, chatting away like we used to and once again agree with whatever the other said.

There would be a guest room and maybe even a cabin in the back yard to house any family member who might be down on their luck. In looking back on the events of the previous fifteen years, the time had now come to acknowledge Ma had never been in a position to operate according to how I had thought she should; that combined with the fear of the old man discovering the latest of what she had been up to, she was also running out of excuses for the actions of her once golden haired son and was by now no doubt becoming impatient in waiting so long for things to work themselves out. We were at last progressing toward a common sense solution to a situation which must have been as traumatic for her as it had been for me and I could have kicked myself for the unsaintly thought ever entering my head, that in some weird or fanciful way my marriage settlement was seen as nothing more than a commodity. It had been my faith in her which had been lacking.

There had never been two mothers, only one, who carried the weight of ingratiates and a crippled husband, like a true champion, upon worn out shoulders and any credit ever given to her could now be doubled and any past misgivings swept away. If there was anything I was unhappy about at this juncture, it was all the upheaval and heart ache which could have been avoided, had her ultimate plan for the two of us been mentioned a little sooner but otherwise, all was now as it should be.

The three weeks before Dad's death were blissfully spent drifting around with anxiety gone. Telling the children I was buying a house with Ma was the best, as they thought this would be great. Apart from them soon having a second home in which to visit and feel just as comfortable, they would also get to see more of their grandmother and be freed up in any previous concern they must have had, in their mother having no permanent residence.

As things stood, with the Tin House an hour and a half away and the traffic unpredictable, Ma rarely saw her own children, let alone her grandchildren and although Dad may not have given as much of a toss about this, as he did anything else, I always knew she did. It had always come as second nature to put myself in Ma's shoes. Even though we could not have been more different, I suspected what it would have been like to lose a mother at the age of fourteen, to then be set adrift by my father for fraternizing with a man deemed unsuitable and to then spend seventeen years in one of the last places on earth one would want to visit, let alone live. If given the same circumstances, I could never have reared a family of nine in the way Ma had, being stern when required but with a laugh never far away. Ma never let the good manners learnt in her youth slide and although a cut above any other mother in the coal fields, she was never disparaging about anyone. She was later to appreciated all the more for taking care of an old man after he became infirm, rather than to have claimed those precious eleven years for herself and her soft way of speaking only became more rapid when there was a plan afoot. Although she definitely had a thing, about you know what, as did her mother before her, not one complaint did she ever make, not one.

She could not accept the reality of many situations and this, in my opinion, was why she disappeared into her own world where the Church reigned supreme. Her expectations of life had never been grand but I am sure she had always hoped for a nun or priest to exist within her family. If she had married a man of her father's choosing and had produced fewer offspring, I could not help but wonder how different she may have been. Or if she had become an architect, would it be in the field of landscape? Her ability to design shone best in the garden and when let nowhere near a house.

As those three weeks went by, I had been in regular contact with Ma and this was especially the case to check on how she was fairing after hearing how the old man, after staggering up from his chair, had fallen, backside first, into the glass coffee table positioned beside him. Ma already had a bad back, but her back would be wrecked further after attempting to drag her husband to his feet. In this attempt being unsuccessful an ambulance was eventually called and when the ambulance crew arrived, until being directed toward the upstairs where Dad was sitting among shards of glass with his legs in the air, they could be forgiven for believing it was Ma who was in need of their services. Dad was rescued with the aid of a hammer to smash the remaining glass he was hemmed in by, before he was set free to enjoy what life had to offer over the next couple of weeks.

I was struck that had Dad been taken away, to be checked out in hospital, it would have been the first night spent by Ma alone in the Tin House since she and Dad had gone there eleven years earlier. I was also struck in her not running true to form, as usual when something she was involved in was on the boil. Ordinarily, there would be no shortage of suggestions to alter any initial understanding and no such attempt had been made this time around. I did not say anything either about our future plans, but on my part this was because it was not really my call, when nothing about these plans had been my idea.

After those three weeks had passed, Ma called to tell me Dad was in hospital and that he would not be returning to the Tin House. In catching the train the following day to travel up the coast to the area where the hospital was, it was better understood why Ma had not been running true to form, as why would she make mention of the discussion held the last time we met, when she clearly had enough on her plate and no one to help her?

Two hours after leaving Central, in arriving at a northern railway station, there was a fair hike ahead up a steep hill to the hospital, on as hot a day as any experienced since we Murphys, arrived in Australia. Perspiration was dripping from me and my long summer skirt was clinging to my legs, when I eventually began wending my way across a car park heading toward an air conditioned foyer, to then follow the signs guiding me in the direction of the cancer unit. He was behind a curtain in a section by himself, his head was resting backward, his mouth was open and he was snoring away. In fact the only difference to when I had last seen him was that his teeth were now gone and as opposed to sitting in a well-worn armchair, he was surrounded by white. I sat down on a small couch, taking in the clinical surroundings which far from suited the man I had known, as with his head resting on a crisp bleached pillow, he appeared like any regular human being. Ma appeared through the curtain around ten minutes later. She was still driving then and had left the Mighty Boy in the parking lot I had passed through. Ma was panting, which was hardly surprising with this being a steamy summer day, but her breathlessness was also due to the unfairness that she, as the only one of us who had never had a cigarette in her mouth, was the one to contract emphysema. But that is the way it was and although not severe, Ma had born this affliction without complaint in the same way she had deafness, glaucoma, arthritis, ulcerative colitis and a twisted back.

Ma looked exceedingly well though, and especially so, considering what there would have been for her to deal with over the previous weeks. Looking nowhere near almost eighty five years of age, Ma sat down beside me, telling me that Dad had been moved from the general ward for disturbing the other patients. This was told to me as if it was no more than what to expect from the man Ma had married. Fortunately Ma's psyche had always been aimed toward higher things than to place much importance on the old man being removed from the general ward for inappropriate behaviour, or that when he arrived at the hospital his clothes may well have gone straight into the incinerator. Nothing at this time was of more matter to Ma other than that the priest be summoned in time to see her husband safely on his way to heaven. Her husband was now situated privately, after her having paid the maximum health cover, of importance to Ma. Dad was where he now was also, for the complete disregard shown to other patients by his telling jokes. That Dad had been moved from where he was the previous day for telling one joke in particular, which went: There were two Cockneys, one in the bed and the other being wheeled into the ward, the one being wheeled in asks the one in the bed, did you come here to die?'' And the one in the bed answers, "No, I came here yester-die''.

As for me, in hearing how Dad happened to be in a secluded section of the cancer unit, all I could think, was that I would soon be out of there, never to set eyes again on any on those involved in the care of my father. Nothing could ever be as cringe-worthy, though, as when he used to turn up at those once Christmas family picnics in a truck full of his mates from the club. Now, a teeny weeny bit of sympathy was felt toward him for his unfortunate upbringing, each time a member of the hospital staff came through the curtain to check the tubes dangling above his bed and I fear to also take a sly peak at his visitors. It was of some shameful consolation that the discomfort of having such a father was nearing its end.


As it was almost lunchtime when Ma had come through the curtain and as Dad was still snoring away half an hour later, we went back down in the lift to the cafeteria on the ground floor. Over the hour or so spent in Dad's secluded space, I had been waiting for Ma to broach the subject discussed between us in the kitchen of the Tin House three weeks before but as she had not, after arriving in the cafeteria and fetching our lunch from the food counter, it was in sitting down opposite her at a small round table, I asked: Have you given any more thought to what was discussed the last time I saw you?" Ma hesitated before looking down at her knees and when her head was raised, it was in being looked at once more with those eyes I never wanted to see again and in hearing, ''Where is your share coming from?'', all I could do was to just stare back at her. ''Well, now, maybe you can get a loan, or we could rent'', was what was heard next, after which I still could not think of what to say. I wanted get up and go back down the hill, climbed an hour earlier but I was stuck where I was, unable to move. There had been times since that loan had been secured when my faith in Ma had wavered but nothing compared with these few moments in time, nothing.

No matter what the previous fifteen years had delivered, there had always been hope that light would be shed on all of this, but now, as I sat there like a stunned mullet, the end had come, no doubt about it, as I would never again question that indeed I had two mothers. The one sitting across from me at a small table in the cafeteria of a hospital, who would even go against her own best interest to ensure that first and foremost a material gift be left to the Church, which I suspected was the cause of her rethinking our arrangement, and the mother who, three weeks before, was more in tune with what was required to fulfil her earthly duties.

The next thing the mother sitting across from me said, as though reading my mind, was: ''Well, now, as eventually I will be moving into an old people's home associated with the Church, as this move will also represent an investment, you might consider moving in there for what is left of your life, once I have done with it''. After this was said I found my voice and answered with my teeth and fists clenched, ''No thank you''. It was in hearing that sniff of hers, as if to indicate I had made a bad choice, that I then turned my voice up a few notches to half shout: ''This reminds me of that time six years ago when you stung me for the balance of that loan after telling me it was Seamus' to repay as you went back on what you had promised then too''. ''I made no promises'', Ma replied. ''You led me believe which is as good as a promise''. ''No it is not''. Even if the cafeteria had been crowded, which it was not, what I had to say would have been heard at the furthest table, but how many might hear me, was the last thing on my mind. Ma then said: ''That Seamus owes anything to anyone is in your imagination'', for me to once again half yell; ''With your backing, he may as well have taken the balance owing on that loan directly out of my pocket''. Ma did not like hearing this as she repeated what had already been said, and as by then I had adjusted to the hopelessness I was faced with, I rose from the table to begin making my way toward the lift in order to collect the overnight bag I had left in Dad's quarters.

As I went on my way, it was sensed I was being followed but I could not be sure of this until arriving at the lift door, as it was then I heard a mumble about Eamonn, coming from behind me, at which point, I turned around and said, as quietly as could be managed. ''If you do not remember, then maybe that other one who looks the same as you and has the same voice and handwriting does?'' For the very first time, I had spoken my mind; for the very first time, even though Ma was now as agitated as I had ever seen her, I was thinking more about myself and had no regard whatever for how she might be feeling. Nothing else was said as we travelled up a few floors in the lift, for me to exit the lift in haste and march along corridors hearing pantings coming from behind me. It seemed very fortunate indeed when arriving back in Dad's quarters that he was still snoring away as it would have been impossible to behave like my normal self with my head in a spin and not wishing to be in certain company a moment longer. I was just taking hold of my overnight bag when Ma entered through the curtain, and as I passed by her, I turned and said: ''I hope never to set eyes on you again'', only to hear: ''You are behaving exactly as Celli would''.

The air outside was even more humid than when I arrived, it felt as if I could not breathe, as I just wandered back and forth not knowing what to do. The only people in the outdoors were sitting on benches smoking, before going back into the cool. With my business in that hospital over, I would need to move on. I could not go back to Andy and Jane's as what had transpired had rendered me unable to devise even the small lie required to explain why my intention to spend the night with Ma had changed. I tried not to think of how I would go about explaining to the children either, why Ma and my plan to buy a house together, no longer existed. There was only Eamonn's flat to go to. I had often stayed overnight before, sleeping on the couch. Everything was a blur, I was not even aware of walking back down the hill to the station until I got there.

The next train to the city was not due for twenty minutes, so as I sat on the platform waiting, I took a pen and notepad from my handbag and began scribbling down all the varying aspects of my journey since meeting up with Ma in the Commonwealth Bank fifteen years before.

Two years had passed since last setting eyes on Michael. I did not even know if he was still at the same address, but the notes I was scribbling would nonetheless be put under the door of the condominium remembered. As I knew he was still driving taxis, chances were he would not have moved and in it being past three on a Saturday afternoon, he would be on the road. With a bit of luck, my notes would serve to jolt his memory and I would hear from him affirming that any distorting of past events on my part, had been to keep what actually occurred from Bert and the children.

I continued to scribble furiously after boarding the train and did not stop for the one and a half hours it took to arrive back where I had set off from six hours before. When arriving at Michael's apartment, I was surprised to find the door was answered. His hair obviously still received a regular number two, but other than now sporting a short grey beard and moustache, there was little change in his appearance. He sat just inside the door I had knocked on, working away on his website and in finding me standing there, he had casually said, as if it had been no time at all since we had last met, ''Hello my dear'', before rolling his computer chair to one side to allow me to enter.

There is a movie called, 'As good as it gets'. It stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt and there was a point in this movie when Helen Hunt is holding the pages she has written and is stumbling in her effort to translate what these pages contain to a disinterested Jack Nicholson. On entering Michael's apartment, I was reminded of this scene as Michael was sitting and I was standing beside him fumbling with my effort in the same way Helen Hunt was, in a bid to find the bits to best explain what I was about. And as in the movie too, in Michael appearing about as interested as Jack Nicholson was in what my notes contained, the notes were soon cast aside to be replaced with explanations. When I had finished saying all I had to say, Michael just said, ''Look, you know I do not dwell in the past, but when it comes to Ma, as I have always considered her a bit do-lally, I am prepared to accept your version''.

I was floored, as the very least expected in running all I had by him, was that he would remember making the two calls to Ma from New Zealand; the first call insulting her house, and the second apologising before offering her a juicy carrot to do his bidding. All he remembered were the regular payments made to Ma after that loan was secured, but how this loan came about he could not say. Regardless of my situation being of no significance to Michael, discussing what I had with him had served as cathartic if nothing else. In my attempt to probe his memory having failed, it was now just a question of accepting I was the only person on the planet who remembered the actual detail of how that loan came into being or anything relevant to it occurring since.

Other than the grey hairs on his face and perhaps a weight gain, nothing else about Michael had changed. He was still as optimistic as ever with no doubt at all, even though by now he had been working away at his football tipping site for five years, that it would eventually pay dividends. With my quest having got me nowhere in prodding Michael's memory of past dealings, I slid back into my mould of old on this occasion by making no mention of how the Commodore had met its fate and had affected my image as a shopkeeper. But Michael was not let off the hook entirely, as I did ask him about the man in a black suit who had paid me a visit.

Nor was Michael phased when, a week later, on answering his door, there were now three of them in situ. A big Samoan was there as the bouncer, the tall Texan as the assist to the boss, squeezed in between the two, all of five feet tall and no more than 60kg wringing wet, looking every bit like a character out of any mafia movie in the hunt for payback. Michael thought the scene comical but kept a straight face. On being asked to cooperate, Michael in turn asked: ''Does it look like I have a quid?'' - telling me they weren't there long. He also told them, again straight faced, that Shirley had received good bang for her buck. While they wanted me to fork out, Michael continued, I told them to go paddle their canoe some place else. They then asked if that was Michael's final word. On saying it was, they left. ''Wonder what that lot cost Shirley''?, Michael asked of me. In reply, I asked him of his belief in one always looking as though one had a quid. He answered by stating there are exceptions to every rule and that every cloud has a silver lining!

Shirley was not any more clued up this time around than she had been at the start, as why would Michael still be diving a taxi if he had managed to turn his world around in the way he had when Shirley had first worked for him all those years before.

With my questioning out of the way, what was of more pressing interest to Michael would then take up the time left before I would need to be heading by train again in order to arrive at Eamonn's flat before nightfall. Upon Michael's computer desk were various little piles of interest and it was toward these little piles my attention was drawn. I was first handed a small laminated card with the old man's photo on the front and a description of his life's effort on the back. I was then handed a hymn sheet followed by three other sheets involving every move each of Dad's nine children were expected to make throughout the requiem mass to honour him at his funeral. ''Well'', I said, ''looks like you have outdone yourself this time, as whilst I am well aware you do not dwell in the past, with Dad not dead yet, is not this leaping a little too far into the future?''

''Not at all'', came back the response, ''best to be prepared; the priest understood where I was coming from; It is going to cost of course but everything has been arranged, with all left to do, to give the priest the nod when the time comes. In looking again at the laminated remembrance card, in there being no date of death, I suggested this may seem strange. ''Got it covered with the Printer'', came back the response.

My unplanned visit to Eamonn's flat went no differently to previous occasions initially. I had called in to pick up some takeaway before making the trek past housing largely inhabited by the Muslim community. Ironically this was the same area once looked down upon when visiting the Esday-Witt's at the engagement party on the hill over thirty years before, which at that time was equally shared by Greeks and Italians who appeared by now to have moved on. So much had changed, but so far as the demographics of the area in which Eamonn now found himself, it was largely thanks to those who ran the local bakery that he felt accepted. At the bakery he was given the freedom to help himself to the coffee machine if he was not feeling quite himself or was minus the 60 cents required for payment. If he rose from where he had been seated after consuming an eastern pizza and did not pay before raging off down the road, there was no one chasing after him, as it was understood at the bakery that any oversight would be made up for.

After leaving Michael's apartment, no sooner did I reach Eamonn's flat than it began to rain and as it was also becoming dark, should I find him unwell there would be no chance of escape until the morning. It was for this reason that previously when visiting Eamonn I always made sure it was in the daytime, as this would allow time to assess where he was in the cycle of his condition before deciding whether to remain. When the door of Eamonn's flat was opened on this occasion, the first indication of things not being as had been hoped, was that just inside the door was spied an empty carton of beer and, in glancing ahead toward the kitchenette, Rosie's food bowls were overflowing but Rosie was nowhere to be seen.

Ouch!. Eamonn's head was shaven as closely as his face, but as it had always been a hit and miss proposition as to whether he was in a hairy mood or not, this in itself did not indicate he was in need of an injection, whereas Rosie's absence and the empty beer carton did. I suggested we eat whilst the food was still warm and it was as I began un-wrapping what had been brought along that Eamonn announced he had something he needed to do first. Stepping past where I sat on the sofa with plastic containers placed on the coffee table, he then opened the window in the kitchenette and yelled out through the fly-screen in a voice like thunder, ''I AM THE SON OF GOD''.

Just as soon as the window was closed, he apologized to me saying, ''Sorry just needed to get something out of my system''. There had been occasions before when similar experiences were of far less bother, but with my sixtieth birthday approaching, I no longer felt as equipped to handle Eamonn's situation as I once was. In then rummaging around in a cupboard to find two plates upon which the takeaway food could be placed, sympathy was once again felt toward Ma, as she had been only eight years older than me when Eamonn's condition first manifested itself and as this had been after forty six years spent married to a man who had been seen in a pub, these two trials alone would have been enough to shatter anyone's equilibrium.

Michael may have referred to his mother as do-lally, I may have been harbouring my own grievances toward her, Pasty may have told everyone she was mad but I wondered how any of us would have fared if faced with losing our mother at the age of fourteen for our father to afterward abuse the power he held.

The mixed feelings in regard to how I had spoken to Ma when her husband was in the last throws of life were however not to last long. The indignation of what occurred earlier in the day soon took over and any sympathy felt for Ma was lost as I left the hospital to visit Michael and to then head by train further south to spend the night at Eamonn's place. In fact that night, I truly believed I would never feel any pity for Ma again no matter what circumstances might occur in the future.

The occasions before, when I had felt scared in Eamonn's presence, had never been for fear of physical violence and nor was this the case now, as when medication was lacking, he only ever looked and sounded fierce: It was just that with no insight into his illness, the trauma he lived with and the terror others were made to feel when confronted by him, had been in free fall since the start. There was not a darned thing to be done other than ensure he continued to receive injections with horrific side effects such as the loosening of his teeth until they either fell out of their own accord or were helped along by Eamonn becoming his own dentist. And then there was the lack of muscle coordination causing him to lumber rather than walk or peel a potato with the need to rest his elbows on the kitchen sink. It was akin to treading on eggshells when Eamonn was like this, as just as soon as the food brought along had been devoured, in being asked if I wanted a beer, any variance to how I would have responded had I been in other company would have been picked up on in an instant, only to raise his hackles higher. Consequently an edgy night was spent on Eamonn's couch.

He had gone to lie on his bed soon after we had polished off a couple of beers each and it was when he turned his radio on that Rosie came in through the flap in the fly screen door to join him. Rosie was not like other cats as she had no time for anyone but her master, but in also knowing her master was not always at his best, she also knew when not to be there.

Eamonn left at five in the morning to go down to the bakery for breakfast. This was his usual routine. From the bakery he would catch the train into the city where he would lunch at the Matthew Talbot Hostel, the Sydney Catholic homeless men's shelter. He would stay around for a while, catching up with some old acquaintances, few of whom were as lucky as he was in having somewhere to call home and then he would head west by rail, although he had been known to walk the twenty kilometre distance, to a nondenominational charitable establishment for dinner, to then return to his flat to sleep until five the following morning.

Saturday and Sundays were his days off the treadmill he was on and it would depend on where he was in the cycle of those injections that would dictate whether this time was spent relaxing hitting golf balls around the grassed area outside his flat as he ate bananas to stave off his hunger, or spent roaming around Sydney shouting out the news of who he was. There were also times when, after being medicated, he would lie low for a while, rolling his head from side to side, as he lay on his bed listening to music but then, just as soon as his physical movements became less robot-like he would be off again until the next time. Eamonn had come a long way since first informing me of who he was way back in the days of the Snake Pit when he had said: I do not think I can look after myself, Sumpta.


Michael had thought of everything but possible problems, as Eamonn aside, he had given no consideration to the fact that half those to be employed at the planned funeral to honour the passing of a father who was not dead yet, were not on speaking terms with the other half. Ouch, ouch, ouch. For Michael nothing else mattered but endeavour; he may no longer live in a house or even a flat for that matter, he may have lost his boys to the Esday-Witts, to now exist on the fringes of society but he was not feeling one bit sorry for himself and continued on in the same way he would have if the proceeds from those desks had ended up in his pockeT rather than have found their way to the south of France.

After leaving Eamonn's place the next morning, it was impossible to visualize him playing the part lined up for him in the mass Michael had organized. Dad's three daughters were to deliver the Offertory, taking the host and wine from the back of the Church to the altar. His six sons, all wearing white shirts, black pants and matching ties, were to carry the coffin out of the Church and place it in the hearse. Three of them would be reading parts of the mass with Seamus and Michael doing the Eulogies and so far as Michael's expectations went, Eamonn was to end the service by going onto the altar with his guitar and after being seated, sing a rendition of Danny Boy.

From Eamonn's place I went to visit my son who, like Michael, also lived in a apartment. My son's apartment was situated in the inner east of a city which had appeared more like a large town to when we Murphys arrived from England, and it was upon visiting him, on this day of all days, I was to learn he had been mugged the day before on his way home from a night out. My son was a musician and we would often meet on Sunday for lunch and afterward return to his place where he would sing the latest songs he had written. On this occasion there were a few stiches around his hair line and some bruising on his forehead but he nevertheless continued on as though grateful he could still play his guitar.

It was around four in the afternoon when my mobile rang. It was Ma who was calling, her voice was weak and she had called to tell me Dad had died four hours earlier. Although by then I would have been the last to know, I thanked her anyway for letting me know and that was that. I thought it was just as well Michael had everything arranged, as with family relations in tatters, there was no one else I could think of who would have picked up the gauntlet.

There was a small stone Church not far from the Tin House. It lay along a narrow road and was situated in a countrified area with not one Mac-mansion to be seen. This Church and its surroundings were in fact so removed from the beach scene that but for the heat, one felt transported back to another place, another time. No more an appropriate Church could have been found, as like Dad, nothing about it was veneer, there was even an old graveyard lending the same authentic touch as any such building found in Ireland. I had seen this Church before as it was the one in which Gerard and Susan were married and I had also been there when escorting Ma to mass on a few occasions. This Church, especially in it being situated in an area appearing almost forgotten, had always reminded me of the one which sat opposite the low stone wall running the length of a farm that as a child had always been hard to say goodbye to.

Michael had pulled out all stops to give his father the best send-off possible, and as stated by him, the priest only needed to be given the nod before a few days after Dad died, the planned requiem mass was under way.

Black was not the best colour to be wearing on such a hot day but along with a black hat and long black skirt, this was nevertheless how I chose to dress. My dark outfit was relieved however by pink beads strung around the hat and a splash of pink and yellow on the front of a flimsy, Italian made, short-sleeved top, which all in all, even though I say so myself, looked very smart. Celli had travelled to the coast with the children and I, she too wore a hat, a brown leather one, matching well her choice of a brown and black striped pants suit. And although it had been planned that Celli and I excel in the fashion stakes, this was for the sole reason of not wishing for it to appear as though we had been affected by the existence of the Secret Seven.

When we reached our destination familiar faces were standing about in the Church yard. The closest to us when entering the gateway were Gerard and Susan, who were making the most of the shade provided by a canopy of trees framing a picture postcard building. With them were two boys whom I had not seen since eight years before when Sally, Jack, Ma and I had journeyed to Byron Bay together.

Celli was ill at ease at meeting up again with any of those, who for no reason had excluded her and also ill at ease with Gerard and Susan because of a letter she had sent to them two years before; the contents in its viciousness perhaps too uncomfortably recalled. The last correspondence Gerard had received from me had been the poem sent to him four years earlier, clearly such approaches run in the family but fortunately, irrespective of anything going before, what made for an easier passage when stepping onto hallowed ground was in our party being welcomed warmly by Gerard and Susan and I will forever thank them from the bottom of my heart for that.

Leaving the company I was in for a moment, I wandered over to the door of the Church to glance inside. Easily seen at the far end of a short aisle was a plain pine box with something on top of it which could not be made out and placed up against the stone altar were a few bunches of flowers looking as if they had seen better days. The sight of these flowers cast the reflection that no one cared about the ending of this particular life but as it was almost midday and very hot, the flowers could have been there since early morning and were wilting due to not having been placed in water.

Among the faces recognized were some old friends of Ma's and those too with whom she had made more recent acquaintance. On Dad's side, most of the mates he could once lay claim to had passed on before him with only one straggler left who was to read a tribute to him at the wake. There were faces too, not known to me. This seemed strange as I thought I had seen everyone who had passed through both Ma and Dads lives. There were around eight people I did not recognize and this would not have been noticed had they not been my age, if not younger and gathered together.

I went back to where Celli was still chatting away to Gerard and Susan and nudged her arm, ''Look to your left and tell me if you have seen any of that group before?'' ''Never seen any of them in my life'', Celli replied. I asked Gerard if he knew who they were only to see him shake head. None of those in my company knew any member of this group and it would not be until the wake that I would be made any the wiser.

To my surprise Eamonn was there. He was in the centre of the Church yard dressed as requested and looking every bit in control as Michael stood beside him, waving his arms about in obvious excitement at seeing his plan come together. Seamus had been assigned to collect Ma but with only minutes to go before the service was due to start, there was no sign of the main griever, the other members of the Secret Seven or Marcus, it was looking as if the service would need to go ahead without them.

Of Dad's nine children, only Michael, Celli, Gerard, Eamonn and I were present when the priest came to the door of the Church to usher those on the outside in, for it to appear then as well that the Church was small, as with half of Dad's family not yet present, there still seemed to be a healthy congregation had arrived to pay their respects.

Michael was flitting from pew to pew making sure everyone was in possession of his printed sheets together with the memorial card with Dad's photo on the front. Celli, the children and I had gone to the front pew which made it impossible without turning around to tell where anyone seen in the Church yard were now positioned, or who else had arrived at the last minute. Also unknown, although now only a few feet away, was what was sitting on top of the pine box which was the size of a wreath but dark in colour and oddly shaped. We were seated for a few minutes when the priest walked through a door at the rear of the altar and it was at this point I turned around to see Ma, walking ever so slowly, by herself, toward the front of the Church.

Seamus had been assigned to collect Ma from the Tin House but it would appear Michael should have gone further and explained that regardless of this duty being handed to his wife, due to the need to transport a couple of Ma's old friends, while he travelled to the funeral with one of the other latecomers, that it was still expected his mother be guided to her seat when she arrived. With the main griever finally present the service began.

