THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Mary McEvoy’s house has a pram, carrycot, feeding chair, nappies, toys—she marvels that once again she has babies to care for.

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Just when I thought I had been there, done that, bought the teeshirt and tie-dyed it … I became a grandmother.

The millennium brought me Jennifer Jane, firstborn to my son Tim Carey and his wife Sinéad. From the beginning, she gazed upon her world with recognition, pleased by what she saw. She seems to have ‘an old soul’, knowing before it is possible for her to ‘know’. Her two-year-old mind races, her brain trying to keep up with words.

Aaron born in 2002, to Tim and Sinéad, is my second grandchild. Most likely, he is their last, as the national average is 1.8 children! He is calm and serious. He views his new world from furrowed pale brows. His expressions vary from puzzlement to concern, astonishment and even shock! If there are ‘new’ souls then he is indeed one such entity. His reaction to his surroundings fascinate and bewilder him. His expressions encompass ‘Who are you?’, ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What am I doing HERE?’ He is a cuddly baby and borrows into my shoulder as if looking for a nesting place. He takes his bottle with gusto, releases wind with gale force, and nods off most agreeably to that sleep of babes no adult will ever experience again.

Mary Kate, an auntie of two years, has taken to her role with ease and joy. She has never been spoiled or given special family status by anyone, so her identity was not threatened by the next generation. She is moved by their vulnerability, fascinated by their development, and thrilled to hold them in her arms.

Some day, Jennifer will pass Mary Kate by in language development and reading skills. It will be interesting to view this dichotomy, once again. When Tim passed Mary Katy by (she is two years older), neither noticed immediately, but over a few years the transition was complete and irrevocable. The younger brother became the older brother, and the older sister became the younger sister. Tim always treated Mary Kate with respect and personified Rousseau’s belief that children are predisposed to goodness. When she couldn’t keep up with him, he seemed to know instinctively and accept that she was not to blame for her inadequacies.

Mary Kate is enormously proud of Tim’s achievements: when he was a forlorn and muddy goalie defending the net, on stage in Oliver at the Olympia, signing books at the launch of his two history publications, in his wedding suit, and especially at his role as father. In my non-objective opinion, not only has Mary Kate never hindered Tim’s success by being a sibling with disability, but at the very least, she has given him a wider perspective on life.

My house (yes, thank you very much, I survived the floods of February 1, 2002) has a pram, carrycot, feeding chair, nappies, toys and other baby paraphernalia. I marvel at the fact that, here I am, once again with babies to care for. To me, that is what life has always been about—caring. It’s all I ever really wanted to do (except for that time when I wanted to change the world!).

Children are by far the most endearing and beautiful of creatures—open, trusting, curious and sweet beyond belief. Sharing early years with a new generation is a pleasure and privilege.

From the beginning, Jennifer has exhibited an innate respect for Mary Kate. Aaron, a June birth, has yet to distinguish her from other adults, but he soon will.

I am delighted they will grow up knowing their very proud Auntie—Mary Kate—because she will teach them lessons no one else can. I also know Jennifer and Aaron will bestow upon her the love and respect she deserves as an individual within our family … for they are part of Tim.

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