My, how the years have rolled by. Twenty-nine years ago today Sarah Jane was born, and I was there to see her arrival. It was one of the happiest days of my life because I had always wanted a daughter. And she arrived to a busy household – her brother Daire was just three, and his little brother Alan a mere 16 months.
She was born at a very difficult time for myself and Trish: Alan was seriously ill with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and would die a few months later, while Trish’s health went through a rough phase in the following months. And yet there was this beautiful bundle of joy oblivious to what was unfolding around her.
I remember that little baby never sleeping through the night. For the first 22 months she tested my patience – but not my love – by always knowing when I turned the key in the front door when I arrived home from work. No matter that it might be 3am and dad was exhausted, she would cry until I brought her downstairs so she could play with her toys. Thank God for Sky Sports and to cricket which I quickly became addicted to. And then one night she slept until the morning and that was the end of that.
She was a tomboy, happiest in jeans, climbing trees, turning cartwheels on the green, getting herself into scrapes. Most unladylike. I remember fondly the time I took her to Mass and she stood on my thighs, this little trusting girl planting kisses on her dad’s face. It was wonderful and yet so embarrassing when she wouldn’t stop and I exited the church rapidly, although I was smiling as I did so.
She never took any notice of my face – I was her dad and all dads are wonderful! I do remember one incident, though. I was asleep in bed when she bounded in, jumped on top of me and then stopped. Her eyes looked at my face as if she had just seen it for the first time, and she stroked the scars around my chin. Then she looked at me, smiled, gave me a big kiss and ran off to play.
Dresses and Sarah Jane just didn’t go together and she suffered them for as little time as possible. She talked a lot – a family trait! – and it was probably the only black mark in her school life. She played rugby in the boys team – did I mention she was a tomboy?
Secondary school saw her change as the years rolled by. She began to wear dresses and lead a busier social life, acquired some boyfriends, and announced she wanted to study law. A very determined young lady sat us down to explain her dreams and we gave her our full backing. We couldn’t afford to send her to Trinity like her brother – the recession was just starting – but we promised that if she went to university in Cork she would never be short of money.
I’m liable to put my foot in it whenever I open my mouth, but she was kind enough to put up with these fatherly gaffes. I admire her patience and her forgiveness,
We watched her blossom into a very confident and beautiful young woman and there was no prouder father than me. She explained her dream of going the London route with law, which meant loads of flights for interviews, and then her boyfriend moved to London, which meant even more trips. She was slipping away from us, of course, following her career and romance, but you can’t stand in the way of your children – after all, we had our own dreams once.
So now she lives in London where she works as a lawyer, and is now Mrs Tadhg O’Leary. I miss her – the requests to drive her here and collect her there, but also the hugs and kisses she gave me freely. The house is a lot quieter without her around, and yet she’s only a phone call away. FaceTime ensures distance isn’t a problem any more, plus we also see her photos posted on Facebook.
I’m not sure how she’ll react when she reads this blog, but I’m sure it’ll begin with “Oh, dad….!” Thanks for a wonderful 29 years Sarah Jane.