When Ma appeared, Celli remained at the end of the pew as we both made way for her to sit three spaces in. She was not at her best. It was as though overnight, she had developed the shaky movements of an old lady; that the experience of the past few days had removed the last vestige of youth from her. Anyhow, in being seated, it was with trembling hands and her head making little jerky movements that a bundle of small envelopes were taken from her handbag and passed onto me. These envelopes were a third the size of a regular envelope and as each one had a name written on it, it was not necessary to look beyond the first two to figure there were nine. It was not difficult to work out what these envelopes were about as with them being empty, clearly, they were expected to be filled. Why, I asked myself, considering what occurred the last time Ma and I had met, would she be giving this task to me? Why, when she had been in Debbie's company for the fifteen minutes it would have taken her to drive her from the Tin House to the Church, at speed, had not she handed them onto her to give to her husband? After all, was not it I who imagined things and he the one who could do no wrong?

There was a point in the mass when I heard Ma sobbing beside me. She was shedding a genuine tear, probably the only one shed that day and although this would amount to the second time in my life I ever heard her weep, it was more than I could do to put a comforting arm around her shoulder. As for the envelopes, it appeared Ma imagined the mass and the food to be consumed at the wake had come as manna from heaven. These envelopes may of course have amounted to nothing more than an Irish tradition, but if they did, it was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing.

So far as I was concerned the Infamous Five had done their bit, with Seamus, I believe, the only member of the Secret Seven to do his. This was of course only a cynical observation, as the others could well have seen to filling their envelope but anyhow, when Seamus climbed into the pulpit to read his Eulogy from a prepared page, after recapping upon what an interesting dad he had, he then went on to romanticise about having chosen a plain pine box to suit a simple man; not because it was the cheapest.

Celli's placing on the edge of the front pew had been for a purpose as at some particular point in the mass she was to place the crucifix handed to her by Michael when she arrived, upon Dad's coffin. And I would like to say I remember at which point this was, but I was more concerned about what the congregation sitting behind thought of our hats, as it had been noted only Celli I were wearing one. The small envelopes handed to me by Ma were placed on the narrow timber ledge where prayer books sat as Michael, after coming from wherever he had been seated, indicated by a wave of his hand that it was time for Dad's daughters to play their part in the service.

In the days I took the children to mass, regular goers took it in turn to carry the Offertory to the altar, but when my turn came around it had been in the absence of a prompt that I had missed my chance. On that occasion I had noticed the priest looking expectantly toward where the children and I sat with an array of receptacles on a tray in front of us, but the penny did not drop until the priest turned away and just continued on with the mass.

Dad's funeral had delivered the only opportunity since for me to get it right, but had it not been for Michael, there is no doubt at all I would have been looking at a repeat performance. When the time came for Celli and me to leave where we were seated and return to the doors of the Church to collect what would then be taken back to the altar, as we passed by those dressed more casually and in finding it difficult to walk in the black high heeled flimsy sandals chosen to go with my outfit, I was also grateful to Michael for arranging Dad's funeral in a Church with a short aisle and not a cathedral, which was most unlike him.

It was maybe because the funeral followed closely after the altercation with Ma at the hospital that my mind was elsewhere throughout the service. Or had I just switched off to any other possibilities after Ma was left to find her own way to the front of the Church and Celli and I were not joined by the third daughter who was also expected to take part in the Offertory? When Celli and I made our way back down the aisle in our smart outfits, there was a lady dressed smartly in a grey skirted suit and white blouse waiting at the back of the Church. This lady gestured toward a small table upon which four familiar receptacles were placed on a white cloth.

A figure then emerged from the back pew to sidle in between Celli and me. It was not immediately clear who this was but in remembering Patsy was four inches shorter than either of her younger sisters was of some help, as a thick main of shoulder length hair, once fair, now dyed black and large dark glasses was of no help at all. In then looking down even further upon my older sister with the aid of three inch heels, it was hoped my glance would be met, but as this was not to be, I took hold of two of the receptacles and began the return walk toward the altar, hoping as I went that I was being followed and that this move had not been made too early. Before the pine box was carried out of the Church by six strong sons, Ma had a quick word with the priest who removed what had been sitting on top of it and handed it to her.

What had been the size of a wreath but oddly shaped, turned out to be an array of dark greenery, interlaced with tiny yellow and white flowers, to form a shamrock. But as the box Dad's body was in would soon be on its way to the crematorium, anything other than to rescue what would otherwise be burnt along with him, amounted to downright waste. There would be a few seconds delay before the procession to deliver the pine box to the hearse could begin, as first Patsy needed to make her way from the back pew to take up her position in the lead beside Ma before Celli and me could fall in behind, and until I could stand to one side at the Church doors as this procession went on through the Church yard without me.

From where I then stood, on a grass verge above the roadway, there was a clear view of other members in the family saying their final goodbyes into the back of a hearse before it crawled away with only the lady in grey walking slowly behind it. With no sign of a flower and in also understanding that none of those who attended the service would be following the lady in grey with the headlights of their cars on, this was as sad a sight as it could be. The funeral had delivered an appropriate send off for a man who lived by his own rules and often echoed one of his uncle's before him, in mumbling; Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Michael's training for the priesthood had finally come in useful as every aspect of that mass had gone like clockwork. Seamus and he had made a good job of their Eulogies, Marcus, Gerard and John had also played their roles well with even the Offertory making its way from the back of the Church to the altar without a hitch and the finale when Eamonn went onto the altar with guitar in hand, to sing Danny Boy as beautifully as it had ever been sung and would have brought applause had he been in an entertainment venue. Where any of us would have been but for Michael did not bear thinking about, it was always going to be more difficult for members of a fractured family to behave as one when sociable interaction was called for.

The wake was held in the bowling club frequented by Dad over the eleven years spent living in the Tin House. On the table where he once sat to drink a few beers and play keno was a small bowl of flowers and a card in memory of the crippled old man who came there on many an afternoon. Those arriving from his funeral would not be in the same area where Dad once sat, although they would be heading for a roped off section of the dining hall where laminated tables and chairs awaited.

As for me, had it not been for the children's presence, it would have been preferable to spend the few hours to follow the funeral more fruitfully, doing anything else really. Pasty was the oldest of the progeny Dad had left behind and she was not speaking to me, Celli or Michael and none of us knew why. I was not, for reasons already outlined, seeking any particular interaction with Patsy, but had she not been wearing an impenetrable veil, if only to give the correct impression to the children, I would have done so. As for Michael, he would ideally have liked to get along with all his siblings but had forgotten why some would not agree. Where Seamus was coming from, who knew? And the same went for Marcus, whereas the two youngest, Gerard and John, as Bert had said many years before, presented as less Irish than the rest of them. Eamonn had no time for Patsy but relied on late night phone calls and notes to get this message across as he was too intimidated in her presence to say anything.

Celli only disliked Patsy, but none of her brothers, bar Eamonn, rated much higher, as not one of them had ever considered either, why it might be that she was always so in need of their acceptance. So, there we all were at the wake. Pasty sat at the table next to mine with her back to me. Ian sat beside her and although not seen at the time, would have also been at the back of the Church with her. It was considered very brave of a man who would have pulled his pants down in the street if his wife asked him, to suddenly venture over to shake my hand. As not a word had passed between us, maybe this move was not as brave as first thought. The children then went to join those on the next table and as they did I called out, ''Hi Patsy'', which was to be received by a half turn of her head. This effort on my part may well not have been heartfelt and geared more to sending the signal of ''it not being me'' to the children, but I had still expected more to come from it than there was.

With the mingling in full swing and now sitting alone, to my surprise I was joined by Seamus and as he seated himself, he asked if I wanted him to fix the problem between Patsy and me. My first inclination was to tell him his energy would be better spent concentrating on the problem I had with him but instead I told him he would need to get her head out of her arse first. It was so unlike me to speak this way but something sobering needed to be said if Seamus was to realize he was not dealing with the same sister who once attended to his office and even sold some carpet. And this ploy appeared to work, as he appeared thrown in then mentioning the drinks were on him, which was why I straight away left his company to head for the bar. When I returned Seamus was gone, the children were back but the four of us would not be sitting by ourselves for long. Not since 1994, twelve years earlier, had I set eyes on Seamus or Debbie, and yet there Seamus had been suggesting he could fix the problem I had with Patsy followed by his wife sitting down beside me a few minutes later, and leaning her elbows on the table, asking, in those nasal tones of hers, ''And how are we all then? ''

The going had now become a little sticky as the three young adults with me, in knowing nothing of how certain rifts had come about, had been left to rely upon Bert's input in referring to the Secret Seven as 'disloyal' and as I could not have agreed more, the tiresome task now lay ahead of ensuring the children were not given any indication of how much more there actually was. In looking back upon the funeral, as my presence was received in a generally friendly manner, it was thought the poem sent four years earlier may have even been appreciated in some quarters; perhaps the wake up call some of them realized was needed to remind them they had aging parents. What I could not figure was the quite opposite receptions received from those most targeted in the poem; why on the one hand Seamus and Debbie were behaving so friendly towards me when they must have known the passage: 'you take their money give false account', was directed at them, while Patsy could not bring herself to even look at me for the 'you teach your children hate', passage which, it is assumed, she would have realized was directed at her. Could there have been some forgotten wrong I had perpetrated to cause Patsy further injury? Or was it simply that Seamus and Debbie had hides as thick as a rhino's? Had any grievance held by me toward Patsy ever been aired, her avoidance of me would have been better understood but as things were, not one word had come her way in regards to how scarred the saga of those electricity bills had left Eamonn, nor of how her inclusion of Genevieve had resulted in Michael not seeing his sons for so long, nor indeed, the only person besides Michael who knew what had transpired when I met up with a boyfriend ten years before, was Celli.

It had been a year before Dad's funeral that Celli had been informed of what had come to light nine years earlier and although slow off the mark in sharing the most mortifying experience since leaving Bert with her, like so much else going before, it would only become real if anyone was told. Not a good enough excuse, considering that throughout those nine years Celli was still living with the memory of being made feel like a worm by those who saw themselves in some higher place. It is just that it took a long while to come to terms with the unlikelihood of Ross suffering a one-off psychotic episode in the kitchen of the Coconut House so many years ago and that sibling rivalry could go haywire to such an extent that Patsy would expose herself to him. It had been all well and good to share the news of what Ross had divulged with Celli, but beyond hoping what had been imparted would make her feel better within herself, no actual comeuppance had been expected. In this however, what had been overlooked, were the years spent striving in Celli's never ending quest to be accepted; a hunger which caused her to behave like a dog with a bone if any snippet run by her which could help relieve the pressure of it always appearing as if it were she with the problem. And in this regard the information I had supplied was pure gold, which I should have realised, was never likely to be wasted.

Meanwhile, back at the wake, with Debbie now seated with the children and me, it was necessary to pull out all stops to be pleasant. Not overly pleasant by acknowledging her immediately, just pleasant enough for my children not to view me as one to encourage disloyalty. When she first sat down to ask how we all were, I left the children to answer as I casually continued reading an account Ma had written about her life since meeting the old man, which was part of the literature Michael had put together.

Debbie chatted with the children for the few seconds it took for me to raise my head and purely by way of finding something to say, I asked her who the people seated ahead of us at a large round table were. The same group as noticed in the Church yard were now gorging on large platefuls of the meagre smorgasbord provided by the Infamous Five and as Debbie and Seamus had been the only ones seen speaking to them, it just figured they must know who they were. ''Oh them'', came back the response, ''they are our rent-a-crowd''. ''They are your what!'' ''Our rent-a-crowd'', I heard repeated, ''friends of Seamus and mine, we lend support to one another at funerals or on any occasion when a crowd might be called for''.

In hearing what Debbie had said, I considered that herself and Seamus had moved somewhat further away from the lack of humility remembered, as it now appeared they were in such need of support, they would invite a bunch of strangers to Dad's funeral. But then if there had been such a turnaround, why when Seamus made his eulogy from the pulpit, did he slip in a mention of it having been he who had paid for the pine box and stick his chest out when mentioning the drinks were on him. If anything had changed about the way these carpetbaggers operated, why would Debbie sit down beside me with seemingly no conscience in having reneged on the promise to take care of that loan? Nothing more was said to Debbie as I excused myself and went back to the bar to make the most of the last round of drinks Seamus would be paying for. When I returned Debbie was gone and Gerard was seated in the chair she had vacated. Gerard by now could have sat there boasting till the cows came home about how well he had done, but instead he remained just as unassuming as he ever was.

As the afternoon wore on I just stayed where I was, and in glancing around the dining space, even if I had approached one of the relatives I was surrounded by, as all to come from such a venture would have been both parties hedging around what they actually wanted to say, it was best for all concerned that I did not. Outside the little circle at my table was a world forgotten anyway with only Gerard's graciousness getting in the way of what had long been accepted. Patsy and Ian were the only ones besides Seamus and Debbie in attendance who had any inkling as to what the previous sixteen years may have held for me; not all of it, but surely enough for Patsy and Ian not to run for cover in the early stages or for Seamus and Debbie to do what they did, Celli, Michael, and Eamonn, also came over to sit with me intermittently but were otherwise flitting about. Ma sat at a long table in the centre of the room, accompanied by some old friends from the years spent living in the Coconut House and as for the wreath-shamrock, it had been set down beside the leg of her table where it was now a mangled mess from being trampled on by those calling over to pay their respects.

Of the boys, only Michael and Seamus lacked the inclination to consider themselves Tom Jones impersonators but there was no stopping the others. After the food had been consumed, those in attendance were then treated to a rendition of Delilah, Sweet Caroline and The Green, Green Grass of Home, with Marcus' regular party piece, My Old Man's a Dustman, ending the cabaret.

Other than the couple of trips made to the bar, which I now regret, as I should have been going back and forth before Seamus called a halt to the free drinks, I had intended to remain seated where I was until it was time to leave. However, with Ma on the centre table sitting there with some of her old friends trying to appear jolly and in noting others had called over to sit for a while, as it would have been too much of a slight not to venture over too, this is what I did. There had been a time when no other seat would have been considered throughout the wake but the one beside her but with those days over, all that was in need of attention with proceedings of the day nearing a close, was to operate no differently to how a member of a rent-a-crowd would.

It was as well it had not been expected that the first death in the family would lead to more than a few agonizing hours for me or that Michael's effort would come to anything more than him returning to his condominium and Celli to her dog grooming or Eamonn back to his routine. As everyone was to return to wherever they had been before the funeral with no shift in the way things had been. When it was time to leave I acknowledged Ma again before heading for the car park. Ma was standing just outside the roped off section of where the wake had been held, bidding farewell to all those who had been in attendance. Just looking at her holding onto a chair told me she was exhausted, the strain of the day combined no doubt with all else leading up to it had clearly taken its toll. It had once been hoped Ma would have been in a position to enjoy some time to herself, but with the old man living on for eleven years after his stroke, it now appeared it would not be long until she would be following him. Ma glanced up at me to say how tired I looked before asking if I knew where Patsy was. ''I do not know'', I replied. It was galling then to see her turning her head from side to side and after noting most of those once sitting at tables had departed, wearily looking back up at me and saying, ''but she did not say goodbye''.

It was not long after the wake that I was up at the Tin House once more and even though Ma had recovered somewhat from when she had last been seen, I still feared those flashes of youthfulness had gone for good. And it was as if searching for a solution to mend the rift now existing between us that she asked if I would like to have the Tin House for my lifetime. Other than for the tiff in the hospital, the generally compliant way I had dealt with the situation I had been saddled with had now reaped another reward, as with Dad now gone and that loan out of the way, there was no further mention of the place I had paid for, twice by my reckoning, being left to me either in her Will or the deeds being put into my name. The mention of 'lifetime' was all that was needed to indicate her intention but in not wishing to hear another word said about the Church, I quickly answered, ''no thanks''.

When this conversation took place we were upstairs in the living area and after it finished, I gazed out of the window, on the opposite side to where the mural of a beach scene was nailed to the deck and in looking down toward the driveway with broken crockery cemented into it to give a mosaic effect, I wondered what my children might think of their mother spending what was left of her life in a house built back to front? More so, I wondered what my children might think if they knew anything of what lay behind this question needing to be asked in the first place. Had I been interested in taking up Ma's offer, I also asked myself at what point I had given the impression I would live as contentedly as she had among cardboard tubes, not wasted after the linoleum to cover the floor had been delivered, now painted brightly to lend a rounded shape of interest to the corners of the sunroom and with a similar theme throughout, had the thought of who would be expected to pay for the obvious work needing to be done?

What Ma was suggesting indicated nothing more than I remain there with her and that after something happened to her, I stay on until the walls fell in around my ears, after which the Church would be left to level the land or sell for a lesser sum and the purchaser see to the demolishing. There had been a time when should Ma have become lame I would have thought it a privilege to help her maintain the garden established on land once a barren hillside and should anything have happened to her, it had been hoped I would be in the position to keep this garden as a monument to her.

Ma had always been viewed by me as misplaced in the life she had led and that it had been through misfortune she became like the old woman who lived in a shoe. I also believe when her hearing began to deteriorate, it was more of a relief to her than a handicap and that this was the reason she avoided wearing hearing aids; a determination especially applying to the large variety supplied free of charge by the Government which she maintained helped her hear more what was going on in the house next door than in her own. There was always the option of paying for the smaller variety which, apparently, worked better but here she told those at the hearing clinic that she would not be going to any expense after providing Australia with so many taxpayers and that she also had umpteen grandchildren who were also paying tax, one would hope more than some of their parents did!.

Should I have taken up the offer of staying in the Tin House for my lifetime, maybe in order to pay for the extensive work required, I could have charged a premium for conducting guided tours, arranged for those interested in how to better utilize trash than just toss it in the garbage bin. Ma never failed to carry her own shopping bags to the supermarket, long before it became the thing to do and beyond this had taken the concept of recycling further than anything ever conceived. Her imagination in this regard knew no bounds as anything not lending itself to being made colourful enough to be stuck on gates, walls, fences or driveways, served as land fill to create little mounds of interest in the otherwise level areas of her garden.

By the time the old man died it had become clear Ma could also paint any situation in the way she preferred it to be and there could be no better example of this than in her telling me what a wonderful thing it was that Dad's parting words had been 'Can I go now father'? When the priest arrived to deliver the Last Rights Ma had not been there, only Seamus and Debbie were in attendance. As heard through the family grapevine, Dad had been lying on the bed with his eyes closed when the priest came through the curtain but miraculously his eyes opened when the priest stood beside him and with a wry smile on his lips he had said, ''Now you would not happen to be a Catholic priest now would you, father?'' He then raised his head slightly and asked, ''Now have you heard this one father''?, to then proceed in telling the priest the joke about the two Cockneys, and on nearly choking with laughter afterwards, Debbie needed to fetch a glass of water, of which the old man took a sip before resting his head back down on the pillow. He was then asked by the priest, who being Polish, would not have understood the joke, if he had any sins. With the smile back on his lips Dad's answer was: ''Ah, yes father plenty of those''. He was then asked if he would take the host, for Dad to answer, ''I will father''. It was after swallowing the host that Dad uttered the words: ''Can I go now father?''. But what had not been mentioned to me by Ma was that with the job done and as the priest headed back through the curtain, the old man had opened his eyes once more to utter his last words which were, ''I hope all that did some fucking good''.

Laser
Still at Andy and Jane's come the December after Dad died, it was with my sixtieth birthday behind me I heard of a cheap car for sale. Well used, but not as satisfied as I once was with public transport, it was upon hearing the car for sale was a seventeen year old Ford Laser that it was felt this purchase could serve a more urgent purpose. If I were ever to stop storing the events I had been subjected to away, hoping to wake one morning to find what I had been dealt had been one long nightmare, then what was needed, was a day to day reminder of all that taken place since this particular model car was new. This, more than being tired of public transport, was the purpose of this purchase. I could either remain suspended in the hope of something other than resentment emerging from what to date had been nothing more than a string of events it seemed best not to dwell on, or take the first step toward accepting that all my long silence had achieved, was to leave the way open for ever more decisions to be based on flights of fancy or whichever way the wind happened to be blowing. The Laser for sale had been ninety miles away up the coast, so to ensure it was worth collecting, I first inquired if it was the model resembling a Porsche from the rear. In my intent being so serious, I overrode the laughter coming from the other end of the line and was on a train heading north soon after on one of the hottest summer days on record with a one way ticket in my purse to collect a vehicle with no air conditioning and fourteen years older than my daughters Peugeot.

In visiting Ma on my way back from collecting this lastest Laser and after showing off my bargain buy, I had been sitting with Ma upon the blue and white checked couch in the plastic sunroom when, those pale blue eyes of hers took on a familiar look. Ma just suddenly turned toward me and said; ''I was reading an article in the paper about how women after leaving a marriage can be vulnerable to those who would think nothing of getting them to sign something to suit their own ends, and those who conduct themselves in this way would not care that this could alter the course of that person's life. Now, can you imagine anyone doing such a thing?'' I just sat there. Too stunned to even change the subject, I was asking myself, who else would Ma have brought this particular topic up with? And as the answer was no one, I went on my way soon after, leaving Ma unaware of the deep sense of hopelessness her question had caused. The utter frustration felt was instead aired as I drove along the deserted strips of thoroughfare leading from the Tin House, as I did not stop screaming ''AAAAAH'' until reaching the main road.

The purchase of a car now reserved for teenagers on P plates at the age I was, is what it had taken for that compartment in my mind to begin releasing what had been held in abeyance for too long. As the years had gone by, the condition of the car collected may have been much as expected after noting the deterioration of its appearance on the roads but not until I was actually behind the wheel of this model car again myself, would I receive the constant reminder necessary for all that had taken place since this particular model car was new, not be buried, which was a growing fear. The time had arrived by then to acknowledge that if all my silence had achieved was to create the space for a more convenient version of the events I would never forget to see more and more daylight as the years went by, then it was not before time the first stride was made toward setting the record straight. If the two family members I had originally set my star by had no recall of what mattered to me, then it was not before time either that I began relying more upon myself.

Only after standing in the heat outside a country railway station and handing over a small amount of cash to a back-yard mechanic who told me he had done a good job of fixing up the engine of the Porsche, ha, ha, was it no longer possible to ignore how much time had gone by since I had sat beside Ma in an office of the Commonwealth Bank. I took the controls of a vehicle more pink than red on the driver's side, it was as I steered back south toward the city in the slow lane of the motorway on that hot afternoon, more thought was given to all that had happened to place me in this position rather than be wrapped up any longer in what Bert might find out about. As the giant trucks rolling by threatened to blow me and my latest used car into the clearing, what bothered me more than Bert discovering the size of the black hole his funds had disappeared into, was that had he been in one of those vehicles leaving me in their wake, to honk his horn gleefully at seeing me, he would have been one of the few once considered 'family' I would have still recognized.

Sending an account of events to my lifelong friend, Sally, had served as a welcome relief because until then not one word of my experience had been shared with anyone and not a day had gone by for sixteen years without something related to that loan interfering with my concentration. It was understood there was not anything Sally could do but in just listening she had helped more than she knew. The only comment made by Sally after reading those episodes, was on a couple of occasions to email back to say 'Oh no' and to suggest I write a book. How else was she expected to react? I mean, with her being so kind and polite, she was hardly likely to inform me that after her own experience of my first family, nothing of what had been reported came as any surprise. It was only in thinking again about what Sally had suggested that I began to consider maybe writing a book was not such a bad idea, after all I was by now completely on my own in remembering what those past years involved and what better therapy could there be for this angst than to begin placing the events I would never forget into a time frame using all those birthdays lost track of as a guideline.

After the collection of the second Laser, as there was no further mention of my living in the Tin House for my lifetime and in not seeing hide nor hair of any sibling other than those on my team, the following year just rolled by without incident. Sally and I continued to communicate but it was as well she had plenty to report, as with those shares purchased five years before having gone further down the gurgler, I did not.

Sally wrote mainly of the house she had purchased since we had last met which was a large residence she hoped to turn into flats and although Jack had his own house close by, he was still on the scene helping her realize her dream. Throughout the months after those episodes were sent, in things from my end having died down, anything I had to report revolved around the good fortune in having the children I had and to still be living with Andy and Jane. It would not be until August 2007 after my sixty first birthday had passed that Sally would receive another screed, this time to notify her that after the worst of storms, a rainbow was now on the horizon.

Two weeks before I turned sixty one, my youngest daughter phoned to tell me she had seen my weeding tool demonstrated on television by Jason from Better Homes and Gardens. I told her this could not be, that I would not be able to count the times before when I had been told something similar. It was just another case of mistaken identity, as although I had never seen anything like my particular weeding device, which was why I designed it in the first place, apparently they were everywhere. My daughter then insisted it was definitely mine as Jason had called it by its name and that she had recognized the yellow label on the plain timber stick.

In being swayed by my reaction, the subject of this call was dropped and no further thought was given to what had been said until two weeks later when, on my sixty first, birthday, I turned my lap top on to check if I had any emails. Normally, I would have expected to find maybe one from Michael, the gardener at work, or Sally, as there really were not many I communicated with in this way, so it had been in noticing a full screen and finding more as I scrolled down, that it was assumed my computer was malfunctioning. Only as I began to read these emails was the conversation held with my daughter recalled, as each of them was referring to the garden tool demonstrated on Better Homes and Gardens by Jason and asking where one could be found. There was no way of knowing how this came to be as I had done no more than leave my device in that wholesale outlet after leaving the shop and over the time they had been there, as only a few had sold, if anything, I was expecting a call telling me to shift my goods and afterward be left looking for a hole big enough to bury them.

However, as things now appeared, two weeks previously, unbeknown to me, every hardware store and nursery around the country, or where the program had aired, had been inundated with requests for my gardening tool and the reason I was not contacted straight away was because there were no contact details on the label. I had eventually been tracked down through the wholesale outlet where my gardening tool had beforehand been collecting dust and this was where Jason from Better Homes and Gardens had plucked my little invention off the shelf before demonstrating it on national television. Ouch, a thousand times over.

The emails received had been passed on by the program; sent by those most frustrated at not being able to find what had been demonstrated anywhere. Most of these were elderly folk or those with bad backs who saw my device as saving them from kneeling or bending when removing weeds from lawns or flowerbeds. What to do? Well first I answered every email before mailing out the heads I had left to the most desperate individuals, explaining before I did that the handle was too long to send through the post but that as it was only a meter length of hardwood dowel and that this could be easily fitted by the purchaser. With two weeks already gone, other than move the old stock in this way and supply a few retail outlets closest to home, it was too late to consider doing more.

After the old stock was used up, give or take this interruption, all would soon return to normal. But, giving rise to a re-think, was receipt of an email from Better Homes and Gardens advising me that if I were successful in getting my weeding tool accepted into Bunnings, the largest hardware chain, then they would run the segment again and wow, how good would that be! Lending even more weight to a turnaround in my decision making was in also receiving a call from someone who worked for the program informing me my product had created the largest interest of any product shown that year as well as receiving a call from a gardening radio show telling me that every second person was asking where they might find the elusive weeding tool. Even though on the occasion of being contacted by the radio show I babbled like a fool in realizing I was on air, it was of some considerable compensation to realize a little three pronged fork with a foot rest made sense to more than just me.

It would have been great had I been totally confident about my, product, at that point but the truth was I was not. In the past, due to the head having been die cast in a zinc alloy, it did not stand up to levering up rocks or tree roots and it had been as a consequence of this use that in the past, tines had broken. Before approaching Bunnings, which I was by now intent on doing, it would first be necessary to discover whether the head could be made in a stronger material. And even though going down this path would mean further tooling, which came at a major cost, if there was any light coming from my own star at all, expense would need to be a secondary consideration. Before making the appointment to see whomever it was who dealt with the likes of me within the Bunnings organization, I had done my homework and found that the only way to make the present head stronger was to have it forged in iron.

The appointment made was in the Bunnings outlet just up the road from where I lived with Andy and Jane and this was where I was walked around the shelves by a young man, who was around the same age as the one met in another life in a bank. This particular young man explained how the system worked if a product was accepted and when this guided tour took place, as the young man also said, whilst looking at my tool up and down, ''there would be no problem with something like this'',

I began to feel cautiously optimistic. A few minutes later I was led into an office where the young man phoned the buyer in Melbourne and it was the way this phone call had been conducted which not only indicated the buyer and the young man knew about the weeding tool before I ever appeared but also that someone like me came along every day of the week. When this phone conversation ended, I was then asked if I was still working. Well, the young man said, you will have to give that away if your product is accepted as you will be kept too busy. ''Yeah sure'', I thought, ''like to see that!'' In parting, I was told to expect the submission which would be emailed to me that afternoon and as I then went on my way, I was not sure whether it was wiser to be hanging onto an already fading optimism or go with my gut instinct and give the whole thing away.

Maybe it was coming across another young man in another world alien to me almost twenty years later which went some way toward my automatic pessimism, as after speaking to the representative from Bunnings, faith that I was on the right track getting the head of my device made stronger may have been intact but what I was not so sure of was the wisdom of breaking more new ground with another large organization. In receiving the submission from Bunnings, as what this entailed seemed to be suggesting that any back yard operator should know as much about freight, weight, costings and any other jargon only those who lived and breathed such stood any chance of understanding, all I had to say, which did not amount to much, was written in answer to every question before the submission was emailed back.

Driving toward the west of Sydney where the factories and foundries were located, I eventually landed at an engineering firm who ran its business from a modern building in such stark contrast to the foundries previously visited, which were as the bowels of hell had been imagined, I felt immediately intimidated. But it would nevertheless be in treading upon the carpeted floors of offices that I would find an answer to my problem. In giving my spiel to the silver haired man who attended to me, I was amazed to find myself treated like a regular customer. The tooling cost and price per unit were worked out on the spot and with both of these quotes coming in at less than expected, the price per unit at half that paid before on the old model, an order was in the bag that very day with me looking forward to seeing how my weeding tool would look forged in iron with 'Made in Australia' incorporated in the mould. It was this development which led to me feeling on safe enough ground to fill Sally in on the latest from my end, as it would certainly seem then, give or take the odd hurdle ahead, that a rainbow could well be on its way to make up for all the bad news reported previously.

There was a minimum requirement for the first run, a thousand, whereas before I had got away with three hundred, but hey, with Bunnings knocking on my door and in having shifted as many, over time, with the old lot, even if things did not work out, I would just need to find an even a bigger hole in which I to bury the latest version of my meagre invention. It had been mentioned as I went ahead and placed the order that, although visually identical, other than Made in Australia now embedded in the tooling, I would be looking at a heavier head. And at the time, as the mention of 'heavier' was music to my ears, any negativity felt beforehand just vanished. But in being faced with a six week wait until the new version of my weeding tool came into being, it was about two weeks in when doubt once again began to rear its head. So, in order to put my mind at ease that what I was about had not been forgotten, I contacted the buyer for Bunnings. All I could think to say when I did, was to ask if they needed to be powder coated, I guess the curt 'Yes' received in response went some way to re-establishing the initial conviction that I was one of those suppliers who could well be done without.

In already having made a botch of the submission, all achieved by that call was to be further convinced there was nothing endearing about an unprofessional approach when dealing with big business and although the buyer had provided the email address of the Bunnings distributor, as this had been done with seeming irritation, it now appeared even clearer to me that going down the path of imagining for a moment that my weeding devise would ever be seen on the shelves of the largest hardware outlet, had only ever been dreamtime. In contacting the distributor, convinced at the time that all was lost, the last thing expected was to receive a prompt response from a man named Bill. Unlike the buyer, Bill appeared to appreciate that should the segment roll again on TV and exclusivity be claimed by Bunnings, that he was sitting in a prime position to profit.

So it would be in the last throws, which was how I now viewed the situation, that I would be left dealing with a distributor who could see no further than the imagined pot of gold at the end of my rainbow. Bill began emailing me consistently checking on developments and even went so far as to mention 'export' and that he was 'so excited'. Over the weeks Bill and I were communicating, attempts were made to dampen his enthusiasm, but he was so beside himself with the possibility of an extra buck coming in his direction, I could not help but imagine him rubbing his hands together.

After having spoken to the buyer, and then the distributer, I felt as if I was drifting around in no-mans-land. On the one hand I was fairly sure what was on the cards after making that call to the buyer, and on the other, Bill was behaving as if I was about to split the atom, rather than have a little garden fork forged in iron. Before I knew where I was, Bill had figured out the small percentage I would receive after he took over which would have been fine had there been any actual interest in the product but as it was sensed my dealings with Bill were geared in a direction known only too well, negative vibes began arriving in waves. Nevertheless, just as soon as the new batch of heads came out of production and the manufacturer saw to it that first up I received the dozen required to send down to Bill in Melbourne, I quickly inserted the timber dowels, put a little yellow plastic cap on the end for effect and pasted the yellow labels onto the sticks before dispatching them by rail in a guitar box given to me by my son.

Two days later, the expected disappointment in Bill setting eyes for the first time on the cause of our ongoing communication, never came about. In fact, none of his initial excitement had diminished one iota as he rang to tell me he had them all lined up for the buyer to see and could not wait. The following day I received another call, and this was when Bill told me the buyer had run his hand up one of the raw timber dowels only to receive a splinter in his finger.

Over the years spent assembling these items, never once had I had the same experience and even though Bill told the buyer he would sand and varnish every stick, it came as little surprise to me anyhow, to find that a further criticism was then made; in that the new head was now too heavy for the handle. Had I been Bill, my answer to this latest criticism would have been, 'Oh, you mean like a hammer?' as this was about how much sense it made.

This latest conversation held with Bill ended in him telling me that we are still ninety per cent there as the present buyer was leaving and when he had gone, he would approach the one filling his shoes. Two weeks went by before I called Better Homes and Gardens to inform them my gardening tool had been rejected by Bunnings. It was not expected Bill would be heard from again and just as well I had been right, as what a dill I would have looked if I had not been.

The light coming from my star had faded quickly but as my stepping out of the box of normality was taken as normal by those in close association, there was only Sally who needed to be informed that the expected rainbow was not about to appear after all. And then all that was waiting to be done was to bury this interlude of a few weeks amid everything else which, by 2007, was reaching the two decade mark of a most interesting time spent.

More on Celli

It was during the months when I was dealing with Bill, convinced my garden tool was not about to find its niche within the organization of which he was a distributor, that Celli and I had further disagreement. This latest development could have been done without as with Dusty the dog, long gone, what amounted to nothing more than a continuation of Celli's lack of trust in anyone but those she had known for five minutes, meant that if fences could not be mended with one of those she had known for her lifetime and one it had been hoped could be relied upon, then whether I liked the idea or not, the original Infamous Five would be short another member.

That I should now be placed into the same basket already overflowing with those who through ignorance or intent had done wrong by Celli, initially angered me, but as there was nothing to be done at the time to convince her otherwise, whether or not this desertion would be as short lived as others had been, it had reached the point when I could either continue imagining she could not get by without me, or acknowledge that Patsy was not so mean spirited as had been thought and had in fact had her head screwed on in agreeing with me all those years before, that everyone only had themselves to rely on.

Celli had been unsettled since reaching the age of seventeen. Before then she had been a quiet, easily led youngster. Philomena, her best friend, is the one who did this leading, to the extent where one of the nuns from the school they both attended warned Ma that Philomena was a bad influence. Anyhow, it was with Philomena nowhere on the scene, that at the age of nineteen Celli was taken to Ireland by Ma along with Gerard and John, and whilst staying in a boarding house, she had encountered what Ma told her afterward was a visitation; a religious experience.

In a room to herself, as Celli lay in bed one night, it was in sensing she was not alone that the hands on the clock beside her began turning around rapidly and although she did not see the form of a man sitting on the end of the bed, she could hear him breathing and could see the imprint of his body on the eiderdown. It was years later when I first heard about this and when I did, as what had occurred was relayed to me as a religious experience, I immediately told Celli that what she had termed as a religious experience amounted to no more than one of those one-off psychotic episodes I knew all about after reading a brochure when visiting the community centre with Eamonn.

Celli had been the first placed in the spotlight of my knowledge as she had mentioned what she had in 1993 and there was still three years to go before it would become my old boyfriend, Ross', turn. And what I ask myself all these years on, is if Celli truly believed what had been experienced at the age of nineteen was a religious visitation, then why had she kept this revelation to herself for seventeen years?

If only something had been known of Celli's experience sooner, then some explanation would have existed as to why, past the age of nineteen, her whole demeanour altered. After returning from Ireland, gone was the quiet girl known, to be replaced by one who had become so forthright, anyone in her company would feel their lack of colour.

Celli and I we were moving about in such different circles that not much was actually seen of her before she headed overseas again to arrive back two years later to zoom off to Queensland in a small plane with Ma to purchase that acre, and although the connection between us was again at practically zero for the ten years to follow the purchase of this land, news travels.

It would not be until Celli reached the age of thirty one and had been living for a while in the Tin House with Ma and Dusty, that in giving up on an attempt to recapture the hay days of the health food shop before she had been sent packing by Susan, it was time to begin her life over by returning to the city.

Needing somewhere to base herself while employment was found, she arrived to be put up in the downstairs area of the Snake Pit and as by 1989 I had moved into the room down the hall and Bert and I were not speaking, it was not exactly an ideal time to be accepting any guest, let alone one with Murphy as a surname. Seemingly oblivious to what was going on around her, Celli made herself right at home, complaining about my cooking and asking Bert if Dusty, who had been left with Ma in the Tin House, would also be welcome. So far as Bert's appreciation of my first family went, Celli just did not see the fine line she was treading and simply stated in being knocked back, ''well if you do not ask you do not get''. It would not be until four years hence that I would learn of the religious visitation experienced in Ireland, and when I did, this would be all there was to explain why Celli was high on adrenalin one day making all kinds of unrealistic plans, to then sink into depression when she was hit by the cold light of day.

Celli was in the Snake Pit for a few months as she went from job to job before going off to the goldfields of Western Australia and it would be upon her return two years later that she arrived back to the Cocomut House, only to have Dusty taken off in a truck and dumped miles away. Where she was for the year after Michael threw Dusty in his swimming pool, I do not know. All I am aware of is that wherever she had been, she and Dusty needed to be put up in the town-house for a few days. After this was when she rented the house with a mini swimming pool close to where the carpet showroom was located where Michael became her house mate until all hell broke loose over Philomena.

Celli and Dusty then went to live in rural Victoria but in order to supplement the wages earned in the snowfields come winter and picking nuts and apples come spring, it was necessary to return to earn Sydney wages where they stayed with me for two lengthy periods in the slightly larger premises I had moved into after leaving the town-house. Celli also drove north not long after I opened the shop and stayed with me in the house I had there and on this occasion she was to arrive with a yellow and black sticker on the rear window of her car reading, Screw You.

This had not been directed at me as her boyfriend had fallen foul of her and she saw this move as a way of getting her message across to him. It had seemed bad enough that Celli saw nothing wrong with driving around the town where she lived with this sticker on her car but in then driving this car all the way from Victoria to the coast north of Sydney to park her car my driveway, was quite another matter. Why did she see nothing wrong with that? I settled for the relief of her stay being short and that she came with me in the Commodore when visiting the shop.

After returning to Victoria, she rang to tell me she had been offered a secretarial position in the snowfields for the whole of the winter and wanted my advice as to how best to present herself for work. I told her the first thing she must do was remove the sticker from the rear window of her car. She rang me back later the same day to tell me it had taken her ages. But her labour had been in vain as the job only lasted a day.

There was another occasion when Celli visited me whilst I had the shop and this was closer to the time when my lease was coming to an end. It was just over a year after those funds had been sent to her indirectly by me in payment for her land so it could finally be given to the Church, that she was once again in need of somewhere to stay. She had finally seen the light, had rented her house out and was returning to Sydney on a permanent basis. In actual fact she had sold her house due to not being in a position to keep up the mortgage repayments and I could only think this information was not shared with me at the time because she was in fear of me looking to be repaid.

No matter how much I had tried to explain to her how this payment came about; that what she had received had come from Ma not me; she never grasped the concept of what I was talking about and I am sure she would not have been alone there, which is what I believe led to her keeping the sale of her house from me. As Celli would be arriving during the opening hours of the shop, towing a trailer and everything but the kitchen sink piled in it and a coat hanger for an aerial on her dilapidated vehicle, I asked her, when being contacted, if she would not mind parking in the street rather than in my car space, which was at the rear of the shop. With the Commodore by then having been towed away after having had its number plates removed by the police, this suggestion, to which Celli agreed was made in obviously not wishing to attract unneeded attention. Upon arrival, however, when asked where her car and trailer was parked, she looked me straight in the eyes, not unlike an insolent child would, to then toss her head and reply: ''In your car spot''. I did not react and just buried my disappointment.

It was the evening of the same day that would see the two of us just chatting away back at the house when, in connection to something said, Celli made the statement, 'All is perception'. I leapt in to agree and explain this was the very reason I had asked her not to park her car and trailer in my allocated car space at the back of the shop, only to receive a tirade in response as to how I thought I was better than she was. In then storming off into the night, to return much later for me to hear her continual sobbing as I tried to sleep. I noticed she was gone in the morning but that her trailer was still in the yard, an indication she would be returning. I left a note for her to read before leaving for the shop. This note was offering her assistance in seeking the help needed if she were ever to be rid of the pain she had been carrying since she visited Ireland at the age of nineteen, which may not have been so diplomatic but it was the best I could come up with in Celli by then being forty seven with much of her time spent moving from place to place as if one day the emptiness inside her would magically be filled.

Thinking the note left would be taken in the spirit intended, I sent a text later in the day asking her what she would like for dinner, only to find the return text reading; ''I will not be around, and it is you who's the sick bitch''. In then returning to the house in the evening and noting the trailer gone, upon opening my bedroom door, to my horror I was to find broken glass on my pillow with a note informing me of her bank account details in order that I pay for the car window which I had smashed the previous night, and oh yes, that I was just like Philomena. The amount requested was paid forthwith which, in the circumstances, seemed the most sensible option.

This encounter occurred two years before the disagreement we would have just after my weeding device had been shafted by Bunnings, After the instance when broken glass was left on my pillow, almost two years went by before hearing from Celli again. She sent me a text and other than the two of us tiptoeing toward the reinstatement of a friendship, what that text contained cannot be recalled. Afterward, come Saturdays, I began to visit the house where she now ran a dog grooming parlour from her garage. I would arrive in the afternoon, to first sweep up dog droppings and scrape mounds of soiled newspapers from the maroon linoleum covering the garage floor before we went to the local Italian restaurant to dine. The night would then be spent sleeping on a mattress in Celli's spare bedroom/office with one of her dogs determined to gain my affections. Spending Saturday nights sleeping on Eamonn's couch had now been put on the backburner for a while but I would catch up with him on Sundays en route back to Andy and Jane's.

With the weeks disappearing so quickly, it cannot be recalled how many Saturdays were spent visiting Celli. All to be said with any certainly is that there were but few before I would not be going back. Prior to that final time, as was usual before the two of us would head off to dine at the Italian restaurant, after cleaning up dog mess we would drink a few deserved beers. Celli, as was usual also, would be breathing fire as to how badly she had faired at the hands of those her faith had been placed in while I continued the seemingly hopeless task of feeding her the wisdom of not being so reliant. Taking into consideration my experience with Ma, giving this advise to Celli, I knew was akin to calling the fryng pan black but it could never be denied there were differences between us. For one thing, I did not share her emotional insecrity and had perhaps also drawn the longer straw in the gene pool.

In my children being aware the rift between Celli and me had been mended, she had automatically been included in the upcoming thirtieth birthday celebrations of my oldest daughter, to be held at the home of her potential in-laws and it was by way of an unfortunate coincidence that in all the weeks of frequenting the Italian restaurant, it just happened to be the week before we were expected to be heading around fifty K north to this birthday party that Celli got up from her chair to head for the kitchen to declare to the staff frantically rushing about that her regular waiter should be dismissed for not remembering her usual entree. As the chef, in all the visits made to his restaurant by Celli over the two year period before I came on the scene, had been more used to her affable, if at times just a little 'over the top' eagerness to be friendly, it was now understandable that he was rather taken aback by this sudden turn around, so much so in fact that he left his pressing duties to come and sit at our table.

And when he did, after attempting to pacify Celli in explaining the waiter whose dismissal she had called for had never had any complaints levelled against him before and had a family to keep, all he got for his trouble was further indignant references made as to how restaurants should be run. It is not remembered how long the chef was at our table with Celli's stance immovable but it was certainly long enough for me know I would never be entering through those doors again, such a pity as the cannelloni served there was so melt-in-the-mouth delicious, I had always been tempted to ask for the recipe.

I should have called quits there and then to any further involvement with Celli, as what use was my friendship to her, which had only resumed around two months earlier, when beforehand she had been getting along swimmingly with the staff at the Italian restaurant, to only afterwards go on one of her excruciatingly embarrassing, inexplicable, ill-judged tangents. But then the scene could not quite be departed yet, as with the following Saturday being Celli's niece's thirtieth birthday party, I would not want her missing out on the only family invitation to come her way to in an age.

The following Saturday afternoon saw the two of us in a motel. Celli had picked me up from Andy and Jane's in the same automobile seen two years before parked at the back of the shop which, thankfully, was no longer towing a trailer with a coat hanger serving as the aerial. But there was still Celli's demeanour to deal with, which would best be described as oozing antagonistic vibes. Whilst on the one hand upon meeting Andy and Jane for the first time, she may have appeared to them as full of life, for me there was a definite sense I would not be in for too comfortable a time.

Celli lived way south of the city whilst Andy and Jane's place was to the north and as we would be heading further north in order to reach the birthday party, it had been to save Celli the drive back, thus ensuring I would not be left with a drink-driving charge on my conscience, I had thought to treat us both to a motel room.

I could forget about the gesture of securing accommodation close to where the party was to be held being the least bit appreciated, as just as soon as we arrived, Celli went ahead of me to check out our quarters, similar to how a blood hound might and in marching into the bathroom, picked up the toilet seat to slam it down again declaring: 'This is how I expect the toilet seat to be left as I do not want to be smelling pee in the morning'. She then asked: 'Which of us is to have the double bed'''

In order to lighten what had already become an atmosphere not conducive to a pleasant evening ahead, I began checking out what was in the fridge and cupboards to have for breakfast, which I assumed was what staying in a motel was all about, only to hear Celli say, as she threw herself onto the double bed, 'I do not eat breakfast but I will take whatever is in packets with me when I leave'.

Maybe what had got this afternoon/evening off to a bad start, had to do with it having been relayed to Celli by my daughter, that other 'oldies' would be attending the party, than any actual bad feeling held toward me, as it really did appear umbrage had been taken by her in declaring loudly at the time of receiving this news: 'I am not an oldie'. Had a throw-away line by her niece, intended to ensure she would not be left feeling like a shag on a rock among a younger set, been enough for Celli to resent being in the company of anyone who fell into the same age bracket as the other 'oldies' invited? Had time for her stood still for so long that the ten years difference in our ages was seen by her as more like thirty?

Whatever the explanation was for Celli not appearing to be in a party mood, it would be upon arriving at the home of my daughter's potential in-laws that this would change. Besides me, there were only four others around the same age; two couples who had been good friends of the householders for many years. As these four also knew my daughter well but had never met me, it was with dismay to find that all 'the oldies' would be seated together and as had been hoped, I would not be able to just drift about smiling and making the odd friendly comment.

After entering what was a lovely house, in Celli and me having been led down a set of stairs to the garden and then toward an enclosed barbeque area where the other oldies were already seated at a round table, it became immediately clear that this table positioning, in a darkened spot, would be where those of a certain age could be more observers to the activity of the party rather than participants in it. I suppose this was a good idea, but not a particularly welcome one considering Celli did not see herself as part of the older set and that since leaving Bert, I never welcomed any encounters where conversation might lead to further lies needing to be told.

Before arriving at the party, I had been on tenterhooks enough in regard to how Celli might react in any given circumstance and in us both now being hemmed in by two couples who had their lives in order, it was only a question of how much Celli's presence would take away from the emphasis placed on me. Celli had an opinion on everything and no matter the company she was in, would not think twice about loudly having her say, making no allowances for what expectations may be held of her.

The occasion of my daughter's thirtieth birthday was a prime example of this, as no sooner had we been introduced to the two couples who were beyond criticism, other than perhaps being a little too conservative for Celli 's taste - Celli thought nothing of immediately launching into having her say no matter the point being raised and in then taking out her tobacco pouch 'rolled her own' in complete oblivion to it being whispered, 'I think it is a joint'. She then gaily headed off to join those with whom she had more in common before returning to leap about banging her backside and shouting: 'And she is a horse's arse', before even 'the happy birthday' and'she is a golly good fellow', had even been sung.

In returning around midnight to the motel, Celli's spirits once again seemed dampened as she mumbled something in regard to the party having been boring. I did not think to let her know of the discomfort being related to her had caused me, in that she had generally behaved as if no time had passed since she was nineteen, or that chances were the impression those meeting me for the first time had been left with, was that we could well be tarred with the same brush, or that the only success of the night was in her having taken the attention away from me.

It hardly followed that I would not now be able to sleep but not so with Celli, as she was snoring away ten minutes after arriving back in our room. As I lay on the single bed with my eyes wide open, it was noted that the traffic on this beachside thoroughfare slowly died away as the red digitals on the microwave oven clicked away the hours. By three, the traffic had been reduced to the odd car and just after five, the kookaburras heralded what most likely meant, there was rain ahead. Creeping out of my bed in the semi darkness I went to use the toilet and in remembering the rules, not only did I put the toilet lid down, but also flushed, half measure, in order to give Celli less to complain about when she rose. I then lay again on my bed for another hour and it was with the first break of light seen coming through the bottom of the venetian blinds that I slipped off the bed once more to crawl on all fours towards the small fridge and packets of cereal. As I began opening a cornflake packet, Celli stirred and in then hearing her groan, I gave up on the effort of getting an early breakfast and went out onto the small grassed area in front of the motel for a smoke. Once out in the open, I was struck with how different it seemed. When we had arrived, it been thriving and getting the car into the motel car park needed to be done with care and now, other than for the odd car driving past, I was the only living creature to be seen.

In entering the outdoors, my appearance had occurred to me but with no one about this was of less matter than it would otherwise have been. Anyway, even if I was seen wearing only a long T shirt, or that my hair bore its usual morning look, flat on the sides with the bulk somehow having found its way to the top of my head during the night, a phenomenon causing Bert to refer to me as 'egg head'. It was unlikely any of those from the party would be driving or walking past at this early hour and I had no previous connection to the area. I could just stroll up and down the dewy grass inside the pavement, assured no passer-by would have any idea why a half-dressed woman with Marge Simpson hair was lolling outside a motel at six in the morning when she could have been inside sleeping.

It had not been intended that any more than a couple of minutes would be spent in the outdoors but as in exiting the room the hinges on the door had squeaked quite noticeably to cause Celli to groan again, my stay in the grassed area outside the motel ended up being more like an hour. I did not attempt to return until the traffic once again began to build and the joggers together with those walking dogs began to appear. It had been in tentatively opening the door to the room again that I swung it back and forth, amazed in it not making a sound. Celli was by this time awake, for her to glance at me with a scowl and say, ''what are you doing with the door?'', to then look me up and down and add; ''you have not been outside looking like that have you?''

Well clearly I had but as to why Celli had not realised the reason for this, was less clear. She then said, as if totally disgusted; ''I do not know how anyone can smoke in the mornings''. Five minutes later out came the tobacco pouch before the one disgusted with my habits rolled another joint with me saying nothing in regard to the same rule not applying to her, or that she had been the only 'oldie' seen puffing away the previous night.

It was a couple of hours later, as we were returning in her car that Celli let loose about not being able to stand this one or that who had attended the party, making it fairly clear she was no better off than if she had never been invited. I was so frazzled in not having slept and so sick of my efforts to be inclusive of her being thrown back in my face, it was as well I had already decided to distance myself from her as she could now go her merry way with no more interference from one who had no solution to fix what ailed her anyway.

After being dropped back at Andy and Jane's, an hour or so later, I received a phone call. This call was from Celli and she said something about a weird message having been left on her answering service by Eamonn and I guess it was in once again being the first port of call when something she could not deal with reared its head. This led to my expressing my disappointment in her general behaviour over the previous forty eight hours. For my trouble I was hung up on, which was okay, as this played perfectly into it being for the best that we went our separate ways. What was not so okay, though, was to then receive a text accusing me of treachery, suggesting that I had been madly texting my children in the early hours of that morning when I thought she was asleep feeding, them, negativity about her. I was stunned at this attack, as how was it possible for her not to see, that if anything, I had been hoping the children had not noticed how she had done a good enough job herself of tarnishing her reputation further.

In response I wrote that I had never and would never besmirch her to anyone, only to receive a further lashing as to my treachery and that she never wanted to set eyes on me again.

After receiving those texts, I went over every move made in the early hours of that morning, trying to figure what I could possibly have done to be interpreted as madly texting. First up there had been the half flush of the toilet, followed an hour afterwards by an unsuccessful attempt at getting a little early breakfast before going outside through a squeaking door to make a spectacle of myself. As these moves summed up all there was to go by, the offender could have been none other than the corn flake packet because when I came to think of it, if my phone had not been set on 'silent'?, then attempting to rip a hole in the crinkly stuff cereals come wrapped in, could have sounded like rapidly pressing of keys to someone half asleep, or paranoid. In considering that if anyone had anything to complain about it should have been me, it seemed as well relations with Celli had been indefinitely severed as there would now be less chance of discovering how many other descriptions there may have been of me in her vocabulary.

It had taken until 2007 before I began switching off to any other duty but the one I owed to myself and although I still remained on track in the visits made to Ma, it would only be a matter of time before she too received a taste of my resolve to no longer fit so snugly into the category of a born saint. A year had been spent driving the second Laser, with not a day having passed without yet another reminder of the past. Consequent to my resolve, come August 2008, upon receiving a birthday card with a sweet message from the mother I once knew, the time had arrived to react in the way I should have from day one. After receipt of this card there would be no reciprocation as I had had enough of playing along with whatever path it had been preferred I be on.

With my perspective now altering so drastically, it was going to take more than the receipt of a sweet message sent to a mail box for me to ever again be as accommodating as I once was.

Over the previous years, due to the few disjointed discussions held and of course the letters sent, it had never been clear whether Ma was suffering from a memory loss illness and had been drifting in and out of lucidity but in making no contact I had placed myself in a position where I could find out. If it was unusual not to hear from me and she was in fact oblivious to her involvement in the situation I had got myself saddled with, then no matter whether in a lucid phase or not, there was no reason for her not to make contact, if only to check that I was still breathing. Whereas should I not hear from her, this would be proof enough there had never been anything wrong with her memory.

Beyond the receipt of a sweet message in a card commemorating my sixty second birthday, Ma's innocence in regard to any involvement in what the previous years had meant for me was now reliant on whether she picked up the phone. By the time August 2008 came around I was at last making a positive stand. The first step in this direction had been in sending those emails to Sally and as since then there had been a gradual eroding of the hope once held that things would end on a positive note, there just seemed nothing left to lose in now steering toward confrontation. All ever required over the eighteen years before reaching the age of sixty two, had been the advent of something said, to make sense of why the events remembered so clearly had been painted any way but the way they were. Even if this had only had the result of Ma admitting she did not always feel quite herself, it would have done and although it was now late in the day, there was still time. Up until a few months before, not once had I contemplated taking such a stand but as the weeks since receiving a birthday card with a sweet message rolled by with communication between Ma and me having run dead, I was just left feeling like the biggest idiot to have gone where I had in the first place.

Come the beginning of December, I was to hear through the eternal family grapevine that Seamus had made what would have been the first visit to the Tin House since his father's funeral two years before and although this visit was clearly geared around getting Christmas obligations out of the way earlier than actually appropriate, who knew, his mother may even receive a call closer to the date or even a card from him as well! Anyway, as by now I had not heard from Ma in almost four months, it was in considering she had sat in my shop five years before telling me if she won lotto Seamus would not be getting any of it, that I could not help but cling to the hope this visit would result in her finally sitting her once golden haired boy on his arse and then after taking him to task for past misappropriations, I would hear from her with the explanations necessary to change the course I was now on.

August had disappeared before I knew it, then September and November, and as Christmas 2008 got closer, as I had not heard from Ma, apart from being sadly disappointed in realizing the visit made to the Tin House by Seamus had not been utilised in the way hoped, I was also faced with the uncomfortable sensation of falling into my own trap. Six years had passed since that poem had been dispatched to those forgetting their parents at Christmas and if relations between Ma and me did not improve, I would be the only one fitting into the category others had once been accused of. For the two Christmas' following Dad's funeral, Seamus had extended an invitation to Michael to partake in both his and Debbie's Christmas festivities. Michael could be forgiven for accepting, as now devoid of any family of his own, combined with an inability to dwell upon anything not occurring in the previous hour, he was probably even pleased to be going.

Whatever the motivation was behind Seamus and Debbie being inclusive of him, though do not forget these invitations had been issued by those with a mentality geared around rent-a-crowds, it was in still not hearing from Ma and time having run out in the deliberations made beforehand whether to send a card, that in Michael being unsure of his movements come Christmas, I suggested to him that the two of us have Christmas lunch in his condominium. It was the twenty second of December when this was suggestion was made and as by this late stage, Michael had not heard from Seamus, it was not as if I had deliberately set about ruining any plans. Even if an invitation to join the 'rent a crowd fraternity' had been forthcoming earlier, I would have still have given my proposal a shot on the basis of figuring half a day a year was too long for anyone to be spending in purgatory.

Now I reach the stage in my recall of events when, had it not been for the delivery of the required push, which unwittingly was provided by the one described previously as Shylock, then Sally's suggestion that I write a book would never have come about.

Sure, I may well have been left toying with the idea since but in reality, it was always too daunting a prospect, as how would it possible for someone who could count the books they had read on one hand, be expected to write one?

Apart from this, the catalyst to make me infuriated enough had not presented. It may be supposed that throughout my tale, enough catalysts had presented themselves but in order for me to spend my spare time reading paragraphs over and over, my soul would need to be injured which, as it happened, only occurred when Michael received his 2008 Christmas invite from Seamus.


In visiting Michael on the twenty third of December, he told me he had heard from Seamus and that he had declined his Christmas invite on the basis of having already made plans to have lunch with me. After this was said, Michael turned his attention back to the computer. "So, Seamus happily accepted you had made other plans?" I asked. "Yeah no problem", Michael answered. But, just before resuming whatever was so important amid the blare of a radiated screen, as an aside he thought to add; Oh yes, Seamus said you were schizophrenic!''. ''He said what?'' In answer to my shocked reaction, Michael just shrugged his shoulders as though what had been said meant nothing but then what else did I expect when he never read anything into anything unless it revolved around a computer screen or the meter in a taxi.

''Schizophrenic?'', I asked, unable to believe what I had heard. Although aware of the term, Schizophrenic, was an expression akin to referring to someone as a Spastic, both being expressions generally issuing from the ignorant. It was in considering the shared bond of having a brother suffering from Schizophrenia that I could not understand why Seamus would have referred to anyone in such a way. Well, it did not take long to put two and two together, as there I had been wondering what on earth Seamus and Ma would have found to talk about on that pre-Christmas visit made by Seamus to the Tin House and now I was sure I had the answer. The only time I had seen Seamus since working for him in floorcoverings had been at Dad's funeral and apart from me having told him he would need to get Patsy's head out of her arse first when he offered to fix the problem between us, if there was anything odd about this encounter, it was that Seamus appeared to have difficulty looking me in the eyes. ''How bloody dare he'', I had said to Michael when hearing how Seamus had spoken of me but much more emotive was in sensing who was behind his newfound confidence.

The days to follow this particularly upsetting occurrence were spent documenting the events of the previous eighteen years in renewed determination, not to allow Seamus to get away with what he had done, or had not done, whichever the case may be!.

But, in reading some of what had been written to my housemate Jane, who by now had some notion of what I was on about, in Jane offering the constructive criticism of informing me my efforts were too convoluted to be understood, I was to realize writing a book would be no easy task and that would never even get to first base unless sentences were strung together better. So, it was Jane's constructive criticism which led to me reading paragraphs over and over in an effort to tell my tale in as accurate fashion as could be managed.

Come the end of 2008, in not having been in contact with Celli for nigh on a year, all that was known of her movements since referring to me as 'treacherous', was that she, along with two little dogs, replacements for Dusty, was once more living with Ma in the Tin House. And in me no longer going there, I would not be bumping into her. It was supposed when first hearing of Celli's latest move that it was a good thing for Ma not to be alone but after Seamus had said what he had about me to Michael, combined with sensing in utmost certainty why he had felt confident enough to do so, I really did not care one way or the other anymore whether Ma had company or not.

In March of the following year, it came as a welcome surprise to hear from Bert's sister. By this time there had been no contact between us for twenty years and this was why hearing from her came as such a surprise. I knew that she and her husband were now visiting Australia and staying with Bert in the Snake Pit, but as they had been Down Under once before since Bert and I parted company and no contact was made with me on that occasion, it had been assumed that to not have heard from them was just part and parcel of what must be born in having chosen the path I had. It had not been expected that I would ever see anyone associated with Bert again, other than the children, so, for his sister and her husband to be inclusive of me this time around was a very nice gesture indeed. We spent some time together and it was after viewing the portraits selected to be shown in that year's Archibald, an annual event at the Art Gallery of N.S.W, with my former sister-in-law and the children, that after parting company on this particular outing I thought to call in at Michael's condominium, to which I held a key. I went there for no other reason than to sneak a sly smoke as so far as anyone knew, I had given away this habit a year before and had it not been for the convenience of Michael's apartment being in close proximity to Andy and Jane's, then maybe I would have.

Anyway, once again, with this being late on a Saturday afternoon, it was not expected that Michael would be home. But after turning the key in the lock, there he was, sitting as usual, in his computer chair just inside the door. There I had been with nothing more on my mind after spending a lovely day, than putting a cigarette in my mouth undetected, only to find I would not be alone after all and as there was only a couple of inches of space between the door I had opened and the chair Michael sat in, I now could not enter until this chair was rolled aside.

The only natural light flowing into Michael's pad was provided by a windowed door, leading onto a balcony and with the sun on the occasion of this particular visit already low in the sky, it was in noting the main internal light was coming from the blaze of a computer screen and waiting longer than was usual for the chair to be rolled aside, that I noted things were not as they should be. If I understood anything about Michael at all, it was that he was no malingerer, yet there he was on the most profitable taxi driving afternoon, which would lead into the early hours of the following day, with a rug wrapped around his shoulders with none of his usual jovialness to be seen. On edging myself into the room, Michael told me there was nothing wrong with him that would not fix itself. He said he felt the same as he had that time years before when Genevieve took the kids off to stay with her parents until he recovered. He said it had taken three weeks for him to shake it off that time and it would probably take as long this time before he was once again driving around professing to his passengers that he was Sydney's best taxi driver.

I suggested he lie on the bed directly behind where he sat, which he did. Although late in March it had been a warm autumn day, so much so that my jacket had been left in the Laser but with not much natural light flowing into this small space and with no evidence of even of any heat in the kettle, it had not taken long before I too began to feel cold. It may have been an overreaction to feel as if this room was only a step away from becoming Michael's tomb but after hearing he had been in this condition for four days, this was nonetheless how this gloomy space felt. The automatic next move I made was to call an ambulance and in understanding what I was about, Michael began to protest but as he was having difficulty lifting his head from the pillow as he spoke, it was clear to me at least that the right decision had been made.

It was about half an hour before the ambulance crew of two arrived to find Michael presented with none of the expected symptoms of heart failure or stroke but in the absence of any evidence to explain his very high temperature, he was quizzed further.

Only then did he mention he had a pain in his back, which was all that was needed to be said for him to then find himself being helped along a hallway and up a set of stairs until he was in the waiting ambulance.

I would check on him the next day but for the time being I remained behind imagining the worse. The Infamous Five were about to lose another member; first Dusty then Celli and now Michael. No matter his foibles and there were plenty of those, I had always wanted Michael to make good again, if for no other reason than he would be seen in a better light and be allowed to see his boys again. Ten years had passed since he had set eyes on any of his sons and now the possibility of them ever learning what had led to their father exiting the scene permanently, as he had done, had just moved further away. The payments once received by way of Child Maintenance by Genevieve had never been adjusted to Michael's new circumstance and as a consequence, he now owed more in Child Maintenance than any man in N.S.W, if not the whole of Australia. Whilst this may have been the perfect fodder for Genevieve to feed her boys, there now seemed no hope of them ever learning the truth.

From time to time Michael had attempted to explain to the Department whose job entailed phoning him with demands for these payments, that his ex-wife, due to the legacy of those desks he had designed, had never been in need and nor had his sons. Irrespective of Michael's children now being adults, or that he had been kept from his sons, whom his former wife had even seen fit to change the surname of, to Esday-Witt, The Department in charge of Child Maintenance could only function within the guidelines of what the husband owed, ensuring nothing more than Michael had little option but to live on the fringe of society indefinitely. From where he had been sitting since losing his businesses and in it appearing that the Department in charge of Child Maintenance had as much charity at its base as the family of born again Christians Michael had married into, it was when the phone calls to get him to cough up a share of 'the millions hidden under his bed' failed, to be replaced with reminders of his obligation sent by mail, that the best place for these envelopes was the trash bin where they could remain unopened before disappearing from sight along with all the other garbage. Knowing all about Michaels wrangle, with the department whose job did not revolve around being even-handed, it seemed he had been left with no option but to exist the way he did, which made it just as well he had the ability to bury deep anything too troubling. Had he been geared differently, he would have fared less well.

For Michael, it was all about battling on in the belief that his website would eventually hit pay dirt and when that day came, he would be in a bar on some tropical island looking at life through a straw.

The day after Michael was taken to hospital was when the Laser was due to be kissed goodbye to. It was thanks to Andy and Jane's daughter wanting rid of her present car that I was now in a position to up-grade to a thirteen year old Neon Chrysler and although this may not appear to be much of an improvement, it was. The Neon was like a new car compared to the Laser as it only had seventy thousand clicks on its clock and as it had also been garaged, I would no longer be seen driving a car shades lighter on one side than the other. But in not wanting to take away from the service the Laser had provided, as that little car rattled around the roads for the two and a half years, it was mine, starting up in all weathers and never letting me down, never will be forgotten how it served its purpose in more ways than one and that its coming into my life when it did had certainly seemed meant to be. When the day arrived for the Laser to be collected by its more appropriate P. plate driver and it sat beside the curb with afternoon sun lightening the duco on its right side even further, it may have looked to passers bye no less abandoned than any other vehicle of its era did but how would anyone know unless they were told why this tired looking car had been so appreciated by its previous owner. When the Laser was being kissed goodbye to, only Sally was aware of what had occurred since driving the same model car before and although she may not have been filled in on all the detail, as much as she knew had been enough for her to encourage me to write about what the intervening years had held.


It was a relief to hear all Michael was suffering from was pneumonia, complicated by an abscess on his liver, both of which were put down by him to having eaten too much muesli in the efforts made beforehand to diet. It was the first I had heard of muesli being responsible for bringing about either of what Michael had been diagnosed with, or was it that in him never going about anything in half measures, he had eaten far too much of it Irrespective of what had been responsible for putting him in hospital where he had received good care, regardless of not being registered on Medicare. Given a few weeks, he would be safely back in his Studio apartment, where he could once again sit a couple of inches from his front door, working away at his football tipping site, until being fit enough to go back to driving taxis.

When Michael was taken to hospital it occurred to me this was the perfect opportunity to contact Ma as it was really for the best this be done at some stage. But it was in dialling her number time and time again that it became quicker to write. Not only was it recalled then that she could not hear the phone ring unless it was right beside her. The decision to contact Ma in the event of Michael ending up in hospital was in keeping with the resolve to shake off the mantle of martyr, as this move had nothing whatsoever to do with me continuing to care and rather bore the trademarks of the schemer I had become. Writing to Ma to inform her of her son's condition may have appeared as if my old ways of dutiful obligation were still intact, she was not to know that all I was really interested in was having my theory confirmed in regard to what transpired when Seamus made that pre-Christmas visit to the Tin House. I could not possibly be wrong, as within the space of two years, with no communication in between time}, Seamus had gone from not being able to look me in the eyes at Dad's funeral, to telling Michael to think of me as Schizophrenic. Little had Seamus known there had never been any need to avoid visiting his parents over the six years he was ducking repaying the interest on that loan; little had he known that no matter how he chose to operate, he would always shine in the eyes of his mother.

If that long absence had been due to the fear of his father knowing of the plight he had bestowed on his wife, then all Ma needed to do if she had wanted to see more of her once golden haired boy, was inform him that the old man did not have a clue about any of it and also assure him that my Marriage Settlement would be picking up any slack he left behind.

It may have appeared that the letter I sent had Michael's best interest at heart but its actual intent was to have what had been bothering me confirmed from the horse's mouth. To achieve this end what was written needed to be worded to draw Ma out, which would present no difficulty as she may well have had what it took to alter history but in so many other respects she was an innocent abroad and would certainly never suspect ulterior motives of the daughter born on the date Our Lady rose into heaven. I first informed her of Michael's condition, assuring her there was no cause to be alarmed. Then, as a seeming aside, I mentioned the term Seamus used to describe me when speaking to Michael which, I was sure she would agree, was a particularly offensive comment considering he had a brother suffering with schizophrenia. And to test the waters of what her opinion was as to my circumstance, I thought to add that Bert was putting it about that I was an itinerant. This last line, not quite true, but it was close!

The next day Ma was on the phone telling me she had been in touch with the St. Vincent De Paul Society to visit Michael and for them to also see what could be done in having him moved to a hospital closer to where she would be more in a position to visit him. Nothing about what I was hearing had appeared too ambitious to Ma, as after all The St. Vincent De Paul Society was aligned with the One she truly believed could move mountains. Michael, however, was not too impressed in finding a lady with a prayer book and chalice in hand, hovering around his bed as it was in visiting that evening, he said, ''Ma's sent the St. Vincent De Paul after me, why would she have done that?'' I wanted to tell him how this came about but as at the time, he was drifting in and out of consciousness, there seemed no point.

Ma made no reference to the content of my letter when speaking to me but then why waste words when we both knew it would be no later than the following day when I would learn about her opinion in regard to the comments I had made. And, sure enough, right on cue, I received the letter which contained pretty much what I had been expecting. Although Ma did not use the exact same term to describe me as Seamus had, the fact she stated I was delusional to imagine Seamus had put a foot wrong, had been enough to confirm my suspicion as to what the two of them had found to talk about during that pre-Christmas visit. I was then given a run-down of some famous people who also suffered from delusions and where help could be found. And as for Bert putting it about that I was an itinerant, in response to this she wrote, even the good Lord had nowhere to lay his head. To make matters worse, this letter was sent to my oldest daughter's address, inside her birthday card, as it just so happened to be her thirty first, birthday that same day. It was just as well I was there when that envelope arrived as this not only lessened the peculiarity of my daughter finding a letter to me inside her birthday card but also cancelled out the danger of her reading it, ouch, ouch, ouch. Both my mothers were certainly still alive and well as one of them was sending sweet words in a birthday card to her granddaughter and the other labelling the daughter who had picked up the tab for her every whim, as delusional in that letter. In sending both card and letter to my daughter's address, the mother I knew was clearly saving on postage, whilst it felt like the other was sticking pins into my effigy.

The way Michael's memory went, if he had difficulty when in the peak of health recalling what had happened in the previous week, what chance was there after an operation to remove a large abscess from his liver with the effects of pneumonia lingering?

So, in order to test my view out, the next day when he was more alert, I made mention to him that he had been visited by The St Vincent De Paul Society. 'When''' He asked. Had I been more at one with Michael, he would have shown as much interest as I did in why it was that Ma's first port of call in her hour of need was The St. Vincent De Paul Society and actually believe it was within their jurisdiction to have her son moved to a hospital closer to where she was. Ma had often said the Church was a Whole, whatever that meant. Perhaps this whole would explain why she had long been one of the rocks upon which the Church depended. As for how long she had been a rock I could not say but 'forever' would be a possibility, as to have placed the Churche's interests ahead of even a daughter who had had a religious experience over thirty years before, certainly did not indicate this bent had been a recent development.

It had also been due to the generosity of those like Ma that there were now more priests arriving from foreign shores. The Church may well have owned a fair chunk of Sydney but as there were few Australian males post-1958 and the advent of rock-n-roll, who would not prefer to be jiving than spreading the Word. The Church was doomed without the support of those whose allegiance to God was paramount. Even though the Church is clearly more involved in Private Schools and Hospitals equipped to serve the rich than any good done for the common man, this is so against the example set by the Fisherman that those who would probaby fall into the category of being easily hipnotized, just follow.

Michael gets to see my new car when I collect him from hospital with no of it, his only comment when prompted as we headed up the coast to visit Ma was, very nice. Michael was about as impressed with the Neon as he had been with the Toyota wagon back in the days when he had a Jag on either side of the Tasman. Michael appears well recovered, thinner than a month before and already eager to get back to earning a quid. Before we leave, I use a hair shaver to give him the Number Two required to bring his appearance more back in line with how it had been. He sits quietly with a towel around his shoulders as I get on with the job of moulding wild strands of hair in line with his bald patch and as the grey beard had already been shaved off, I could not help but wonder how long it would be before the memory of the hospital disappeared also. Ma was clearly over the moon at seeing us and had lunch prepared. If it had not been for the continuing problem with her hearing, her physical well-being appeared better than expected. It had been seven months since I had last seen her and had it not been for the present circumstances I wondered if I would have ever seen her again. After the letter she sent basically agreeing with what Seamus had said about me I certainly did not want to and as it was assumed my presence would also act as a reminder of this latest unpleasant interlude between us, there seemed no reason why she would be feeling too comfortable in setting eyes on me ever again either. But so far as this assumption went I could not have been more incorrect as Michael and had I arrived to see a mother fussing over two of her children with no hint of anything untoward having occurred beforehand. She was not looking for a corner to cower in; she was just pleased to see us and especially pleased to know Michael was on the mend. There was no mention of how long it had been since we had last met, just the acceptance to be expected from someone with no doubt in their mind, that no matter what happened, things would work out in the end. But, although both Michael and I were being made feel as welcome as the flowers in May, as I did not quite share Ma's view of everything being just part of life's rich pageant, I would be contributing no more to this occasion than absolutely necessary. As we ate our lunch of quiche, very nice, and fruit salad, served up on the deco-paged coffee table in the upstairs living area, I was seated on a divan covered in the old curtaining from the Coconut House with an extra mattress to give it height. Ma was seated beside me on my left while Michael sat opposite us on one of the five armchairs of varying origin and shade and it was in me not encouraging any discussion that Ma was left to direct her attention towards Michael. It was not until hearing Seamus' name mentioned that I made a contribution to whatever was being talked about and although what I said cannot now be recalled, what is remembered is that whatever it was, it would have been definitely snide and that Ma's right ear must have been working fine, as after saying what I had, Ma momentarily turned her attention to me to say: ''You are just looking for a scapegoat'', before just continuing on with what was being discussed with Michael beforehand.


Nothing else about this particular interlude in my experience can be recalled, not even the drive back with Michael in the passenger seat. In not having seen or heard from me in the four months before Seamus visited the Tin House the previous December, nor the three months since, when Ma met up with me again, as she appeared as resigned as ever to bury anything in regard to how the previous years unfolded, I finally had the confirmation needed to acknowledge that our once communion was never going to be resurrected. So with the days when I would have cared how Ma was fairing, now gone, it was time to fade out of the picture once more and other than Michael and Eamonn, accept that no one else remained of a once family. To no longer be playing the role of martyr had perhaps now swung too much the other way but I would like to think this change in my approach was more an understandable result, after the years of being dragged from post to post, than my making a sudden callous decision. Now as indignant as I had ever been, I would also like to think that part of the progression toward being more level headed was not to cut complete ties with the main source of material needed to polish up my story which is why the decision was made not to fade out of the picture entirely but instead write to Ma again to suggest I be included in a roster to assist with her grocery shopping, as if there was anything still intact in how Ma could be read, it was that just so long as there was no mention of the devastation heaped on me, she would once again sail along in her trusting way, never suspecting an ulterior motive from the daughter born on the same day Our Lady rose into heaven.

Playing its part also in the offer made was that in the two years Celli had been living again in the Tin House, she had been commuting to the city during the week; leaving at five in the morning after tethering two little dogs to her trailer; to return with only enough time to set them, free for a while until they joined her in her bed to watch a taped recording of The Bold and Beautiful, before all three fell asleep. As Celli only had from Saturday to the break of dawn on Monday to recharge her batteries before the routine of her latest existence would start over, it just was not practicable to expect her to also tend to her mother's shopping.

In the letter sent, for Ma to arrange the roster suggested, she was informed that I had every Thursday fortnight free. In having no idea who else there might be who would also be available to help her, it had been thought that what had been suggested would have had her ringing around. However in Ma writing back clearly delight at my proposal, I was to find no roster would be necessary as each Thursday fortnight was enough to fulfil her requirements. Regardless of all that had happened, or in whatever way Ma would have preferred things to be, at this point I was struck with nothing other than saddness. I was struck by the irony of the only one of Ma''s children she felt comfortable leaning on being the very one in the process of exposing the events of the past two decades. So, every Thursday fortnight, I began meeting up with Ma in the village shopping centre, not far from the Tin House, to where she would catch the bus. After the shopping was done we would then head back to pack the fridge and food cupboards. In reaching our destination on that first occasion, it was after unpacking the groceries and venturing into the airy sunroom with a coffee, that in eying the cobwebs woven by spiders long dead and a myriad of memorabilia weighed down with the brown spores from a fern tree planted in the outdoors thirty years earlier, my thoughts returned to all that had occurred to destroy a once trusted friendship.

After we had been seated for a few minutes, Ma timidly asked again about my plans for the future. Struck by deja-vu, I answered in the same way I had before in repeating that I was not in any position to be making any. ''How about this place'', she then said, and as there was little doubt had this conversation been allowed to continue, the next thing heard would be 'or your lifetime', it was in not wanting to hear this said again that I replied quickly but not rudely, ''No thank you''. Too many ghosts, is what I wanted to say, as I was no less immune than she in not wishing to visit again the reminder of her disenfranchisement and yet here I was with less choice in the matter than she had in her time.

Ma then meekly rose and went into the kitchen to return with a small key. ''Patsy's got the other of these keys'', she said, ''I gave it to her a couple of weeks ago''. The last time I had seen a key like it had been when we had gone to buy the safe in order for there be no further need to bury bank notes under the fridge and sure enough this was the key seen on that occasion, as Ma then had also said: ''This is the other key to the safe, I want you to have it, as in the event of something happening to me, the money in the safe is yours for the years you looked after Eamonn.''

Four years had passed since Ma had taken the wads of pulp to the bank in order to offer me the assistance needed after leaving the shop if I was not to resort to selling those shares at too big a loss and now it would appear those notes had been replenished. In discovering this was indeed one of the keys seen on the occasion we had gone to buy the safe and afterwards in being unsure how my key met its fate, not only was I tempted to say, ''Oh, so that is where it got to'', but also ask what logic could possibly be attached to handing matching keys to daughters who did not even speak to one another. But instead I politely told her I did not want it. ''Well now, if you change your mind, your key will be in the pocket of this jacket which will be left hanging at the bottom of the stairs''. When this was said, Ma was holding up a dark blue jacket to allow me to see the key actually being placed into the right hand pocket and as she went about doing this, also suggested, was that Pasty did not know what I knew and had only been told what was in the safe for Patsy to find herself. So, not only was I now left wondering what was in the safe for Patsy to find but also how on earth Patsy was expected to know, should she, in the event of Ma's demise, get to the safe before I did, that the cash there was intended for me? It was in considering the rate at which Ma changed her mind that there did not seem much point in me having a key to the safe anyway and it was as well this was my approach, as on the next fortnightly shopping trip, in looking toward the bottom of the stairs, it was noted the jacket containing my key was no longer where it had been.

Just before those shopping trips began, Eamonn decided he wanted nothing more to do with me, as apart from the farce of the tribunals he was expected to attend, those in charge of his wellbeing also saw nothing wrong in letting him know it was me who wanted him kept on the injections responsible for delivering the knock -out blow to leave him rolling his head from side to side on his pillow. Towards the end of 2009, it was as well Michael had returned from the jaws of death, as with Dusty long gone and Celli taking an independent path once more, the Infamous Five now only consisted of two members, thanks to the unforeseen price waiting to be paid for taking Eamonn to the Community centre all those years before when he was staying in the Snake Pit and for also doing what I could to ensure he received what he did not realize was in both his and the general public's best interest. In so far as Eamonn no longer wanting anything to do with me, it crossed my mind whether the desire to end our friendship had as much to do with me unthinkingly having shared too much of my situation with him. Although I had always kept the worst from him, perhaps what was shared had still been too much for a super-sensitive soul to handle. Was it that I should have listened more closely when on these occasions Eamonn had said, ''I can only look after myself Sumpta'' Had including him in the periphery of my own problems only served to further unsettle an existence already hard pushed enough in walking the length and breadth of Sydney to visit soup kitchens? Should I have realized before it was too late that Eamonn's concern for my circumstance was far greater than mine was for his?

It was especially too late to regret telling Eamonn what Seamus had said about me, as there I had been sharing this particular event with him, thinking he would understand my indignation, when he said, with a not too pleased expression on his face, ''I bet Seamus did not have three policemen standing behind him when he said it''. Ouch, and ouch again, as he then matter-of-factly added; ''Well all you need do now is profess you are the Virgin Mary and you will receive a flat and disabled pension for life''. Over the years it had been hoped Eamonn would begin to understand why he was pursued by the police when an injection was missed. Only after this conversation did I understand he was never going to give up on viewing himself as any different to anyone else.

It had been three years after, with no electricity bills in sight that rather than Patsy, Emanon had slammed the phone down on me this time. Although there were none of the following episodes experienced by Patsy, it was still hard to come to terms with in having been treated in any shape or form by Emanon, in the same way Patsy had. What connection there may have been to this turn of events coming about because of my sharing too much of my circumstance with him, cannot be said for sure but if as I believe Eamonn's condition is degenerative, then no matter what triggered off his stance against me, we are never likely to be the friends we once were again. But then if, as Ma and Seamus would have it, Eamonn and I share the same condition, it may not be too long before I am placed on a government housing list for us to at least meet again in the future, as neighbours.

Each Thursday fortnight I met up with Ma, she appeared on schedule and could be seen approaching through the door of the chemist shop, a shortcut into the shopping arcade from where the bus stopped and as the sight of her with her walking stick never failed to leave me impressed with her fortitude, this was also almost enough to cause me to revert right back to looking upon her as I once did. The first thing Ma would ask, after hearing things were not the same as they once were between Eamonn and me, was whether I had heard from him. But determined by now to no longer appear as if my mission in life was to take care of the concerns she would one day be leaving behind, I simply answered her question by saying: No.

After all, did not Eamonn have seven other siblings to take over from where I had left off and other than me, as only one of these was also no longer trusted by him, due to the trauma suffered over those electricity bills, this still left six.

After the inquiry made in regard to Eamonn, Ma would then produce her little list of shopping before taking hold of the supermarket trolley I wheeled toward her and say, ''Thank you this helps me move faster''. I would then take a few steps back as this trolley made its way toward a yellow and black sign indicating she still banked with the Commonwealth. Five minutes later, after visiting the cash machine of her choice, she would be back to place into my hand one of the notes she was now in possession of, to then say: ''This is for your trouble''. Rat-sac was purchased on each fortnightly shopping trip as was surface spray, which would go some way to depict further the living conditions Ma was faced with in her old age. Anything usually available in black and white packaging sold out of, could wait until the next fortnight as she would not be spending more for what was viewed by her as exactly the same goods presented in fancier wrapping. And as I would go in search of these cheaper items, I would always be tempted to say, 'thought money was only a commodity', but I did not.

Slide show

The original construction of the Tin House so far as general perception, would never seriously have involved an expectation of lasting more than ten years. But as none of those who also built in this seaside area in the late sixties were in possession of Ma's vision, it would be forty years later, after the shopping was done, we would be returning to the only original holiday shack still around. By 2009, the area where the Tin House was situated was so cheek to jowl with McMansions, the only boast to be made was that none of these latest dwellings could lay claim to a forest garden. After the rat -sac, surface spray and anything available in black and white packaging had been placed into the boot of the Neon, we would be heading to a place long hidden from view, thankfully and bearing little resemblance to its original intended design. During the eleven years spent caring for the old man, the brick pillars and iron poles holding the Tin House up had, bit by bit, been covered with any old scrap to be found and then prettied up with broken mirrors and crockery interwoven with the shells collected at the beach when Ma went for her daily swim, while the surrounding fencing was enhanced with yellow and beige crazy paving, hand- painted onto Masonite boards. Internally, Ma's creations just went on and on, in the main to disguise the dark and dank areas, beneath the green panelling, intended to make use of wasted space but achieving little more than providing the perfect environment for vermin to hide.

After Dad died another unusual dimension was added to the Tin House by way of a miniature grave and this grave was established by his long suffering wife directly opposite the chair in which he once sat in the outdoors to smoke. Dad once sat contentedly at the far end of the shaded area beneath the upper deck surrounded by weather beaten bits and pieces and although this area was no less beyond help than the rest of the house, now it was also downright eerie. Only half of Dad's ashes had been buried here, the other half were flown back to St Kerns Bay and scattered over the waters where he had fished long before arriving in Australia. This last trip made by Ma back to Ireland came about nine months after her husband died but now unable to make this journey unassisted, things once again would work themselves out, as John and his family were only too keen to accompany her. How lucky Ma was to have a son like John who would not only go to these lengths to assist his aged mother but also do what he could to give his father's little grave a touch of authenticity. When Ma had finished decorating the polystyrene fruit box with synthetic grass and green ribbons in which the half of her husband's ashes would remain in this new land, John had supplied a white marble plaque upon which, carved from a lump of coal, was a miner on his knees wielding a shovel. The white pebbles were also John's idea with yellow silk flowers and cactii and when this creation was completed it sat in all its glory, close enough to the front door for any visitors to also appreciate. John remembered visiting Ireland at the age of thirteen when he had gone there with Ma, Gerard and Celli thirty eight years before but with a gap of sixteen years between us, he would not remember the time when as a baby, Ma had taken us both along with her to say goodbye before leaving for Australia. We were there for a week and with Patsy and Michael, away from home at the time, what occurs to me now, is that I gave no thought at all to who was looking after the others. And it also occurs to me now, that no thought would ever have been given to how anyone had been affected by anything had the need not arisen to document my experience.

Had I not been in search of answers to understand why my personal dilemma unfolded as it did, it would never have occurred to me how John followed suite with all other members of the Secret Seven to go to Ireland before him and visited those who had robbed Ma of her birth right when she would not think to go there herself. When Ma returned to Australia, she went about enhancing where the other half of her husband's ashes lay, which it would appear had only been a work in progress. No sooner was she back than a map of Ireland, etched from a piece of asbestos, was nailed to the trellis above the plaque of the miner wielding a shovel. Glued to this map was a gold hand-painted cardboard harp and green shamrock which, all in all, when taking in what else awaited after stepping beyond the bountiful flora surrounding the Tin House, did not make this little grave look out of place at all.

John remembered visiting Ireland at the age of thirteen when he had gone there with Ma, Gerard and Celli thirty eight years before but with a gap of sixteen years between us, he would not remember the time when as a baby, Ma had taken us both along with her to say goodbye before leaving for Australia. We were there for a week and with Patsy and Michael, away from home at the time, what occurs to me now, is that I gave no thought at all to who was looking after the others. And it also occurs to me now, that no thought would ever have been given to how anyone had been affected by anything had the need not arisen to document my experience. Had I not been in search of answers to understand why my personal dilemma unfolded as it did, it would never have occurred to me how John followed suite with all other members of the Secret Seven to go to Ireland before him and visited those who had robbed Ma of her birth right when she would not think to go there herself.

When Ma returned to Australia, she went about enhancing where the other half of her husband's ashes lay, which it would appear had only been a work in progress. No sooner was she back than a map of Ireland, etched from a piece of asbestos, was nailed to the trellis above the plaque of the miner wielding a shovel. Glued to this map was a gold hand-painted cardboard harp and green shamrock which, all in all, when taking in what else awaited after stepping beyond the bountiful flora surrounding the Tin House, did not make this little grave look out of place at all.

In Dad having been dead three years by the time those shopping trips with Ma became necessary, it had been in first carrying my load beyond the driveway that I noticed the yellow silk flowers upon his grave were no longer laden with the dust remembered.

It was in considering these flowers had been protected from the wind and rain which caused me to exclaim: ''These silk flowers look as though they have bloomed!'' ''Yes'', Ma replied, ''I have noticed that myself''. Ma then let out one of those genuinely delightful giggles in declaring: ''It must have been a miracle''. I needed to get a grip, lest I too drift back to days of old when I would have laughed with her.

It was also on the first of these shopping excursions that in noticing angry red blotches on Ma's chin, I went back into the chemist shop to buy her a jar of Manuka Honey, a natural antibiotic. ''How much did this cost?'', she asked, and after being told, I was relived to only be looked at askance rather than suffer the response of hearing, as had often been the case in the past, that I must have too much money. We sometimes lunched in a cafe across the way and each time we ventured over to this cafe, Ma would tell me it was advertised in the Catholic Weekly. Whoopee - then it is bound to be good, is what I wanted to say.

Around six months in, Ma had been spotted as usual coming into the arcade and as I went toward her with the supermarket trolley, after the customary peck on the cheek and the usual inquiry made about Eamonn, in her breathlessness she then asked if I would not mind driving her to the next town after the shopping was done as she had something to attend to. ''Of course I do not mind'', I replied, as by this stage I would not have minded where she wanted to be driven just so long as I got back with enough hours left of the day to polish up my latest paragraph. Using the Manuka Honey had been doing the trick up until then but with the red marks on her chin returning, it was in suggesting the amount of surface being used may not be helping, that in even more breathlessness she explained her skin condition was due to nothing more than a hangover from the shingles. The very mention of the time when she had the shingles was enough to quiet me and just hand the shopping trolley over, before standing at a distance once more as she waited her turn to approach the yellow and black sign.

Although I had been prepared for these shopping trips to deliver the odd irritating reminder of times past, what I had not been quite so prepared for, was being regularly astounded in Ma continuing on as though what those years had meant for me never happened. For instance, she could mention the time when she had had the shingles without batting an eye lid, as though nothing of significance occurred around the same time. As I looked toward the back of Ma's head in the shopping arcade that day, ten years had passed since I had gone to the Tin House to vacuum and bring the news of how both our futures could be made less of a bind. She was laid out on the blue and white checked covered couch with her grey curls clinging to her scalp in a sweat when I got there and I would like to think after our little altercation, which occurred in the first moments of my arrival, that I did the vacuuming or got her something to drink or eat afterwards but apart from the discussion held, all that was remembered of that day is going off with a sting in my tail to be followed by the first of those letters.

As Ma kept her place in the queue edging closer to when she would return to place a bank note in my hand for my trouble, I was also considering maybe too high a price was being paid in helping with her shopping when, in six months of fortnights, not a skerrick of worthwhile material had been delivered to assist me with my episodes. But then this was before the shopping of that Thursday had been done, as when we climbed back in the Neon to head for the next town in order to attend to why Ma needed to go there, the previous lack of material was to be well and truly compensated for.

It was just as I was backing out of the car spot that I asked Ma, if she was visiting the local doctor ''No", came back the response, "I am visiting my new solicitor because I have finally worked out my Will". New solicitor! Will! This was bound to be interesting! The next town was only ten minutes away but with Ma's ability to rattle when there was something she needed to get off her chest, by the time we arrived I had as much new material as my little heart could ever have desired. During that ten minute drive, I had been filled in, without any qualms whatsoever, that should anything happen to her; it was only fair that the proceeds from Tin House be shared among everyone. A sum was then mentioned to be creamed off the top first, which I would receive for the years I had looked after Eamonn, and this sum, had I been harbouring an ambition to become a grey nomad, would have been just the ticket as it would have covered the cost of a camper van. But then this would only have been possible if something happened to Ma within the next year, as what with inflation, should nothing happen to her for say, another decade, then I would be looking to purchase more of a canvas shelter with my booty.


With my thoughts already in a tangle after being reminded of the time when Ma had the shingles, in then being presented with the disclosure of her wishes in regard to the house which, by my reckoning, I had paid for twice, it was as much as I could do to keep the car on the road. And of further disconcertion as I was negotiating a roundabout, was that The St. Vincent De Paul Society, were to also receive their share. This monumental news had been delivered with seemingly no more importance attached to it than the shopping list and as we arrived at our destination and I drove into a small village parking area, I hoped she had finished, but she had not, as it was just as the engine of the car was turned off that she turned toward me and said, as though offering me an unexpected bonus, ''And you will be receiving a share of the house as well!'' When in the shopping arcade that day, it had been thought I was not being rewarded with enough material to make these Thursday excursions worth my while, and now, in being expected to consider myself lucky to be included in a tenth split of the house which had taken care of a large slice of my marriage settlement, things were weighed far too much the other way. Never satisfied!

If ever a lesson needed to be learnt in understanding that the present situation would never have arisen had I not gone along with what she had asked me to do, then that time had now certainly arrived. I mean, it was all well and good to be expecting that one day the mother I knew would return to save me from the penury Bert had warned me about but it was not as if I had not been offered enough chances to speak up. It was not as if I had not been given plenty to react to and it was not Ma's fault either that on the occasion of being notified as to where I stood in her Will, that I did not drive off as I wanted to when she got out of the car, to rather become once again, too stunned to know what to say.

Things had certainly moved on since I had had the shop seven years before and Ma had a kind of fit when my recall of the events I would never forget was aired for the first time. It would now appear that her latest Will was to stand as a means of operating with clean slate, or having the final say in what was seen as equitable by her. My regular fortnightly presence had at this point delivered quite a bit more than I had bargained for but other than to have made regular mention of how much the Tin House had cost me, perhaps each time rat -sac was placed into the shopping trolley, there was nothing else I could think of which might have turned the tide of what I was now faced with.

What was originally a holiday shack in 1990 was now Ma's fixed abode and should anything happen to her, the proceeds to come from the Tin House were to be split nine ways, or rather ten, considering St Vincent was also to get a share. Judging by the look of satisfaction on Ma's face when filling me in on the machinations of this Will, although very aware of long having missed my chance to make any difference to a consciousness that could wipe anything too uncomfortable to handle, what I was also aware of at this point was, had this chance been missed due to my own inability to accept reality? Was how I had operated really that far removed from the traits it has been claimed Ma had inherited from her own poor mother? Ma had steadfastly claimed that nothing had gone the way I maintained. Was she right? Was everything I remembered as real as the air I breathed, or were the magnetic fields in my brain in such disarray, I could imagine anything?

During the ten minute drive, before being informed how the proceeds to come from the Tin House were to be split, I had first been informed that Eamonn was to receive the interest on her savings, which I assumed involved whatever finances had been reaped in her life's effort. In not taking away from Eamonn's due in any way, it was what was to happen to these undisclosed funds should, anything happen to him, which made me want to reach over and give her a shake. Being informed that the Catholic homeless shelter frequented by Eamonn was to be the recipient of whatever her savings happened to be. With on last count, three members of the Infamous Five, excluding Eamonn, being as good as homeless, this made it really difficult to remain calm.

As seen by me, this gesture was no more than a roundabout way of leaving a greater material gift than had been previously envisaged to the Church. 'The Church' could no longer be made mention of though, when taking into account what had happened with Celli's land. Ma had been given quite a shake up when this occured as if successful once, then going down the same road again would be a stroll for anyone with Celli's intent. In my opinion, Ma had thought this one through, as the Church was an Institution proved already vulnerable to a challenge but anyone seen to challenge a refuge for the mentally ill, would have to think twice if they did not wish to appear like lowlife. But then why would Ma see to it that Eamonn received the interest on a sum which must have been large enough to put him in danger of losing the disabled pension, when this just was not like her? No, there was something she was not mentioning, and I would have bet my bottom dollar right there and then that the Church was in involved in whatever Ma had omitted.

Ma did not need the usual little shove in order to lever herself out of the car and did not need her walking stick either as it was as if a weight had been lifted from her. ''I will not be long as everything is written down already'', she said, before hesitating and adding: ''Nothing is going to change unless I end up in one of those old folk's homes as then the house will need to be sold which, of course, will alter everything again''. Tell someone who cares, I wanted to say. Ma then tells me, in that jolly way of hers, to go in search of a place where we can lunch. There is a cafe on the corner in clear view of the door Ma disappears into with a sign above reading, John Reily, Solicitor. In noticing this sign my thoughts returned to when Bert had referred to me as having the life of Riley; roof over my head; car to drive around in and nothing to do but sit on my arse all day. The irony of what Bert had said all those years before, was that but for the good fortune of living with Andy and Jane, I would not have a roof over my head or a car to drive around in and as for sitting on my arse all day, well, if I ever did this, I certainly did not do it any more As I seated myself in the cafe and held the menu, I noticed my hands were uncontrollably shaking, something which had not occurred since thirteen years before when Ma reversed the assurance given that that loan would be put into her name. In ordering coffee, I saw the waitress half glance at my hands but I was not really conscious of much else other than how different things might have been had I seen almost two decades before, where going along with Ma's wishes might land me. Ma soon joined me and said with a big sigh: ''Now, at least that is done''. I was sure she was expecting me to enquire as to how she got on and I would really like to have obliged but what was there to say? I instead just handed her the menu and after each of us chose the same sandwich, another coffee for me and a pot of tea, we just sat there in a silence which was by now routine.


When we arrived at the Tin House with the shopping, I remembered a CD of Susan Boyle's I had with me as a present for Ma as she would be eighty eight the following Wednesday, the 17th of March, St Patrick's day. It was as well I had remembered I had this CD with me, as after the groceries had been unpacked and we ventured into the plastic sunroom with a coffee, the silence between us continuing, I turned up the volume of the CD player; a move which not only drowned the silence but also allowed Ma to hear what had been brought along. One of the numbers on this CD was a hymn I remembered from the years I took the children to weekly mass before they became adults and the chorus of that hymn went, 'Then sings my soul my saviour God to thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art', repeated. Ma closed her eyes as the sentiment of this hymn was meaningful to her whereas the sentiment most meaningful to me at that particular moment in time were the words from a movie seen a few years before when, a young man, confused at how his family is behaving, looks at the camera and says: ''I feel like I am drowning in asshole's''. Leaving the Tin House that Thursday put me in mind of an episode of Mid-Summer Murders, as when the plot begins to deviate along ridiculous lines for the umpteenth time, I realize I should not have been watching the show in the first place if I had been hopeful of a logical conclusion to it.

After so long spent with no answer as to why anything to do with that loan appeared to be buried deeper with each year that passed, I was hardly likely to allow being confronted with Ma's Will to alter what had by this time become an 'iron will' on my part not to just accept the frailty in her genes and leave it at that. Almost twenty years after sitting in the corner of a bank office being nudged form under the table and considering all that had happened in between, although by now I had more of an idea why Ma might never have been equipped to operate any differently to the way she had, this understanding would never again take precedence over the duty I owed to myself or more importantly, have me questioning if it was me who imagined things.

When returning south on the motorway that day my thoughts drifted back to the evenings before coming to Australia when, bar Dad, we would all kneel against a grubby lounge suite forming an arc with the heat of the coal fire on our backs to say the Rosary. In those days Ma would utter words of wisdom which none of us understood, such as, never a lender or borrower be; and to never take back with the left hand what had been given with the right, but the sun shone out of her, and the main hurdle now ahead, was resisting ever feeling the same way about her again.

By the time Ma made her final Will, top of the list to explain the choices she made, were the guidelines set by an institution who appeared not to know that the love of money was the root to all evil and that it was harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God than it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. There were many excuse's to be made for a woman who had clearly been 'got at' during a vulnerable time in her existence which, in Ma's case had resulted in her putting that required 'material gift' ahead of taking care of those of her children in most need and, no matter how many rogues or ingrates there may have been among those she reared, with Ma leaving it up to God to judge them.

So what to do now? Well I figured the best way forward was to just continue on as though unaffected by this latest development and place more importance on the paragraphs needed to continue on with my story. I just kept to the routine of meeting up with Ma every Thursday fortnight, when I would wonder if she noticed that I now only spoke in response to something she said. Whether she noticed I had no idea, but I did have some idea why she kept saying on a regular basis, ''People imagine things that never happen at all''. The only defence I had when this was said was not to respond, as I had a fair idea also that if I had enquired as to who these people were, the response would have come back 'You' and then those shopping trips would have come to an end before I was ready. Losing count of how many times Ma made mention of people imagining things that never happen at all, it was most likely due to my lack of response that this was eventually replaced by; 'people never know what is going on in someone else's head, they only know what is going on in their own' and: ''everyone has their own way of looking at things' and: 'people get things mixed up and do not know who did what in the end'. There was never going to be any definitive answer to what lay behind these little outbursts unless the question was asked, so with me just giving the odd nod whenever, they, were made, I was left only to guess at the connection between them and how I was viewed by herself and Seamus. And just supposing every word written so far is what actually occurred, how convenient would it have been for the two who would rather forget the events of the past two decades most than for me to have given way to ranting in my heart?

Irrespective though, of at first believing that I could rise above what were clearly inferences as to my mental state, no matter how urgent the purchase of rat-sac and surface spray may have been, or how in need I was of more material to polish up my episodes, even a daughter born on the same date Our Lady rose into heaven had limitations. Come a few months on from when Ma first mentioned 'those people' in basically having had as much as I could take, it was as though through divine intervention that the remarks I had been subjected to just stopped. It was amazing, as just as I was about to ask Ma who 'these people' were, the shopping trips began to go by with nothing out of the ordinary being said and although on these occasions I was still reeling as to those little outbursts having seemingly been a last ditch effort to convince me of my delusionary status, I settled for the peace of just going through the motions of being the dutiful daughter. It had come as some relief not to have my antenna on full alert every Thursday fortnight but unfortunately this peace of mind was not about to last, as just after the shopping had been unpacked on the third fortnight since those inferences had ceased, it was just as the two of us ventured once more into the plastic sunroom with coffees and biscuits, that unexpectedly, I was once again hit from out of left field. And as things progressed, if there was any upshot at all, it was in receiving all the confirmation I would ever need to know I had been right as to why those references had been necessary in the first place. There I had been, looking at the clock and nibbling on a biscuit when Ma suddenly asked, a little shakily: ''Who repaid that loan?'' In there being no way of avoiding a direct question and in understanding exactly what had been asked, I simply responded by answering: ''Me''. This reply had been delivered without raising my voice but perhaps Ma was reading my lips as she then asked; ''Did not Michael repay some of it?'' ''Yes'', I said, ''He made the repayments until he lost his business and that is when I took over''. I really had to ask myself at that point why such a conversation should be necessary but then considering what had gone on before, well! How I managed to hold onto my equilibrium when Ma spoke again I do not know, as she said; ''And Seamus paid some of, it, also because I have the bank statements to show he did''.

When this was said the discussion was at an end, as what was the point of continuing when no mention was made of the statements sent to her along with the Power of Attorney document ten years before, after receiving those letters, which would have served as all that was needed to answer her question? What was the point of saying anything when it could be construed that what was paid into her account over six years by Seamus had been by way of repaying that loan when this was as far from the actual facts as it was possible to get? Other than to begin raving and understanding perfectly well where this would lead, although as upset as I was ever likely to be, I somehow manage to appear disinterested and perhaps it was in the absence of the fight expected which led to Ma's initial apprehension then lessening, as the whole debacle of that loan was then stitched up into a neat little package by her right there and then, in her saying, with a little more confidence: ''Now that was your choice but you did your best''.

It was as well by the time those shopping trips began that I had gained a clearer perspective into how traits from the past can live on, as without this insight there would have been nothing to explain what I had been put though and the two of us would never have been able to continue on as any mother and daughter might. I may beforehand have been finding the going difficult enough but in the references made toward 'those people' now having run their course, what difference did this latest strangeness make?

On a subsequent Thursday; a month or so after the discussion from Hell was held, I was reminded again by Ma of how her mother lost touch with reality before she died at the age of thirty six. And on this occasion for the first time, added to this, was that the grandmother I never met was of such a nervous disposition that she would hide under the stairs in a thunder storm. Oh no, here we go again, was what I was thinking but saving the day in assuming I was about to receive more of the same, was that this time around it seemed more like Ma was questioning her own actions in that she had a regretful look in her eyes, as though she was about to apologise but could not find the words. In fact, she appeared so pitifully worn out that I wanted to put my arms around her and tell her I understood why she had gone about things the way she had and I really did come close but with communication between us by now a long time lost, I was just too unsure how this move would be interpreted. Would putting my arms around her break down the distance long between us, or would this gesture only serve to put my stability further into question? This moment in time was probably the lowest point of my journey, as there was Ma's fragile state of inner conflict as close to the surface as it had ever been and with me rather settling for never knowing which way it was than risk further disappointment.

Had it not been for something entirely relevant to my experience, missing from Ma's account of her mother's last days, then maybe I would not have been so guarded. In the past, as it had always been told by Ma that before her mother died of the disease she dreaded, she had lost her 'mind' rather than lost touch with 'reality', I could only think this terminology had changed so as I would not feel so bad about being delusional. But my reticence in hugging her was mostly because, for the first time in the age old story of her mother's last days, she had omitted to mention the bank notes counted first one way up and then the other to double the amount there actually was and I figured this omission was because she could not even convince herself that I possessed any such inclination.

Some sixteen years after all of this began and I had contacted Sally to finally tell someone what those earlier years had held, it had been thought that with that loan out of the way, the mother I once knew had returned. It was as a consequence of this belief that what Sally was told was kept to a minimum. Sally was contacted more to explain what had been going on behind the scenes since those two occasions we had met here in Australia, than in any continuing fear where Ma 's spiral of confusion would set me down. For it never to be envisaged, then, that two more years on, the mother I did not recognise had far from finished with me. It was in finding my clear recall of the events I would never forget in being labelled as delusional by the last person imagined, that for no other reason but to save my sanity, I began documenting the whole sorry saga of the past eighteen years, which, to begin with, only incorporated how that loan came into being and Shylock's shenanigans but just kept growing until each contribution to what the previous years brought had been covered. Even though the attempt to write of my experience could make the long silence kept seem like I had been biding my time in order to come up with a plausible way of transferring the responsibility for what occurred onto my dear old mother. Or in it appearing ridiculous to maintain that for almost two decades I had been holding out hope of a positive outcome to a situation daubed with duplicity from the beginning. Or that in tracking my tale, this might be construed as 'sour grapes'. I was simply intent on setting the record straight. I could not allow in my not being believed as being enough to stop me.

As I set about the task ahead, I wondered what my children's reaction would be when the time arrived for them to know that it was as a result of a regrettable hour spent by their mother in a bank so many years ago which went some way to her always appearing so Bo Ho? Would they consider me a complete pratt or pity me? Would they understand that there is more to be passed on from one generation to the next, other than the colour of eyes, hair or skin? Would they see that in their grandmother's eyes, it never really mattered what happened to their inheritance as there was always the thought that they might well be the rock upon which the Church is built, for their mother and themselves to look forward to into the future. Surely of more importance than possessing anything of a worldly nature?

It was not long after driving Ma to visit her new solicitor that Celli sent me a text. By this time, Celli had been living with Ma in the Tin House for two years and as Celli and myself we were not on speaking terms, it was just as well Celli was working when I would come each Thursday fortnight to deliver the shopping. Breaking the deadlock in communication between Celli and myself had been a text on Celli sighting the Will I already knew enough about. Celli was beside herself after reading the contents of what had been left sitting on Ma's dressing table for the world to see, for two reasons. Because there was no mention in the Will of Celli purchasing half the Tin House and because any Insurance Policies held had been bequeathed to Patsy.
In answering Celli's text, she then rang me. It was on hearing her voice that I knew my chance to tell her to 'Go away' had been missed. My desire not to hear from Celli had as much to do with the deep resentment felt in Ma now bartering once again with the house which had already cost me my Marriage Settlement, as much as it did in having had enough of the past encounters experienced with Celli. Two years had passed since my daughter's thirtieth birthday party, when Celli accused me of being treacherous for feeding my children negativity about her and four years ago, she had referred to me as 'a sick bitch', for simply attempting to help her find peace. My avoidance of her was understandable. But then after what life had delivered to her and in her now suffering physically from grooming dogs in the evening for three years, in an effort to make up for various financial losses, maybe the emptiness inside her had now been filled? What did I have to lose in giving her another chance anyway, when any further insult I might receive, would be compensated for in Celli always being good for the spice needed in a story which had come to a grinding halt two months before, on Ma disclosing the contents of the Will Celli spoke of?

It had been thought that at eighty eight years of age, Ma would have had enough of complications rather than to be creating more. But alas, in hearing from Celli, it would appear Ma's propensity to continue on in the same vein as always, showed no sign of abating. From what was understood of Celli's belief, she was to purchase half the Tin House, a thought initiated by Ma. If this arrangement wasn't Irish enough, the impracticalities had been overlooked by Celli who, in her desperation to belong somewhere, would have latched onto any suggestion. Other than seething at the thought of Ma selling half the house which I had paid for twice, it was hard to fathom how the required chat to bring about this understanding had taken place. In neither Ma nor Celli being exactly the other's favourite person, generally avoiding one another to the point where their food was even kept in separate refrigerators, there was nothing to explain how this latest twist in Ma's affairs had come about.
This was the first known by me that a Line of Credit had been approved by the Commonwealth Bank to supply Celli with the first instalment towards the purchase of half the Tin House. The understanding arrived at with her mother, was that when the house in Victoria, purchased by Celli over the internet, was to be sold, then the proceeds to come from this sale were to make up the balance required to set Ma's most recent financial involvement with one of her children into play. VIRIDIAN
There was however to be a further complication; and what was new about that? The complication would be that Celli hadn't told her mother that after the block of land in Queensland was reclaimed from the Church, it had been sold and that it was only because of this sale that Celli managed the deposit required for the house purchased on the internet. When offering Celli a half stake in the Tin House, Ma was under the impression that not only was her youngest daughter still a land owner but that she also owned the house purchased in Victoria five years before. What I had so far been informed of by Celli would turn out to be only half the story. During the weeks to follow, although incredulous that Ma would enter into such an arrangement without once again, considering my previous inputs, I was however to become the wiser as to the similarities between Celli and Ma. Both, I would discover, shared the same trait to 'double up' on any arrangement they entered into, just like my maternal grandmother. Both wanted their cake and to eat it too. When the Viridian Line of Credit was secured, Ma saw nothing wrong with leaving these funds in the bank's coffers while Celli made the repayments! In being quizzed by Celli as to the nonsense involved here, Ma's logic was to maintain that the said funds were to be considered as hers, to spend as she saw fit. After a few months of making the repayments on the Viridian Line of Credit, it was perhaps in fear of her funds being directed once again to benefit the Church that Celli promised to repay this debt when her house in Victoria was sold and then proceeded to put what had been secured from the Commonwealth Bank to another use. This move on Celli's part was made in order to purchase yet another house, this one in the Coastal town adjoining the Tin House and what leads one to suspect Celli had inherited the same tendency to 'double up'. Celli had gone along blithely afterwards believing the original agreement in her owning half the Tin House was still in place!

In Celli reading the Will left on Ma's dressing table, this was her first realization of the actual facts. Yet Celli still did not appreciate that the only special mention made of her, was that she was to repay the Viridian Line of Credit secured on her behalf and that otherwise, she was just lumped in with everyone else along with St. Vincent, for a share of the roof presently over her head.

If there was any question needing to be asked; it was why, in hearing from Celli, was this the first I knew of the latest financial dealing Ma had embarked upon with one of her children? Why, when I'd been meeting up on a regular basis over the same period with Ma, this latest twist in her affairs, been kept from me?

It could never be denied that over the years Ma had done what she could for Celli. This still left another question: Why would Ma ever imagine that the one, whose emotional issues could never be denied, would ever be in a position to repay the Line of Credit? Even though being unaware that the land once promised to the Church had been sold, why was it that Ma didn't appear to understand that Celli's wish to own a half share of the Tin House was based more on Celli's insecurities than a desire to become a property tycoon? Although well aware there are far worse stories of neglect that could be told, in Celli's case, I wonder how much being devoid of emotional security in her formative years had contributed to the visitation experienced when in Ireland at the age of seventeen and her continuing dysfunction since?

One wonders also, whether as the result of its doctrine, a religion dictating that a 'married' woman bear as many children as her womb allows, can be respected, given the difficulties involved in rearing children? The Church has historically been indifferent to the welfare of its own congregation in this regard, in problems created by its own rulings. In this case pertinent to contraception, explaining why in return, it hears only clatter on its collection plate because most are more wise than Ma ever was and attend Church only because it's a mortal sin not to do so! If as much importance by the Church, was placed upon the welfare of its parishioners, as upon its own property portfolios, sympathy would be in play. The Sydney archdiocese alone declares a net 1.2 billion dollars of worth! There are 2,123 archdiocese in the World. At least with a Casino, one knows exactly where one stands. There is no win situation for the flock within the Church. Hell or Heaven, is just a way of keeping people in line, or as Dad would say: 'hocus pocus'!

Had Ma known that the land Celli reclaimed from the Church had since been sold, which Celli had omitted to tell her, then as sure as Moses, the latest financial venture into the unknown would have never have taken place. If Ma's propensity to bury anything too troubling to acknowledge is to be believed, then it was as well Celli's recent stab at making good hadn't incorporated providing any reminder of the humiliation suffered in the eyes of the institution her mother held dear.

To complicate matters further, after selling the land purchased at twenty one years of age, Celli in her wisdom had put the proceeds of this sale toward purchasing her second house. This purchase was right back in the area where the only work to be found was picking apples or nuts in summer or in the snowfields come winter and was made on the internet. When the agreement was made with her mother, to purchase half the Tin House, the understanding apparently was, that when the present house Celli supposedly owned was sold (which Celli had been endeavouring to accomplish for over a year), then the proceeds were to be used to help repay the Line of Credit. The funds could then be used at some future time, at Ma's discretion.

It is supposed that in Ma believing Cell still owned the land, Ma was under the impression Celli was financially secure enough to do as had been proposed. But then Ma was never put in charge of the facts; it was never explained to her that buying a house in the same area as the one she had provided the deposit for years earlier, was as likely to rise in value as had been the case with the first house in the same area, all those years ago; that these purchases were to prove just as much a drain as the land bought on the never, never in Queensland had been. This was why Celli asked me not to tell Ma when this house was eventually sold, nor where the proceeds came from for its purchase.

From my end, when driving Ma to her new solicitor in order to lodge her latest Will, it was probably for the best that I hadn't been made aware of Celli's expectations or that insurance policies had been bequeathed to Patsy as in my nervous system already having taken enough of a battering, I would most likely have driven off just as soon as Ma got out of the car, to be left in the awkward position of turning back in a mad search for her, in remembering the shopping stored in the boot!

In now taking more of the unexpected on board, it was just as well further bartering with the house, hadn't involved any member of the Secret Seven, as if it had, my objections would have been aired which would only have resulted in meeting the same brick wall met so often in the past. As things stood, there was plenty else to be miffed about, as for one thing, why on earth had Patsy been singled out for special treatment at all when Ma had heard from both Eamonn and Celli of her propensity to put it about that she was mad? But then, it was Ma's wish to see her two oldest as one. Chances were the life insurance policies bequeathed to Patsy were but a token to ensure her nose wouldn't be put too out of joint in hearing about the extra I would be receiving for the years I looked after Eamonn, endeavouring to ensure the gulf existing between Patsy and me didn't become any wider. Or was Ma simply kowtowing, once again, to those who could be the cruellest?

Ma may have appeared do-lally to some and mad to others but it would appear to me that the impenetrable fence her two oldest sat either side of, would have stood a better chance of breaking down had Ma ever taken action rather than continue to live in a world where no disharmony existed. Had Ma for instance demanded an explanation from Patsy for putting it about that she was mad, or stood her ground so far as Shylock's responsibility toward that loan was concerned, or seen anything for that matter in the way it was, rather than rely on a questionable religion for guidance, then surely when it came to her Will, she wouldn't have been in such a dither as to put me (the saint) into the same pot as ingrates.

Celli may have been in a tizz imagining a fortune by way of those insurance policies had been bequeathed to one who already had plenty and in there being no proof at my disposal to convince her that come Ma's demise Patsy wouldn't be looking at much, as Ma was hardly likely to put a high premium on her own life and would certainly not think to leave more to Patsy than to me. In Celli being a difficult candidate to convince that this was just Ma's way, I consoled myself with the mystery of what was in the safe for Patsy as having been solved. But, in nevertheless lamenting the possibility of missing cash, should Patsy get to the safe before I did, I could now also only live in hope that the term policy taken out to cover Ma, should anything happen to me, wasn't still in existence as this could well mean that Patsy was in line to benefit even ftom my own death!

With so much mention at that time of insurance policies, my mind drifted back to the big cold house and the little books kept in the kitchen dresser. The man from the Prudential would come around the house to the back door where these books were handed over, for the payments being made be marked off. As a child I had no idea what insurance was, let alone what was meant by being insured and it wouldn't be until I was almost at pension age when Ma looked up at the ceiling towards where Dad was snoring away in his chair, to declare, ''And I'll be getting another three hundred for him'', that more sense was made of the little books remembered. When this exclamation was made, no confirmation had been sought as to what had been meant. It was what could be afforded in our planned future together that was under discussion. What else other than 'insurance' could this reference have been alluding to?

Come 2009, Ma had made her final Will but as the contents of this Will would have been enough to incense an angel, it was as well by then l had begun documenting all those imagined events occurring over more than two decades or I would have despaired completely. In receiving the latest text from Celli, this only added to my dismay, as whilst I may well have been appreciative of the material she could provide. I understood she wasn't about to change on her having declaring: that 'If any of them come anywhere near this place after Ma's gone I will become the banshee they created and chase them away with my hair flying'. It was in Celli having every intention of putting her wild green eyes and long brown locks to their best use that I couldn't see the key in Patsy's possession ever being used. In all likelihood, Patsy would have viewed the key she'd been handed nine months before as useless for the same reason but at least now, in having been assured there was something of special interest for her in the safe, her long held theory that any Will Ma left would favour those who were without; viewed by her as so unfair; could be put to rest.

Patsy would have known she needed to wait, that it would only be in the event of something happening to Ma she would become any the wiser as to how much better off she would be. Not a good way to be viewing things but Ma set this one up with about as much thought as any other involvement with her children. As intent as she'd ever been that things would work themselves out, Ma, in my absence and in her wisdom, had handed one of the keys to her safe to Patsy without giving a moment's thought as to what would happen to the cash intended for me should Patsy get to the safe before I did.

If, as suspected, Patsy had been told she had been bequeathed insurance policies and she was thinking along the same lines as Celli, then the further possibility existed, that Patsy was going to be so sadly disappointed in discovering these policies would barely cover a decent trip overseas that rather than be left with one favourable memory of her mother, there would be no let-up in her continuing to tell all and sundry that Ma was mad. Poor Ma, she could never get it right.

It was soon after receiving Celli's text that on one of the Thursdays when Ma knew she would be too feeble to catch the bus, Ma mailed the shopping list to my post office box in order that the shopping to be done en route. I was to find Celli had taken the day off work. Just as soon as I arrived, Celli suggested we go down to the beach to get some lunch and bring some back for Ma. This is what we did, for the following hour to be spent mainly discussing 'the Will' with neither party saying anything about what had got in the way of this occasion being the first we'd seen of one another for more than two years. Celli was still beside herself as to how Patsy was to benefit over her and especially so in having tallied up her tenth share of the Tin House and figuring this amount wouldn't even cover the Line of Credit taken out against it.

After our chat, which had taken place on the bench across the road from where years before a closed sign was often seen on a health food shop, we ventured over to one of the more recent eateries incorporated in a strip of new two storey buildings and as Celli went ahead of me to place the order, I sat on one of the small tables in the outdoors. I could see her clearly from where I was seated, leaning on the counter at the back of this eatery, glancing through a menu while a waitress waited patiently beside her for instructions and it was as the menu was handed back to the waitress that Celli turned to look in my direction and yell across tables filled with a lunchtime crowd, ''Oh, by the way, I sent that magazine cut-out to Patsy''. She then made her way toward me with a grin on her face.

At Dad's funeral, part of why it had been difficult to understand Patsy's avoidance of me, was that nothing in regard to Celli's continuing torment since the occasion of the latter's fortieth birthday when her niece recoiled at being touched by Celli, had been aired. I had known of this occurrence now for ten years but with no comeuppance seeming possible and with the most mortifying event since leaving Bert faded, now as Celli and I were once again attempting to retrieve an all too frequently fleeting friendship, it would appear some comeuppance for what Celli had been dealt had been possible after all. It had been in 2005, when, as I waited nervously to be called by the dentist, I came across a glossy spread of interest in a magazine, reminding me of what Ross had once divulged in a restaurant. Nine years had passed since Celli had been made feel no more than a worm by those who saw themselves in some higher place. I thought at the time to share what had been divulged by Ross with Celli. It may have helped Celli realise it wasn't she who was the worm and the years of pain endured may now be lessened. Thinking again of what Ross told me took place in the kitchen of the Coconut House so many years before, is what led to me to thinking maybe Karma was stepping in when as this magazine of interest was slipped into my bag. It had been the sight of a buxom wench in the forefront of the crowd, chasing a rock star and his girlfriend, which drew my attention to the glossy spread. It was in this brazen hussy holding her blouse open that drew parallels with what Ross had spoken of. Although my old boyfriend hadn't gone into any detail in regard to what was involved when Pasty exposed herself to him and with me being too shocked and embarrassed at the time to ask, Patsy like the woman in the glossy spread may well have been clad only in a bra but dressed from the waist down.

It was the following weekend when, in visiting Celli regularly at that time in order to assist cleaning up her dog parlour/garage before we'd go to the Italian restaurant to dine, that I filled her in on what Ross had divulged in a restaurant nine years earlier. To my surprise her reaction was to only laugh uproariously before ripping the page of interest from the magazine, telling me it would be kept in her file. Knowing full well by then that Celli wasn't shy of confrontation, there was no other way to interpret her wanting to hang onto what had been brought along than to assume that if I wasn't prepared to go that extra mile to deliver this glossy spread to where it belonged, then given time, she would. Telling her that under no circumstances was she ever to send this magazine page to Pasty, I knew was a waste of time

So, there I was come four years after leaving that glossy spread with Celli, sitting at a small outdoor table with the only sound to be heard, that of waves rushing to the shore as I waited for my lunch, until hearing it broadcast over a lunchtime crowd that what Celli had ripped out of the magazine was no longer in her file and had reached its intended recipient. When Celli seated herself opposite me, she was still grinning and in her manner being so haughty in that no objection for what she'd done was expected from my quarter, I was left momentarily speechless. Celli went on to explain that the captions written would ensure Patsy made no mistake in understanding what had been sent was directed at her indiscretion of thirty years before. Over the head of the buxom wench chasing the rock star, in bold print she had written, 'Narcissist' and over the head of the rock stars girlfriend: 'Lovely Sumpta'. First up I was struck with how far away she had moved from referring to me as a 'sick bitch' or for that matter 'treacherous' and secondly, the concern that the justice she sought for the treatment received on her fortieth birthday, was just copycatting the poem sent by me seven years earlier as the magazine spread in question had also been sent anonymously.

Tentatively I asked Celli at whom she imagined the finger of suspicion would be pointed? 'At me, of course', she responded. 'And why would that be?' I then asked. 'Well, because Patsy used the word narcissist when speaking to me all the time like it was one of those words I couldn't possible know the meaning of'. By this time, Celli hadn't had any dealings with Patsy for twelve years yet she assumed by using the word narcissist it would be automatically understood who was behind the latest anonymous mail received. Yet, although there was no doubt at all as to where the finger of suspicion would be pointed, the only objection I really held, was that if Celli had thought to put her name to what she'd dispatched, it would have had so much more impact.

I asked when she'd sent it. 'Don't remember exactly, about a year ago', she said. Celli's reply then had me wondering if there was any connection between what she'd done and what Seamus had said about me, as the timing would certainly have been close to when he'd rung Michael with that 2008 Christmas invite. Had Patsy given Seamus even more ammunition than Ma had for him to feel confident in saying what he had about me? Had I, in Patsy's eyes, taken one step too far after including her in the poem sent to five others seven years before? Had Ross imagined what he told me took place in the kitchen of the Coconut House one morning such a long ago, left Celli's eagerness to seek revenge so misplaced that the result of her action was to now have Patsy viewing me as even madder than her mother? Ouch.

Text communication betwen Celli and me continued for the following eight months. Over that time Ma would either mail the shopping list to my post office box or I would drive the extra distance to collect her if she were fit enough to accompany me around the supermarket. Those months went by so quickly all that was remembered of any contact with Celli was in continually attempting to convince her that in the event of anything happening to Ma, there would be more to divide than the proceeds to come from the sale of the Tin House. 'I hope you're right', she would text back; never believing. Of course there was some shame attached to such communications on account of us discussing such a matter but as these texts would never have been sent had the past years not unfolded as they did, any shame felt was minimal.

With another birthday behind me, the need arose to visit the Tin House weekly rather than fortnightly, and now on a Saturday. Celli had lost her driving licence due to speeding a little too often and whilst taxis were organised to get her to the station on weekdays, she needed to be driven about on Saturday in order to arrange a new tenant to occupy her latest property after the one who had been there hanged himself from the pagoda in the back yard. In being contacted, it was of some shame also that my first reaction to this tragedy was to consider, why in all the properties being rented out did this have to happen in Celli's house? My second reaction was to hide the astonishment of being told the services of a Catholic priest had been organised to come and bless the house once the two of us had seen to the cleaning. The astonishment of a priest being brought into the equation was not only due to Celli never having attended mass since becoming an adult but also because judging by the crystal beads and baubles strung over some of the trees in the garden of the Tin House, described by Celli as 'a rank den', it had been assumed she was more a believer in the occult. But it was now any port in a storm to ward off evil spirits which, three Saturdays later, was seen to by a priest who flicked holy water throughout the house with special attention given to the pagoda where the unfortunate tenant had met his demise.

When the blessing of the house took place Ma came along for the ride and as by this time the house had been emptied, she sat in the only chair there, just inside open sliding glass doors facing the pagoda. As she waited until the priest had finished his business, positioned on the kitchen bench to her left were a few holy pictures brought along by me. The tenant had been a man in his late twenties and it was in me saying this was a dangerous age that the priest asked why I thought so? 'Well', I said, 'Purely from my observations, every sensational article I've ever read in the papers or seen on TV involving, in the worst case scenario, mass shootings, the offender always appears to be a deranged man between the age of twenty and thirty'. The priest, who looked of an age to have just escaped the danger zone, was then informed that particular note had been taken of this statistic due to having a brother who suffered from schizophrenia and that although in Eamonn's case, this illness didn't manifest until the age of thirty, it became known afterwards there had been no doubt in his mind, for longer than this, that he was the son of God. Celli was looking at me adoringly as if I was so knowledgeable while the priest stared at the floor, slowly nodding his head as if he'd been reminded of something. And what would that be?

A new tenant was soon found as Celli's house was in close proximity to the railway station and in Celli making it clear to the real estate agent that the house had been treated with holy water, I'm sure this helped? Unfortunately though, finding a new tenant in quick time was as far as Celli's luck would go, as afterwards she went from job to job until realizing legal secretarial work was killing her and that the working years left to her would be better spent driving dump trucks.

This latest effort to turn her world around involved travelling to Queensland for training with the intention to afterward do quarry work until tickets of expertise had been accredited and she could head to the mining industry where big wages could be earned. At fifty four, it had become too hard for Celli to fit into a working environment where she knew more than the increasingly younger set placed in a position to give her orders. If she'd had a family of her own, then maybe the moving of the times would have been viewed differently by her but as the work place was all there was to prove herself, then it was hoped driving dump trucks would fit the bill, regardless of the majority of those employed in this particular industry, also being much younger than she was.

Ma had a bit of a laugh in regard to Celli planning to drive dump trucks in the mines, saying to me, 'hee, hee, hee, the miner's daughter'. To begin with this comment was viewed as nothing short of what would have been expected from Patsy as it had the same one-upmanship humour Patsy used attached to it. But thinking again, it was more likely Ma had been attempting to make light of Celli stepping into unchartered employment at a time when the Line of Credit taken out against the Tin House was still there to be seen to.

Ma now suffered from continuing dizziness combined with an inability to concentrate. This downturn in her health had been coming on for some time with her doctor insisting the problem was with her heart and her arguing back, it was her brain. She would say to me she knew it was her brain as at times, she had shooting pains in her head and what did this have to do with the heart? This self-diagnosis certainly seemed logical but of more interest to me was that if it was her brain, how long exactly had it been malfunctioning? Irritation did exist that Ma, be shunted off by the doctor after acquiring a prescription for blood pressure tablets. But then what else might one expect in a beachside area where the demographics dictated a medical overload. Or as Bert put it to the children when I came to open a shop not far away, 'What's she gone up there for, it's full of old people'.

Over the three years Celli had been living with Ma and commuting to the city during the week, sadly, when she left, her yelping dogs would certainly not be missed by the neighbours as with Ma being hard of hearing, it had been down to those living next door to bring in the odd bone to relieve their ears. The daily boredom experienced by two little dogs tied to their mistress' trailer for twelve hours each weekday was also relieved by Ma when it was raining as this was when she would venture outside to untie the leashes from the trailer to retie them on one of the poles underneath the house. This was done in order that the dogs be given shelter by the deck above which, when considering the trailer was parked in the car port, was a manoeuvre difficult to fathom and one which would also result in Ma tripping over a leash one day to incur yet another angry red blotch, this one lasting for months and covering the whole of her forehead.

It wasn't long after receiving this injury that Ma found herself in hospital. She was there overnight and had been taken there by a paramedic who had arrived first to ask her a list of questions. It was in this paramedic being informed that there was something wrong with her brain; that everything was spinning and she had difficulty rationalizing, which was why she ended up in hospital. Celli was then called by whoever was attending to Ma, for her to leave work early, and for the nurse taking Ma's blood pressure to find it suddenly shot up when she appeared. In leaving the hospital the following day minus a diagnosis, Celli was also there to drive Ma home. Afterwards Ma would maintain that she never wanted to go to hospital again, but yet I'm sure she was appreciative that but for Celli not as yet having been offered a start driving dump trucks, there would have been no one on hand to help out at all.

It was a month after, and once again only thanks to Celli still being around, that in receiving a text from her I was to learn she had summoned the doctor as Ma had fallen again, this time backwards, as though she'd been thrown against the edge of the bedside table. It was a Tuesday night when Ma experienced what she believed was a stroke. But rather than disturb Celli's sleep she had suffered through the night. It was the following day when the doctor was called to diagnose broken ribs and suggest she went to hospital and when I was informed of the situation. Ma declined to go to hospital, maintaining that broken ribs fixed themselves and as it would be the following day that I would be coming up, I kept to my usual routine.

In receiving Celli's text, she asked if I would stay the night, which I reluctantly agreed to do but only agreed because at this given time, Celli was probably the one of Ma's nine children in most need herself. There was nothing new about me staying overnight at the Tin House as over the years since parting company with Bert, many a night had been spent there sleeping in the sunroom on the covered blue and white checked couch. It was just that after all of what had happened in between times, I was no longer in the frame of mind to so easily block out the saucers of rat-sac underneath chairs or the danger of a funnel web spider making its way through the gaps in the plastic walls along with the sea breeze.

Upon arriving on this particular Thursday, after greeting Celli, I went upstairs to check on how Ma was doing with broken ribs now added to her long list of health woes. I was greeted with the ashen pallor and weak smile of someone propped up by a mountain of pillows. Ma was in as bad a shape as expected but had nevertheless made out the shopping list with the usual brackets indicating how I should be on the lookout for the pricing of various goods. There she was, as close to death as I'd ever seen and yet just as determined as ever to be one step ahead of what the supermarkets were up to. Her faltering speech was another give-away sign of the pain she was in, yet in a weak and trembling voice, she still went ahead to ask me if I'd consider coming there to live. She said that as in now being of pension age myself, I could retire and then have the house for my lifetime should anything happen to her.

Losing count of how many times this suggestion had been made previously, on this occasion I just shook my head; a reaction as much due to the weariness of needing to again refuse Ma's offer as it was to the abhorrence of spending what was left of my life in a house which Celli couldn't have described better as being 'a rank den'. At my refusal to go along with her wishes, a vague expression of disappointment swept over Ma's pale face, which was regretful but considering what had gone before, what other response could she seriously have been expecting? However, in then watching Ma closely for any indication that she would understand my reasons, I was in for even more disconcertion, as in knowing this particular side of her so well, I could tell she genuinely had no inkling why I would turn down such a suitable idea. Before leaving to do the shopping, my ears pricked up at what was said next. Ma was to tell me that I was her Power of Attorney and that the document was in the safe. In her pointing a trembling finger toward the dressing table, I was then to see the key to the safe hanging from one of the knobs on the corner of the mirror, camouflaged by a myriad of ribbons and whatnot. All well and good, I thought, to once again to be let know the location of the key which had done a few disappearing tricks over the years and to still be her Power of Attorney but as all of interest to me were the bank statements sent to her along with this 'legal document' ten years earlier (when I was termed by her as a prima donna), I would need to wait until I got a chance to open the safe to see if the statements sent had been also held onto.

There was much to think about as I went off to do the shopping that Thursday. In Celli by now having given up work as a legal secretary as she waited for a job driving dump trucks to come along, she probably came with me but it isn't remembered if she did. Ma hadn't eaten much since receiving her latest injury and it was when I brought up some dinner to her around five in the afternoon that she told me there was more wrong with her than broken ribs; that apart from suffering a mini stroke which she knew the symptoms of as it had happened before. Unable to pass water, she figured that her kidneys may have been damaged in the fall but that I was to leave it another few hours before calling an ambulance. If at all possible, this was to be avoided. During those few hours Ma ate most of her dinner while Celli and I were downstairs sharing some wine. Once again, we were discussing various aspects of our lives with neither party touching upon subjects not conducive to getting along. It was around seven when I checked on Ma again and the decision was made to call an ambulance; a decision leaving me wondering, if it would be the same crew of two who had arrived to pull Dad out of a glass coffee table six years earlier? During Dad and Ma's lifetime, medical treatment had certainly moved on from how it had been in Ireland before their children were born. In earlier days, anyone with an inward pain simply went to bed with their rosary beads, whereas nowadays it was just a question of picking up the phone.

There was no way of knowing when the female and male crew of two arrived, whether this particular unit had been to the Tin House before as they just got on with displaying the same welcome professionalism as had been the case when Michael had been taken off in an ambulance. As I'd been drinking I couldn't drive, so instead I accompanied Ma while Celli kept the home fires burning. On the twenty minute drive to the hospital, I was seated in the front with the female medic listening to Ma in the back rattling off some the more interesting aspects of her life's journey to the male offsider who was attempting to take notes of her health and it's history. Upon arriving at the hospital, Ma was treated just the same as any other arrival with a less interesting past; of which there were many; all elderly and all lying on beds waiting their turn to be diagnosed before being sent to an appropriate ward. It was around eight thirty when we'd arrived and as the minutes ticked by, Ma was eventually attended to by a male nurse who had thick dreadlocks tied into a long pony tail and in this nurse also having a dark complexion, Ma asked where he was from? 'The Philippines', he answered. To which Ma said: 'Oh, I've got a son who's spent some time in the Philippines, his second wife was from there, he met her on the internet and they got married in a post office, hee, hee, hee'. The nurse made no comment before buzzing off. But then it was a busy night.

As there was nowhere for me to sit and Ma appeared quite content taking in the activity of ambulance crews arriving every ten or so minutes, I went for a walkabout to find where I could sneak a sly smoke. And it was in charging back from the cold of the outdoors toward the brightly lit foyer which I'd exited that I was suddenly stopped in my tracks. My face had impacted on a large pane of glass which, thankfully, was smash-proof. Even though I was sure my nose was broken as the pain received on impact was excruciating and took weeks to subside, I was too relieved at the time to find there had been no witnesses to consider whether this accident was due to me having been drinking or if there was a design fault in the building.

By ten thirty, it was time to leave. Ma agreed I should go, giving the impression that she would have been just as content had she arrived at the hospital alone. But I was probably wrong about this, as in visiting her in a ward the following day, the first thing she inquired about was the cost of the taxi back home as this wasn't to be at my expense. As for returning from the hospital in that cold uncomfortable cab with my nose hurting and spending the first night in over a decade in the Tin House to look forward to, let's just say, it wasn't looking as if the trials of the previous years would be coming to an end any time soon.

Before arriving that Thursday, Ma had asked Celli to bring an old day bed into the sunroom from where it had sat in the outdoors for years. Ma's days of climbing stairs were over. Celli had waited for my opinion on what Ma intended sleeping on before complying with what had been requested and it was in gazing upon the rusted frame of a contraption with nails sticking out at odd angles from rotting timber slats that I found it just as difficult as Celli had to believe Ma was serious. As things had gone for the forty years since the Tin House was built, anything too big to bury in the garden (mostly applying to broken furniture), had been placed around the perimeter where there was some shelter from the rain to rather wither where it sat than, God forbid, be thrown away. Even if the old daybed hadn't presented the danger of Ma contracting tetanus, should one of those rusty nails pierce her skin, something still had to be done about the latter years of a mother of nine being spent sleeping amid a conglomeration of tat together with memorabilia covered with fern spores and webs from spiders long dead in a space only marginally protected from the elements.

It was the day after Ma had been taken off in an ambulance that I went to visit her in the morning and Celli later in the afternoon, while In between time all that was possible was done to improve the appearance of what was soon to be her new sleeping quarters. In the sunroom already being dilapidated enough without dragging in some old day bed left out in the weather for years, it was agreed that after the work was done, we buy Ma a new bed. Fortunately neither Celli nor me had gone about the task of cleaning up the sunroom with any hope of turning a pig's ear into a silk purse but it was still disappointing after even scrubbing off the sticky cobwebs entwined around the trellis ceiling which over the years had long become a feature in themselves, to find things looking much the same. But then no great change was ever going to come about unless the painted cardboard decorations etc were removed, and this couldn't be done, not only because one wasn't sure what was holding what together but also because one knew Ma would object to living in surroundings less conventional than a fairground. At that particular point, Celli and I were getting along as well as any two people with a common objective might. In fact, other than me still treading warily where she was concerned, it was as if the dirty laundry not aired between us, like everything else I remembered happening over the twenty one years since leaving Bert, could have also been imagined.

When Celli went to the hospital, she happened upon the Occupational Therapist who gave her a list of the 'user friendly' requirements, which were expected to be in place before Ma would be allowed home. Ouch! There was no way the Tin House would pass any kind of inspection, let alone one involving the clinical requirements of a hospital. My first thought was to appeal to the more well-to-do members of the family (which in the main applied to the Secret Seven), to come to the fore. Even though realising any plea in this direction may not get me very far, it was still worth a try, considering the only other option so far as I could see was to put a match to the whole kit and caboodle.

As my overnight stay now went into a second night and the only email address Celli had of any family member was Seamus', I sat down at her spanking new red laptop to notify him that his mother had taken a fall on Tuesday, resulting in her ending up in hospital and of the requirements issued by the O.T. No help was specifically requested. It was only hoped that there was some other family member 'out there' who had been waiting for an opportunity to do the necessary to keep their mother out of aged care; those who might see to the carting off of a forty year accumulation of rubbish, the levelling of the floors; the installing of suitable downstairs sleeping quarters with easy access to a respectable bathroom and hand rails positioned in appropriate places; those who might take pride in knowing the effort put in might give their mother a new lease on life. After sending off that email to Seamus, I left Celli and the laptop in the sunroom and went upstairs to sneak a sly smoke on the deck, we were both supposed to have given up! On my return, only a few minutes later, I was to find Celli spitting through clenched teeth: 'Who does that Seamus think he is'? In reading the response to my email and in my absence, Celli had taken the law into her own hands and responded accordingly to what had been received. In reading the reply to what had been sent myself, sensed straight away was that the female of the piece (Debbie) had had the major input to what was read, as it contained too snaky a tone to have been written by Seamus who generally kept himself busy reworking floor plans to see how many meters of carpet could be scammed from his latest customers than to be bothered with trivia. I might well not have been expecting much to come from my effort but I still didn't expect the reply to my email to be so dismissive as to there being no inquiry even made as to Ma's wellbeing. That what had been sent would be interpreted as Ma having been in hospital since Tuesday and in this being Friday, what interest was I expecting should be shown? Had I not been absent for those few minutes I would have prevented Celli from giving recognition to correspondence not deserving any; I would have prevented her from only succeeding in placing another black mark against her name. The content of the email Celli sent covered quite a bit in only a few minutes but then Celli was a very fast typist and apart from the screed of angry sentiment which would have done nothing to improve her image of being a loose cannon, I was dismayed in particular in noting emphasis placed on the words, 'Everything has been documented', as this was in reference to my own writings. By then it was also too late to regret having shared some of what had taken up so much of my time with Celli in her having helped me with some editing on the first pages which, in having no idea where to even place a comma, Celli had been of major help. All Celli had appeared to grasp in the nature of my quest was to tell me what I had written was funnier than Bridget Jones' Diaries. In being relieved of doing any more editing, the fear was always there that she had picked up on more than she'd let on and that this knowledge would be unhesitatingly used, should the two of us strike another unfriendly patch. To date this fear had been unfounded but then initially, there was no mention of those encounters between Celli and me. As much in this regard has changed, it seems as well those unfriendly patches came along, otherwise my story would be missing much of what was needed to explain her irascible nature.

When we went off to buy the new bed for Ma, Celli insisted on paying; a gesture rather more suited to one who could afford such generosity than one who couldn't but then there was always Master Card until big wages could be earned driving dump trucks in the mines. A job which, she had no doubt, was just around the next bend in her road. The bed arrived on the Saturday and that night would be the third spent by me in the Tin House. When the bed arrived, as Celli and my work on the sunroom was complete, a space had been cleared for it. It was a high single bed with a shelf in the headboard as per the requirement on the list given to Celli by the O.T. With no offers rolling in with regard to the main body of requirements, this was the only criteria met.

Michael rang me after I'd texted him about the emailing fiasco. He first inquired as how Ma was; which made a nice change to the reaction received from Debbie/Seamus. He said he would be coming up to the Tin House by train on the Sunday and that he would need to be collected from the station. This gesture on Michael's part had appeared somewhat overzealous as Sunday was his only day off and he would normally sleep until the late afternoon to then continue on frenetically with his soccer tipping web site. I went to pick him up from the station as requested. Michael wanted to help out and my initial reservations about this were also because I had been appealing to those in a position to do something practical about the up-coming scrutiny of the Tin House by an O.T, and although Michael would like to think he was in the category of the rich, he just wasn't.

After collecting Michael from the station, on the twenty minute drive back to the Tin House my chat revolved mainly around what had taken place in a bank over two decades before. As had been the case in times past, I would slip in a mention to Michael on the subject closest to my heart at any given opportunity on the off chance he would remember what had gone on. On this particular occasion, I was yet again the only member of the Infamous Five to actually have a quid, it was also thought that if Michael could admit to past mistakes, he might one day have an actual quid also. The same went for Celli (Eamonn was a quite separate case), as both Michael and Celli to date had lived as though the glorious horizon of tomorrow would take care of the past. My latest effort to claw back any memory Michael might have of a time long ago, wasn't unreasonable either in that, as with Celli, if anything happened to Ma, who else but me would there be to help them out in the future?

But no luck with Michael on this occasion either, as I was just let drone on as usual. And also as usual, I was asked to repeat everything I said, for Michael only to react in the same amazed fashion seen so many times before, as though he was hearing what he was for the very first time. Michael only came into his own when arriving at our destination, as it was in walking into the sunroom where Celli had lunch prepared, he announced: ''There's no other solution but for one of you two to put your hand up to become Ma's Carer''. I turned to look at Celli, only to see her recoil and hear her say; ''I'm definitely not staying as I need to get a life''. It was then suggested to Michael that he might consider taking on the role, only to find myself ignored.

In it being Sunday, I was to give Michael a lift back to Sydney as I would be returning for work on Monday. We set off to call in at the hospital to visit Ma en route. It was to be me who was to become Ma's Carer. All that is recalled of the few hours spent in Michael and Celli's company that Sunday, was why it would also be me who would be providing for the necessary improvements to the Tin House. First up this solution was arrived at due to it hardly being likely Ma would agree to parting with the amount required when she saw nothing wrong with things as they were. And secondly, in the appeal to Seamus having fallen so flat that nothing of my plight was conveyed to the others, neither Celli nor Michael had a cent to their name.

Michael marched into the ward ahead of me to announce the news to Ma. And in doing so, he referred to himself as being 'the boss' for Ma to say amid a few hee, hee, hee's: ''This is what I've always wanted'' and I could vouch for that!. She looked at me full of smiles to ask if I needed her Debit card, for this offer to be declined as much on the basis of concern as to what I'd now got myself involved with as her not having a clue of the amount of work actually needed.

From there the trip back to Sydney seemed to take less time than usual. In leaving the hospital, Michael had exclaimed: ''Well, nothing much has changed, Asumpta, as I'm still the boss and you're still the Financier''. After all those attempts to remind him, it would appear he could remember when it suited. In being taken so aback by this sudden and unexpected recall, all that was done at the time was to just laugh along, in driving south once again on the motorway.

When Michael and I set off from the Tin House the following Sunday, bar Eamonn, the Infamous Five had been unified in agreement, that unless a more favourable environment for Ma to return to was achieved, then it would be goodbye to the Tin House and hello Old People's home. Not much of what was being discussed by Michael and Celli regarding renovations is remembered but neither operated underhandedly and if anything, were too open for their own good. So, in the circumstances, with two willing souls to attend to the decision-making, why not take a back seat for the ride ahead? I told Celli that I'd finally get that photo taken which she'd often suggested; of her with my children and all three with their arms around her.

What with Andy and Jane talking of retiring to Queensland and loathing being a housekeeper, emptying my bank account for some future security which beforehand had seemed non-existent was a small price to pay. As Ma had said, I was now of pension age but apart from this being the most logical reason to once again go along with her wishes, the transition away from Andy and Jane could also be staved off for a while longer with Bert still in the dark as to where his hard earned funds had ended up.

In becoming Ma's Carer, it would also appear for all the world, as though my saintly ways had returned with no one hazarding a guess that above any other consideration, the plans now afoot would place me in a position to check the mail in order to ascertain, which well organised collection agency of the Catholic Church had been entrusted with the bulk of her estate. At this stage there was nothing definite to go by; that Ma had entered into some arrangement with the Catholic Church in the same year Dad died was just a suspicion. That she would never endow Eamonn with interest from savings to jeopardize his disabled pension was the only real thing known. It was just that in remembering the 'three hundred' she was going to get for the old man and that she'd always lived on the smell of an oily rag, there must have been more than disclosed in her latest Will. The other question was; considering the mini strokes she had been experiencing; was she in any fit state to make decisions which virtually ruled out providing future assistance for those of her children most in need?

As Michael and Celli went hammer and tongs as to whether the walls should be rendered or plaster boarded and many other aspects of the nightmare work ahead, other than hoping my meagre savings would cover the grand plans being discussed, I had more to think about. Beforehand, when Ma had suggested I move into the Tin House with her, my reluctance had been more based upon the state of the place than any resentment toward her for what this house had cost me. The way the Tin House had been decked out, was to such an extreme that in crediting myself with an element of taste, it was always going to take something very dramatic (like a third world war breaking out), for me to ever have gone there to shelter for any length of time. I may well not have been viewing Ma in the same way I once did, but as by the time those shopping trips began, much of the disbelief once experienced was fast dissolving into pity. Had Ma not been in such need of rat sack and surface spray, it may well have made a difference to only have had a patchwork of recycled frills to contend with.

Celli, in having finally secured a job in a country quarry, driving dump trucks, wasn't going to be around to assist with the renovations. This task was to be Michael's and mine alone. However, on the Friday evening after Celli and I had gone to buy Ma's new bed, it was just as we were tucking into some Chinese food which Celli had had delivered from one of her regular take away haunts, that the knock on the plastic trellised door of the sunroom was the sole incident to change Michael being the one in charge of the renovations and put Celli in his place. Celli wasn't going to be driving dump trucks anytime soon. It was a policewoman who was calling and in noting the uniform through the clear plastic door, Celli said casually, be it with a hint of annoyance, ''I know what this is about''. In then pulling the contraption of a door aside, she took what was handed to her for me to hear the policewoman say: ''You can serve a counter A.P.O''. A shiver went down my spine. What was an A.P.O? How come I couldn't be in Celli's company for more than five minutes without some untoward incident occurring? After the policewoman left, I asked Celli what an A.P.O was, to which she answered, ''An A.P.O. is an Apprehended Peoples Order, it used to be, an Apprehended Violence Order, but the wording's changed.'' ''What's going on''? I then asked, only to be given a rundown of how, this guy, who lived down the road had been menacingly following her in his car for around two years, until she finally confronted him in his driveway where, apparently, some pushing and shoving took place. Celli had seemingly felt quite within her rights to accost this menacing man upon his own property which, unfortunately for her, was looking more like it was she who was the aggressor and especially so considering it was the menacing guy who'd seen fit to issue the A.P.O. Ouch. So, in now having to visit the police station the following week over some silly spat which began with a big dog on a long lead going for one of her little dogs, Celli now had to waylay the job secured in a country area driving dump trucks. This meaning, as there would be an upcoming Court case where a magistrate would order that both parties stay away from one another. Celli wouldn't be 'getting a life' quite as soon as she had hoped and would be instead free to take over Michael's role of organising the renovations.

During the three years Celli had been living with Ma, many friends had come and gone but as she was still friendly with an elderly furniture and rubbish removal chap who happened to have a son and his mate looking for work, it was due to these contacts that a ready supply of labour was provided to begin the work. Payments were to be in cash which suited everyone but as I wouldn't have any cash until visiting the bank, the latest bundle of notes Ma had stashed in the safe were used for the initial and very necessary removal of rubbish surrounding the place. An embarrassing load after load of rubbish then went off to the tip. Celli settled into becoming the 'Project Manager' and appeared to be really enjoying herself. Michael on the other hand, needed to continue driving his taxi in the city during the week, making it impractical for him to oversee operations. With the situation now as it was, Michael nevertheless continued to rule from a distance and was on the phone to Celli constantly until the work to be done was somehow organized between them. On the Sunday evening after agreeing to become Ma's Carer and dropping Michael back at his apartment, I was soon after to hear from him. He had received the first call from Seamus in almost three years; or since the Christmas of 2008 when Seamus had said what he had about me. I was informed that Seamus wanted to buy the Tin House and also that he and Debbie were irate at the content of the email Celli had sent. Clearly, in the email Celli had speedily sent off, the worst of which had only referred Seamus and Debbie as, ignoramuses, had had the ramifications expected but why on earth would Seamus want to buy the Tin House? Was it because with Ma, in hospital, he figured he could get the Tin House for a song? Or was it because he had a secret yen to build a skyscraper and reclaim the long lost sea view? And why did he give such short shrift to Michael telling him I had put my hand up to become Ma's Carer, to visit the hospital the following day in the belief he could convince Ma to go to an Old People's home? Was this because he cared about her welfare or about mine? Was this why he chipped in to say, ''She's not going back'', when one of Ma's friends, visiting at the same time, said to Ma, ''You'll be glad to be going home?

Wherever Seamus was coming from, it seemed as well I had thought to get Ma to sign her name to an agreement I had written outlining her preference to return home, as what with work on the Tin House to commence A.S.A.P. and me emptying my bank account to pay for renovations to pass an O.T. inspection, it wouldn't exactly be appreciated if this was going to be one of those times Ma changed her mind. Not that this agreement would get me very far if Ma did, it was just that by now I'd learnt that no matter who you were dealing with, it was always wise to have what had been agreed to in writing and signed. Ma had also acknowledged that after leaving hospital, it would be necessary for her to go into respite while the necessary work on the house was carried out. Envisaged at the time had been a room in a local Aged Care facility for around a month but in Gerard and Susan swaying John and his wife to take Ma in, Ma instead went back to the house we'd moved into when first arriving in Australia. This was the option she preferred but due to the distance now involved, Ma, fortunately, wouldn't be in a position to inspect the work as it went along and I would only be able to communicate with her by phone or letter which, was probably for the best, as she would no doubt have objected to most of what was being done. Envisaged at the time also was that tabs would be kept on Ma by the O.T. and that an inspection would still be necessary before Ma came home.

In knowing of Seamus' desire to buy the Tin House, Michael's interest in becoming involved in the renovations escalated, as it was the following day that he arrived and increased the payments of the two 'boys' who Celli had organised to do the labouring; payments which beforehand the boys had been more than happy with. Michael also paid the electrician more than he'd asked for and gave Celli permission to purchase a load of timber in order that new fencing and retaining walls be built. This work was apparently, to make the property 'dog proof', of all things, which was surely unnecessary with Celli soon leaving to 'get a life'. Or was she? I'd be pretty annoyed if she wasn't, as my rationale in paying for the renovations and to become Ma's Carer, would not have been agreed to by me if Celli was staying on.

In parting with the first batch of notes withdrawn from my account, which were handed to the now 'Project Manager', to be doled out to what was now a team of tradesmen, all of whom were being directed in their duties by Celli, it was as she went about calling out, 'Cash, Cash, Cash', that it was a little too late to begin feeling uneasy. After all leopards never change their spots, do they? But then if it hadn't been for Michael and Celli, the movers and shakers, Seamus wouldn't have been stopped from buying the Tin House, and no matter how things went from this point, anything was a better scenario than that.

As I'd needed to give a fortnight's notice at work, initially I could only be at the Tin House from Thursday to Sunday and it had been on the first of these Thursdays that I wondered what 'the boys' were doing building fences in the garden when they'd been employed to renovate the house! In then meeting up with Michael, after chipping him for spending up big when there was yet no way of knowing how much everything was going to cost, he wasn't pleased. After all he was the boss! Anyway, he told me of the discussion he'd with the builder Celli had lined up and said this builder just laughed when he asked if the sunroom could be saved. The builder also said he was reluctant to stand under the deck as it was about to collapse any minute and that most of the timber in the place was riddled with white ant. At this point, in it being clear my savings would go nowhere near the amount required to build a new sunroom or any major reconstruction for that matter, what should be done?

Over the years, for one reason or another, as I now only had one parcel of Shares worth hanging onto, the question now was, should I relinquish these Shares to attend to the non-cosmetic, or settle for the patch up approach Ma would have taken? Although I was sure Michael was angling for me to sell the Shares as he himself would never do any job by half measure, I didn't need his input to make the decision needing to be made.

Now in a predicament reminiscent of when Ma came after me to repay the balance of that loan, what needed to be decided, was whether to take what had so far been outlaid on the chin and walk away, or do as I had done when Bert's estate was in danger of being sued and see the job through, believing the day would come when my efforts would be rewarded. It was in this theory having been so much off the mark the first time around that the attitude of being, in for a penny in for a pound, was employed once again. If ever Ma's conscience was to be pricked; if she was ever to be reminded of the wrong done to me on that other occasion, then not scrimping on the renovations was best chance I stood. Meant to be! Perfect symmetry!

It was a Saturday night. Michael had finished his shift early and I had picked him up from the station. There the three of us had been, an odd crew, as the Infamous Five were but nevertheless with the same intent and getting along very well. We had been chatting away over a bottle of wine before Michael and Celli left me alone in the sunroom as they went upstairs to survey what needed to be done. In their absence, and in order to make a start, I thought to give them a surprise when they returned and began ripping off a few of the cardboard pelmets and strips of green felt covering the walls. Celli had been the first to reappear, and as she did, I found myself being screamed at; I thought we'd decided this was the last room to be touched. Don't touch anything again without consulting me. No such agreement had ever been arrived at and Celli was yelling with her face so close to mine it was very tempting not to smack it. In Michael then appearing, in obvious distress at the screaming he had heard, he was to counteract things going pear shaped quite so soon, in saying; "If you two can't get along then Seamus will win''. This statement perhaps revealed why he was involving himself to the extent he was, but in it being of even more importance to me that Seamus didn't get his way, although inwardly cursing the A.P.O. Celli had been served (as this was the only reason she was still there), I otherwise thought how stupid she was to allow her anger issues to be so misplaced as to drive the photo with my children's arms around her, further away.

Both Michael and I were unsettled afterwards. Neither of us could sleep. What is to be done when the abused becomes the abuser? What is to be done when, as Michael told me a few days after, Celli truly believed it was me who was doing the shouting and that he had needed to put her straight by informing her, "Yours was the only voice I could hear''.

In being too unsettled to sleep, that night was spent sneaking about dragging as much of the indistinguishable trash I had found so irritating over the years, down the driveway to await the first of the rubbish removal trucks arriving in the morning. When I was up on the deck removing, as quietly as I could, the mural of the beach scene along with the mounds of tat holding it up and anything else not creating too much of a racket when tossed over the side, in this endeavour being before the builder told Michael the deck was about to collapse at any minute, it had been thought the swaying felt was due to the wine I'd been drinking. A lucky escape! Going to show how lucky one can be!

Around a week later, Michael marched out, again falling out with Celli, as in times past. This time, as it was to turn out, determined never to set eyes on her again, which to this day has held true. Right from the start it had been on the cards that it would be either he or Celli who would walk off.



Michael's later note to family members-:

quod_scripsi
09/11/2011

Seamus - [Copy] Celli

At the outset, I would like to thank Diane & John for their bravery in looking after Ma whilst suitable arrangements are being made @ Copa for her desired return. Ma wants to return to Copa rather than go to a Nursing Home.

I disagree with the conduct of both Asumpta & Celli by way of Telephone & Email in exchanges with John concerning Ma's well being. I refused to see Copy of said emails, nor have them sent to my email address. In the least, both Asumpta & Celli are in need of Anger Management Counselling.

John & I had a fall out some years ago on John describing me as an irresponsible Father, without his having the slightest knowledge of what was involved, what I had been through &/or done for my boys. In summation, the leaving of several million dollars in their Grandfather's Trust on the back of my winning the Australian Design Award in 1984 + the Federal Contract for distribution, Australia-wide of the Adjustable Desk, coupled with the first flat pack desk [with metal frame] - ever to be awarded by a Government body, the then Telecom, along with ancillary office furniture to suit.

Suffice to say, three of my boys now have University Degrees with another being a qualified Plumber. A Father's principle task is to Provide. Anything on top of that is a bonus, - where he need at least be around to enjoy & reciprocate other features coupled with Fatherhood.

John's defamatory comments were made whilst he smoked Marijuana. Drugs are dangerous + are mind altering. I duly took the Bong, returning same to him in his Restaurant the following Christmas, getting John & Diane to open the parcel in front of Dad & Ma. The only regret I may have is I did not send John a Bong every Christmas thereafter - [joke].

Had Deborah & Seamus paid me the courtesy of a stand-in car whilst working for them, with the regular Company Vehicle being in for Service, I would have been able to continue my weekend access with my four boys in another Copa Property. Instead, I was told to catch a train from work, [Rydalmere-Gosford - Copa?]. Now, who would not resign under such circumstance?

I have lost my temper only a few times in my Adult life, once with John but twice in the past three weeks with Asumpta & Celli, the two in need of Anger Management Counselling. Strange, you might think, the writer suggesting Anger Management for the two he was embroiled in argument with & does not suggest same remedy for himself?

The two argued heatedly three weeks ago over a stupid matter with Asumpta wanting to rip the place apart there & then, in the Dead of Night with Celli, being her obstinate self, not wanting that to happen. For my part, I chimed in, letting them know I would quit the scene immediately if there was a recurrence, given the importance of task to hand. The recurrence occurred as recent as Sunday last, with argument between them as to whether the windows be open or closed whilst each smoked. This was followed by further outburst with Celli telling Asumpta to 'Shut Up', given the way Asumpta was being a pain in repeating something times over. This, along with other insults directed my way caused me to vacate the premises at 10.15pm on foot, eventually making it back to Chatswood by Taxi as there were no Trains due to Rail work. I had also travelled to Gosford by Taxi only four hours earlier.

The IP involved in the redesign of Copa is entirely mine, financed by Asumpta. I want you to know because of its [eventual] looks. viz: Downstairs Rendered throughout, new front deck [only] with Laminated Timber Support @ Front end - on just [2] brick piers. New Sun room with Queenslander windows. New bedroom for Ma [Laundry conversion], new kitchen, new bathroom.........none yet finished.....cock ups beyond this point, are NOT down to me. There have been 30+ [one tonner] trips to the Tip.

I received nought but objections from Celli at each stage. The dangerous deck around the place had to go, she didn't want that to happen. The Carport had to go, she didn't want that to happen. The Trailer had to go, she didn't want that to happen. The place be Rendered throughout, she didn't want that to happen. I suggested the [two] labourers employed be given separate pay rises at different times to keep them from getting work elsewhere [etc], she didn't want that to happen. Celli gave Counter instructions to the Plumber, resulting in a Villaboard wall ín lieu of cement render & blamed the Plumber for it - leaving a note for other Tradies - that the Plumber's work had to be checked. What a bloody disgrace, libellous to boot.

I claim no credit for the Concreting because I am out of there before the pour - would not be surprised if the three lines of bricks & old Cement weren't taken up where the Carport once stood, she didn't want that to happen. If that's the case, the concreting concept suffers. It probably suffers at the back end, anyway, as Celli would have doubtful Landscaping ability. Likewise with the kitchen, if the pantry Cupboards don't reach the ceiling. The meddlesome one, didn't want that to happen & instead will probably expose electrical piping or have [2] different height Cabinets. No consulting there on things Structural. Just moves in & does it without reference.

Who built Copa?

A move afoot also on her part in suggesting Render not run down the back of the floor cupboards in kitchen - without consideration for the state of the outside brickwork, after nigh on [40] years of poor drainage - where Render ought continue down the wall mixed with additive - sloppy workmanship + cockroach Country between back of cupboards + wall at the first sign of moisture. Cockroaches easily eat through damp particle board. What too of Shower waterproofing?

Asumpta has since apologised for her part in the contretemps referred to. Have waited for an apology from Celli, which, surprisingly [?] has not been forthcoming. Asumpta had been playing [admitted] games of Attitude throughout my expensive [3/4 hour] Sunday visit of last Sunday, for which I have no time.

Am doing an 'Útzon' on Copa + Resigning from Family. Would hardly be expected to return to Copa without having had Control to completion or risk seeing finish of inferior manner. The experience leaves me without temper but tired with the tediousness of it ALL & ashamed to belong to such a disparate Family - for [some of] the reasons outlined.

As I am not to revisit Copa, it follows I will not be seeing Ma again. Head of Family quits as Head + of Family too - will retain contact with Eamonn. Am Creatively busier in my life than ever before - Conflict kills Creativity.

Farewell, Michael

Promulgate through Family.

At this stage of developments, it would be safe enough to say, I'd been given reason not to have too high a hope that either Michael or Celli would be in for the long haul. But, it was also safe enough to say, that without them, even though there was no more to overseeing the renovations than giving a few orders and doling out the cash payments required, things would never have got off the ground had it been up to me. Had Celli not been served an A.P.O. and Michael had not marched off into the night, I would have been stuck with no idea how to deal with 'the boys' and other workmen who only Celli and Michael appeared to have a rapport with.

The trouble from the outset had been in there being three chiefs; two antagonists and me, the third party willing to spend yet more on the Tin House in exchange for continuing on with a lie; a lie which this time around was first and foremost engineered to discover how the Catholic Church intended to get its hands on the funds it was considered were a perfect example of Charity beginning at home. Not that the Catholic Church was a charity. Ma just believed it was. I may well have been given much to be unnerved about in how the renovations on the Tin House were progressing but this wariness paled in comparison to what I believed the future held when it came to Ma's worldly possessions. It was for this reason more than any other that even after getting the first taste of what I could expect with Celli on the scene, I had hung in there regardless.

After Michael had gone and as the work went along, in Celli paying rent on the flat arranged in the area where a the job driving dump trucks had been secured; a job needing to be put off due to Celli being issued with an APO, I suggested she take the cost of this rent out of the bank notes I was handing to her and that she also reimburse herself for the cost of Ma's new bed. To this Celli yelled, ''Wow, cool bananas!''. In fact Celli said, 'Wow, cool bananas' a lot, or whenever she was really pleased with something.

While I kept myself to myself, painting the newly rendered walls, sorting out Ma's belongings, of which most were thrown on the rubbish pile and being the general dogs body, Celli swept up after the workers saying as she went, ''A clean workplace is a happy workplace''. At the finish of a day spent sweeping and preparing a costly lunch for those who were fast becoming her friends, Celli and the workers would enjoy a few beers together. I never joined them and was never asked to. A pecking order had developed. I was the queen bee but Celli gave the orders and jealously protected her authority. Nothing had been discussed that this would be the way things be, it just came about naturally. If I wanted anything done, I would speak to Celli, not the workers, and otherwise stay out of the way.

Celli would also put her hands to her head, saying: 'Oh my head, my head', as if she was the only one doing anything, or that it was her head on the block rather than mine. Without a doubt, had it not been for her efforts in securing the workers and overseeing operations, things wouldn't be going along as speedily as they were, or maybe not at all. It may well have been that Celli soon adopted the role of Chief to view those she was surrounded by as her Indians but if there was any blame to be attached to her grabbing hold of the reins she had been handed, a tad too tightly, it could only be levelled at me. When the work started, Celli had been only too grateful to be included. She had been looking to me for instruction. Only in part did I stand aside to help Celli overcome her lack of self-esteem. For the rest, Celli had the interest to make a start on the Tin House, whereas I would have needed a rocket put under me to be of the same mind. Celli also ran up the stairs a lot because her bedroom was where the cash to pay the workers was kept. With the house being in total disarray, her bedroom was the only safe place as there were two padlocks on the louver doors; a requirement seen to when she went there to live with Ma three years before. Whenever Celli left the room shared with two little dogs, these padlocks were religiously bolted. No one, not even her mother or me, was trusted to enter her sanctuary unless she was present. Weird! But this was the way it was. Celli's bedroom was not a place into which one would just wander. Celli's bedroom was either as it was due to it being the only area of the house she could claim, as hers, or else there was something in there of a secret nature!

Running up the stairs one day, Celli said, "I would like a dollar for every time I have run up these stairs''. To which, instead of acknowledging her efforts, I answered, "Think of it as exercise''. There I had been at this particular time thinking Celli understood that part of why the reins had been handed to her was to assist her self-esteem. There I had been at this particular time ignorant that Celli's yen for power was increasing at the same rate my funds were dwindling. Celli viewed the dismantling of what had taken Ma an age to create, as removing the trauma. She made an analogy with what was taking place to an occasion when Dusty got into a hen house and slaughtered some chickens. She said that by the time Dusty was found, it was too late and after dragging him home, she returned to remove any remnants of what had taken place from the perimeter of the slaughter scene. Celli had once been told that if even a feather was left on the roadway, this would act to remind Dusty of the trauma of that day and he would straightaway attack again. It had never occurred to me before to make an association with 'trauma' to explain the state of the Tin House. If Celli was right, then maybe by removing any reminder of what had caused Ma not to be able to stand the sight of an empty space, upon her return she would be more at peace?

Rewarding Celli's efforts by way of having her rent paid in the area where she planned to drive dump trucks was, among other misconceptions, to unfortunately result in the opposite of what had been intended. 'Wow cool bananas', was soon after the renovations began to be heard less and rather replaced with an attitude that this particular outlay on my part was the least to be expected. It was only around a week after receiving what had been thought to be a generous offer that, apart from the workers, Celli also began dictating to me. The first indication that Celli considered it was she and not me who was steering the renovation ship, was in her rising a little late one morning. There I had been putting the finishing touches to a paragraph when, in noting me sitting at my lap top, with a scowl on her face, Celli asked, "Have you made the boys coffee''? Inwardly fuming in being asked such a question from one who, only a few days before, was only too grateful to be included in the renovations, I resisted answering in the way I wanted to. I did not say that the boys could make their own bloody coffee, considering how much I am paying them. Neither did I react to Celli further stating; "I think it only fair that we take making the boys coffee in turns!''

Even in the early stages of the renovations, what more should have been expected for taking a back seat, to once again to find the origins of the present dilemma as easily forgotten as the case with Ma had been? Shortly after this potential skirmish with Celli had skilfully been avoided, to my utter surprise, no doubt due to me appearing idle, she then began organizing clearing up jobs for me. These jobs were varied and all considered, to be more my forte. To begin with, in Celli now going way beyond the cheek of expecting me to make the boys coffee when I was paying their wages, it was in her self-esteem building by the day, that if only to see the work done, I went about obeying her orders. To see the two of us over those first few weeks, one could be forgiven for thinking it had been me who had been issued an APO. In Celli throwing her weight around as much as she was, one could be forgiven for thinking it was she who was the boss. For the first few weeks of the renovations; doing what I was asked of by Celli would continue to be my approach. This was until one Sunday morning when I changed my mind, when I was underneath the deck, wading in a foot of water.

During a raging storm, as instructed, I was endeavouring to rescue the newly purchased pieces of furniture which were stored there. In being lashed by torrents of rain coming at me from all directions and the water I stood in being surrounded by the electrical cables belonging to the kitchen appliances now in the outdoors, it had been in Celli appearing at the front door to state, "I will say this for you Sumpta, you don't mind getting your hands dirty'' that I began to do a re-think on how much Celli's self-esteem was worth. In eventually joining Celli in the dryness, the time had arrived to put an end to her dictates, among which had been, that I was not to touch the garden as the garden was hers. When Celli said this, although I was made a little nervous as to her intention of moving on, I otherwise considered this demand to be so far outside her jurisdiction that it was seen as half amusing. In now, however, being determined to take charge of yet another dilemma I had allowed to get ahead of me, it was considered that if the garden was hers, then the garden was where I should start to assert my superiority. It was while rubbing my wet hair with a towel and glancing out of the window, that I drew Celli's attention to an overgrown garden bed. She came up to the window to stand beside me. In pointing to the bed in question, I said, "The shrubs there need to be separated before the summer''. Celli groaned, "I am far too tired, I will do it another day''. I responded in saying, "Well, if you are not going to do it, I will''. Well, so much for my effort to take control, as just as soon as saying what I had, instead of turning the tables on who was in charge, I was once again to find my face was sprayed with spittle as Celli yelled back: ''I told you the garden was mine and you are not to touch it.'' This tirade was responded to by me telling Celli she had a voice like a fog horn and that I never wanted to hear it again. In all the dealings with Celli over the years, this was the first occasion I had retaliated. This was the first occasion I had put saying what was on my mind ahead of continuing to feel sorry for her. At the time the renovations started, Celli was only too grateful to be included and that 'top dog' status was the furthest thing from her mind. Granted, had I wanted to dominate, my chance would have been then, not weeks in, not after Celli's yen to feel important had taken hold. But how could it have been predicted that Celli would actually come to believe, that because it was she who had organized the workers, then her input had been on par to mine? How could it have ever been predicted that there was never going to be any escape from Celli's ongoing abuse, other than to cease speaking to her? From this point, I was only ever to speak to Celli again on one other occasion. This was when Celli later threatened to tell Ma about my writing a book on the past.

When this instance occurred, the work on the Tin House had been progressing for around a month. A few days before, I had asked Celli to put 'the boys' on an hourly rate and to only use them when absolutely necessary. This request was made because funds were running short and all seen ahead, unless belts were tightened, was financial embarrassment. The cost of the new sunroom, bathroom and kitchen, had been calculated into what my funds would cover, as had some other vital work. It was just that the labour 'the boys' were providing could have gone on and on unless there was some cut off point. It had been to my dismay not to be listened to, that irrespective of what I had said, Celli was to continue calling out, ''Cash, Cash, Cash'', at the end of each day to follow. Celli's answer to my plea for sensibility was to tell me she would put funds in if mine ran out. In having become so carried away at seeing the Tin House transformed, Celli, who viewed Master Card as no different to actually having a quid, was now heading towards further debt to ensure more was done than could be afforded. Why was Celli prepared to go to these lengths when, to begin with, she had been so vehement in her stance to leave the Tin House to get a life? Why did she appear to have lost sight of the fact that the only reason the renovations were taking place was because she had not been prepared to remain? Should I have been as unnerved as I was in Celli stating at the same time as offering to take care of any shortfall in costs, that the renovations had got into her blood? With a clear recall of what past experiences of Celli involved, would anyone's blood have run as cold as mine did in hearing this said? In considering these past experiences, would it have been enough to make anyone feel as threatened as I did, to hear Celli further state, as casually as you like, "Now the place is looking so much better, I may as well stay'' and ''I'm going to have lots and lots parties''.

There was need for Celli to use her Master Card towards the end of the seven weeks the renovations took. In us still not speaking, it was not known for exactly how much. Overall, Celli made a good job of making ends meet. Before going to collect Ma, who by this time was at the end of her tether in staying at the Coconut House, my last contribution towards the renovations was to replace what had been taken from the safe at the start. Over those seven weeks I had been keeping Ma abreast of progress by writing to her on a regular basis and also talking to her on the phone. Nothing was mentioned of any ructions between the original renovating crew of three. The excuse for the work taking longer than expected had been to explain that the white ant problem in ceilings and structural beams needed to be replaced. It was in recalling the regular purchase of surface spray on our shopping jaunts which put me on safe enough ground here as I knew she would appreciate any cost cutting measure. How Ma would react, though, to all the other changes and to also find the trauma from her past gone, was still in the realms of the unknown. Also unknown was whether Ma would be so thrilled with my latest display of false generosity, that she would acknowledge the unfair treatment of me in times past? Would she understand how wrong it had been to take me to task when I had no more involvement in that loan other than put my name to it in accordance with her wishes? Would she begin to back track on past errors in judgement to put things to rights? Would she begin seeing the way things were rather than how she wanted them to be? In me now agreeing to remain with her; an outcome she had always been angling for; would my continuing presence give her the strength to resist leaving the bulk of her estate to the Church and instead steer these funds towards where they could do more earthly good? Would we once again be at one for what was left of her life?

When I went to collect Ma from the Coconut House, in Celli and I still not speaking, all that was known by Ma of any contribution Celli made to the renovations, had been in noting the new fridge and cooker arriving. I had paid the deposit but that was all. By the time Ma was due to return, it had not only become clear that Celli had no intention of going anywhere, but long gone too was the expression, 'Cool Bananas'. Long gone also was any semblance of the situation existing when the renovations were first discussed. Over the previous seven weeks, irrespective of the amount expended by me or that Ma had only gone along with the idea of renovating the Tin House because I had finally agreed to remain with her, Celli had become so overly confident, that no reason was seen by her as to why it should not now be she who ought be looked upon by Ma's number one daughter. In this regard, much angst against me then ensued. Irrespective of Ma's frail state of health, Celli was to get into her ear at any given opportunity spouting such as: "You don't know what she's like. Even though I was upstairs when Celli was down to Ma's little room, I could hear quite clearly the pathetic efforts she was making to supersede me as Ma's Carer. Ma became so rattled by Celli's seeming determination to destroy what was now in place, that after Celli ignored being told on several occasions, that if Sumpta left the house, it would be sold. Ma's final way of helping her to understand her place, was to first move the garden tools she kept in the hall cupboard to the outside shed and to then reallocate some goods of Celli's, which had appeared in what was once the linen closet.

On each occasion Ma interfered with some of Celli's property, it would be me who got the blame. We may not have been speaking but this didn't prevent Celli from eventually approaching me in a threatening way to scream: ''Touch my things again and you'll get it''. In Celli keeping a set of sharp knives beside her bed, one didn't have to guess at what had been meant by this outburst which was such an upsetting experience, I couldn't sleep that night for the pain in my stomach and the itching from a breakout of hives. On the morning to follow, Ma only needed to take one look at me to know something was wrong. I told her what had happened and that because of this I needed to get away. Ma said that she reacted to stress in the same way I did; she said that Celli was a bully; she said that Celli complained about being bullied in every job she'd ever had but couldn't relate to being a bully herself. Ma asked what had happened to make her the way Celli was when up to the age of seventeen she had been so submissive and placid. I didn't say what my theory on that score was. Why bother when it was all too late now anyway?

I was still considering when best to leave, or where to go next when Ma sorted out the problem with Celli in her own way. There were now three parking spots at the Tin House. One spot where the old carport had been which was now large enough to fit two cars and another under the house. Due to it having been Celli's idea to replace the poles with a support beam to hold up the living quarters, she had claimed the spot under the house. Trouble was, that with her trailer parked in the centre of the other spot, my car needed to be parked in the road. Ma often complained to me about Celli ignoring her request to park her car beside her trailer, leaving the space underneath the house for my car. After all, it was my car that served as her transport. She also complained of Celli being a guest in her house but not behaving like a guest should!

A day after Celli had told me I would 'get it' for touching her things, Ma took the opportunity to teach her a lesson. No sooner had Celli's car driven out of her spot than dragging noises could be heard under the house. Upon checking, there was Ma with that determined look on her face and fairly shaking with rage, pulling every item she could lay her hands on in order to block Celli's re-entry. 'Better stay out of this one', I thought, 'wouldn't want to be getting It'! Going back to whatever I was doing in the upstairs, the next thing heard was Celli's car followed by some cussing and more dragging noises. I was to then hear an argument which took place just below the open window I sat beside in the upstairs. Ma, shouted, "You will not bully me''. Celli shouted back, "It is her who is the bully''. Ma said, "You will take your car from under the house right now and park it beside your trailer. It's about time you understood your place here. You are behaving like a fifteen year old. I am so angry I could slap you''. No more was said. The only sound to be heard after this altercation was the motor of Celli's car starting up. And in looking out the window, all to be seen was Celli moving her trailer to one side as she parked beside it.

When Michael was on board, in the driveway only going so far before meeting up with trellised arches and garden overgrowth, his plan had been to have all the workers lined up to salute Ma as she was driven right up to the front door. But alas, in Michael no longer running the show, Ma's return was a far cry from what had been envisaged. Although she was still driven up to the front door and in the two hours it took to arrive I had attempted to fill her in on the changes made, her first reaction to what she saw was to exclaim in horror, "Oh no, you have destroyed my sunroom!''. After such a bad start, upon entering the house Ma was to find an empty space where her kitchen once was and the boys still in the process of replacing the white ant-ridden beams above her en suite, before the ceiling could be installed. To Celli's credit, the job she had taken on was being completed according to requirements but then had it not been for the erection of new fencing and retaining walls at the start, the internals would have by now been completed. All in all, though, especially when taking into account the disharmony between the three remaining members of the Famous Five, it was nothing short of a miracle that any changes to the Tin House ever got off the ground. Ma could not have put it better herself, as she had said when first hearing of the three who would be seeing to the renovations, "Those three couldn't even run a chook raffle, hee, hee, hee''.

When the wad of cash was taken from the safe to pay for the truck loads of rubbish carted to the tip, it was impossible to resist checking what else the safe contained. Of most interest to me was to discover if, other than the Power of Attorney document, whether I would also find the bank statements containing the proof of the repayments I made on that loan. These statements had been sent to Ma along with the Power of Attorney document over a decade before and I now needed to know if they had been held onto. Of most interest to Celli, was the piece of paper; the personal agreement between herself and Ma detailing the amount she was to repay over and above the Viridian Line of Credit. This was the amount loaned to Celli to pay off her car and Master Card. There was no sign of the statements I was in search of and the piece of paper of interest to Celli was immediately removed and taken into her keeping.

Other than a few bank statements detailing the payments made directly into Ma's account by Seamus, in the statements I was after no longer existing, if only for a moment it really did feel as though I had imagined they ever did. There was only one insurance policy which, as thought, would not even pay for a single economy trip overseas. As thought also, there was no evidence of savings earning interest enough to put Eamonn in danger of losing his disabled pension. There was the Share Certificate I had handed to Ma over, years before to compensate for the mouldy bank notes taken to the bank to exchange for a cheque, by now was not even worth the paper it was written on: Just another Company gone broke. In noting an unsealed envelope with my name on it, I of course looked inside. In this envelope were two pages. These two pages, to my utter dismay, contained a version of the events I remembered only too well, none of which tallied with what actually happened. The two last lines did however contain a bright light; the only proof to ever come my way as to whose idea it was to send the amount Celli received in order that her land could be given to the Church. There Ma had been, nine years before, telling me this latest twist in her affairs was due to me having taken a notion; that she had issued no such instruction; and here now was written, that this particular outlay was to be considered by me as donated to charity! It was in fear of never seeing these pages again that before placing them back in the envelope, I raced off to the newsagent to have a copy made.

Also in the safe were two other pages of interest to me. These particular pages were from the Commonwealth Bank and in relation to how that loan had managed to see the light of day. Only in reading what I now had in my hot little hand was it realised that that loan had been issued to purchase Shares in Contract Distribution Systems. In this being the first time ever known of any such purchase, did I now have an explanation for what the young loans officer back in 1990 altered on the forms filled in by me? Had this young man's eagerness to assist the great guy who had him in stitches back in the days of the Butler Road branch, been enough for him to alter the original application entirely? Did this make that loan any more legal?

Over the seven weeks before Ma's return, I also scanned through her diaries which were lined up on a book shelf; no doubt left for posterity, in order that her children might know what her life had involved since she began writing them in 1985. That is if any of them cared! Ma had done a creative writing course which I never knew about and the first entry in her diaries was so beautifully written, it must have been an example of what she had learnt. In 1985, Ma was sixty three, two years younger than I was when her diaries were being flicked through. She wrote about how there would be more order in the world if people obeyed rules. She wrote of the chaos and mess people created. Clearly when Ma was sixty three, she was somewhat removed from the chaos and mess she was about to create herself! She wrote that she had lost sight of her destiny; that she wondered about life and her part in it. She wrote that she might become modern and see a psychiatrist. Even as far back as twenty six years before, mention was made of her not being able to walk far; that she had little control over which way her feet wanted to go. In scanning the first few pages of Ma's diaries, the content could have broken my heart, but only if I let it; only if I once again allowed myself to be so easily blown off course.

In delving deeper into those diaries to check certain dates, it was the omissions within them that helped track how long ago it was since Ma began formulating her own version of events. The conclusion reached was that it had been right from day one. Although there was mention made of the weekly amount received for doing Michael's bidding, nothing at all was said in regard to how that loan came into being. Just that it had been granted. By the time those crazy letters were sent to me eleven years later, over which time I had said nothing as to the position I had been placed in, it would now appear this time had been spent by Ma solidifying the rot of her own creation. No mention was made in the diaries of Ma telling me that loan would be put into her name, or of the conversation held to bring this decision about. There was no mention either of the insurance policy I had been asked to take out to cover her should anything happen to me. There was in fact nothing much written at all as to the truth of what the past third of my life actually involved.

There was mention made of the Stat Dec Seamus had been sent and even some criticism of him for leaving her in the position he had. But in this regard, with my Marriage Settlement as a backstop, there was no need to emphasise Seamus' obvious deception in this matter. The only aspect of Ma's diaries she appeared to have had a problem with, was the day we met in the hospital during dad's last days. Half of this particular page had been glued over to be replaced with a clean sheet. Whatever had been written originally had gone the same way as anything else from the past that Ma did not like the smell of. The page in question now stated that the rift between us had been caused by my refusal to move into the Tin House with her; that I had wanted her to sell up in order for us to buy a house closer to the city and that she had not been willing to go along with my wishes. Nothing was said of the 'three hundred' she would be getting for dad, leaving only God to know where that three hundred would now end up! To summarise what took place between us in a hospital five years before; it was stated that my attitude towards her was just as much a part of grieving for the loss of the old man as had been the case in Patsy not saying goodbye to her at the wake.

In scrambling through those diaries, all that was clear was that Ma appeared to truly believe nothing happened in the way I maintained it did. Particular proof of this was in locating the date when those crazy letters began to arrive. The least expected was for some explanation to exist in order that I might piece together the reason I had been taken to task in such a way. But any alleviation of the horror I had been dogged by for over a decade was nowhere to be found. There was only one entry referring to those letters, for this entry to just simply state that I would be receiving a shock for being such a Prima Donna, that I could look upon the money I was receiving as a personal gift. There was no sign of the regret I had hoped to see. In fact this entry had been made in such a mater-of-fact way that directly afterwards, was written, "Must visit the doctor to have my bladder problem attended to''. The diaries also gave some insight into Ma's belief in the Lord, as it was stated that she left her children to God long ago as He would know that she could not look after them all. As for the neglect of her and the old man during their years of retirement, it was stated that she had mourned for all her children long ago.

Celli had been the only one there when a lady volunteer from St. Vincent's came to the gate with a certificate thanking Ma for her generous offering of a tenth share in the Tin House. And I was to laugh and laugh afterwards when Celli re-enacted what her stance had been. "I wasn't rude', she said, "what could be rude about just standing there saying nothing'' It was in Celli going about showing me what her reaction had been to this woman mentioning, nervously, that sometimes the families of benefactors held objection to such generosity, which had me in stitches. In taking hold of the envelope containing the certificate of thanks, Celli just remained tight-lipped, motionless and wide-eyed until the volunteer from St. Vincent's had been given little choice but to back away.

Each Sunday I took Ma to Mass. Ma had saved her week's energy in order to attend. There she would sit, too weak to kneel, and to only stand with her little body quivering, when she felt up to doing so. If I ever cursed a religion whose dictate it was that a one way ticket to Hell would be issued for not attending Mass on a Sunday. It was during those two years I was Ma's Carer. Considering the effort Ma went to in order to even get herself ready, in my opinion this depicts a sad lack of compassion on the part of a religion which places more emphasis on what the elderly may bequeath than on their wellbeing. Quite apart from there being no responsibility taken for Ma's body and nervous system being wrecked from following the Church's teachings to the letter; after all what was there to complain about when St. Theresa hobbled about on a gangrenous leg!; all said by me in this regard, is that if I were in charge of doling out the Mortal Sins, they would be headed towards those who are so blind they cannot see, than towards faithful little old ladies.

Over the two years I was looking after Ma, there were only a couple of Sundays when Ma missed out on going to mass. These were occasions when, because of her ailing condition, she did not even have the energy to dress, let alone walk to the car. Fortunately, though, according to her belief, she was aware that in such instances she wouldn't be dammed to spending eternity gnashing what was left of her teeth in the fires of Hell.

It was around sixteen months into my quest of checking Ma's mail in order to ascertain which Catholic organisation had been entrusted with the bulk of her estate, that one Sunday as the two of us were seated in our usual pew, miraculously, a small brochure with a picture on the front of Rosary Beads strung around elderly hands, slipped out of the Catholic Weekly. In noting the words, "Thinking about your Will', this brochure was quickly slipped into my bag. Shortly after this unexpected delivery from heaven, I wrote to the address supplied to gain further information. Using the address of my post office box which, due to the uncertainties of the past, I had hung onto, a few days later, the subject of my interest was there to collect. In reading the choices available as to how one's earthly shackles could best be disposed of, easily seen was what Ma would have selected. The first, sitting like a thorn between two roses above and beneath, was notification of an investment which didn't need to be part of one's estate! And the other, that a "philanthropic fund" could act as a perpetual gift to be set up in your name to benefit a specific area of the Church's work! Philanthropic fund! Investment! Perpetual Gift! Did these not all boil down to the same thing? Were they not all offering a chance to rule from the grave? Were they all not offering to serve Ma with a means of giving away her worldly wealth at the same time as knowing it was still there? Perfect! Who could question that these brochures were blatant in their attempt to snare the faithful? And who were these faithful? Well those like Ma of course; those who become so confused and weary, they would consider it normal procedure to give their children to God to look after.

Ma and I sometimes went to the church where dad's funeral was held. The trees once framing a picture postcard building had by this time gone and the cobbled surrounds cemented over. The quaint gate lending to the once charm of this church had by now been replaced with a red iron commercial contraption; an effect which, overall, made the little church look quite out of place in its now stark surroundings. ''Trust the Catholics', I thought. Never had any taste!

In being apprehensive about what other trouble Celli could cause once my car was parked under the house, it was in fear of her mentioning what I was writing about to Ma that I got in ahead of her. What I said to Ma was; "I just want to explain that I have been writing my version of the events of the past twenty odd years which previously you have disagreed with.'' There I had been expecting nothing other than a roasting when, to my surprise, in response Ma said, "Well, we have all got our own way of looking at things''. In being so astonished at this reply, further stated by me was: "I cannot think what the motivation was.'' To this, before returning to the crossword she was working on, Ma just casually said: "God told you to do it''. Nothing more was said.

Sure enough, it was no more than a day or so later when Celli marched out of her room to announce, "I am going to tell Ma all about your book." From the day Celli yelled at me and I told her I never wanted to hear her voice again; which would have been a couple of months before, I hadn't said one word to her until this point. "If you do", I responded, "then be prepared for her already knowing about it." At this, Celli began to stammer ''Well" I have already told John, that you're going to murder ...my mother by pushing her down the stairs..I will be keeping my eye on you''. In hearing this, I had to resist the impulse to race towards Celli and push her down the stairs. If, at such a time, all on Celli's mind was to destroy the only opportunity to come her way since God knows when, of being accepted; be that so long as she learnt her place; what was the point of her continuing to exist? Not that pushing Celli down the stairs would have got me very far as she would have overpowered me in an instant. It was just that if personal appeasement was the extent of her comprehension, what chance was she ever going to stand out in the world on her own?

If I was ever asked what the worst of my experience since taking out that loan had been, the few weeks before Ma's return and the experience of Celli since would have rated highly. Twenty four years later, I was not only to first find Celli carrying on as if it was her cash being spent but later left to question whether, in going along with her still being there, that no one would need to look any further than me to find a 'psychiatrists dream' among the Murphy clan.

When the carpet man arrived, it was in answering the door that I noticed the sunned look upon his face. He said; "As I drew up I thought, oh no, not this place again, but in looking about I realized something had changed!? I replied, "But if the carpet here was laid twenty five years ago, how could you remember that far back"? To which the carpet man answered, "You never forget the bad ones." Ouch!

There were some instances, it was to be shown, that Ma in fact had a photographic memory and this memory was to come into its own on her recalling almost every item thrown away. "I used to have a barbeque? or "where has my terrarium gone? were just two of the cries I would hear over the months after her return. In there being so much missing and also in an attempt to make Ma's last days as stress free as possible after all the upset with Celli, it was to follow that, even though there was no need of any replacements, I was to race around on many jaunts to Vinnies to purchase any recognised items from the shelves and also to Department stores to replace anything else Ma appeared not to be able to live without.

On taking Ma to visit the doctor who maintained there was nothing wrong with her brain, it was as this doctor listened to her heart that she was asked, "How are things at home"? Without missing a beat, Ma answered, "They have put me in the bathroom and thrown out all my furniture and clothes." This comment was qualified by me in telling the doctor to take no notice of her as the house was a picture compared to what it once was. And Ma's doctor would have known what I was talking about, as he had asked Celli, a couple of years before, when she was applying for the Carer's pension, whether Ma could use an Occupational Therapist and in Celli answering, ''Sure'', he had exclaimed: "Isn't the O.T. going to get a surprise!"

Celli was to depart from the Tin House in early January. Ma and I were to return from mass one Sunday morning to find she had gone. Upon walking into the room at the top of the stairs which Celli once shared with two little dogs, the only reminder she was ever there was to be found on the wardrobe shelves. Celli had left behind the drinking mug Ma had given her for her fifty fifth birthday. In Ma being largely bed-bound, this mug, with a picture of a dog on it, had been purchased from a catalogue; catalogues were Ma's way of shopping as had been the case back in England when she couldn't get out due to having so many children. Here, as plain as day, was a protest; a message to Ma of what Celli thought of her gift. But then whatever Celli was given, be it a measly mug or the deposit to buy a house, it was never enough. Nothing was ever going to make up for a youth devoid of nurturing; nothing was ever going to make up for the visitation experienced in Ireland at seventeen years of age.

Ma was living in as much fear of Celli as I was. She may have maintained this wasn't the case but there were a couple of occasions when she had an Angina attack in believing Celli had left her calling card. The first of these occasions was in her discovering a plant ripped out of the front garden and the other was in finding an envelope with Celli's name on it in the top drawer of her chest. Both of these instances were explainable. A dog was the most likely responsible for the plant being ripped out of the garden and the envelope had been there all along, it just had not been noticed previously.

There was one more item left behind by Celli. And that was her house key. In understanding perfectly well that Celli would never have left without having had a copy made, I should have had the locks changed to alleviate the concern of her letting herself in willy-nilly whenever it might suit her in the future. Had I just had the locks changed, every Sunday Ma and I returned from mass, I would have not been left with the feeling that Celli had been in the house; I would not have been wondering where my computer memory stick disappeared to.

It was after Celli had left the Tin House that I first learned of the written agreement she had with Ma not being returned by her to the safe, taken from the safe in Ma's absence. The agreement made to repay what Ma had loaned to Celli to cover both Celli's car and Master Card debts. Ma was so upset about this that she showed me cheque butts to explain that Celli owed more than the Line of Credit used to purchase Celli's latest house. Ma made an appointment at the bank to extend the original amount of this Line of Credit to include the amount of the agreement Celli had made off with. A couple of months later, in Ma viewing her bank statements and in it being apparent Celli was making no effort towards paying off either debt, Ma asked me to take her to the bank again in order that funds to cover the interest on the now increased Line of Credit, be transferred within the banks? system from her own pension account. Ma said at this point, "Michael took all your money and now Celli's taking mine.? In hearing this said, although I made no response, my blood was boiling. On the face of things, because Michael's business was responsible for gobbling up the proceeds of that loan and for all the world it would appear what I had been saddled with was as Ma said, I just couldn't agree. Nothing for me had changed since day one. Irrespective of knowing that at the time Michael would not have hesitated in securing funds in any way possible, the fact remains, it was not Michael who asked me to go down to the bank. It was not Michael who made those two phone calls.

Eamonn began speaking to me again. He said that he had needed to distance himself from me in order to prove he could "go it alone." He said it had been a stress to him worrying about how he would manage if anything happened to me. Of course this was a load of Bull. I knew very well that Eamonn still blamed me for initiating his situation. I knew he would never let go of his resentment towards me for taking him to the Community Centre all those years ago, which led to his illness being diagnosed. I knew he was trying, but that he was fighting a losing battle.

Celli was at the Tin House on that first Christmas spent on my becoming Ma's Carer. The second Christmas, Eamonn was there. Michael hadn't been heard from since he'd marched out declaring that Celli and I could build our own house. The Famous Five had lost much of its original gloss. Until Eamonn returned I had been the only member still flying the flag. This was a disappointment but what was to be done other than welcome Eamonn back into the fold which I sensed wouldn't be for long? It was nice for Ma just the same to have another of her children with her for what was to be her last Christmas. As for the others; well, same old, same old! Ma put it in a nutshell in simply saying: "That is the kind they are."

Seamus and Debbie were only seen on one occasion after Ma returned from respite. Maybe they had felt too uncomfortable rooted to the chairs they sat in as Ma, overly excited at seeing them, chatted away none stop for the two or so hours they were there? Or, it could have been more because they were as conscious as I was of the elephant in the sunroom; was this the last seen of Seamus and Debbie because they were shame-faced about their actions in regards to past misappropriations?