We said goodbye to a good friend today.
Tim was my husband’s best mate and drinking buddy and was a year younger than me. As a wry writer friend of mine recently observed it seems like we are all just baby antelope meeting at the watering hole each night at sunset when – WHAM – an alligator just leaps up and picks another one of us off.
Tim was a good bloke and eerily like my husband. Both slim, follically challenged Clash fans – they were doppelgängers as well as mates. I don’t remember the first time I met him, but I remember the first time my husband met him. I had ‘discovered’ this great community of friends in Killala – blow-ins like ourselves. One of them was a family who were also new to the area. A blonde bombshell Sabine and her English husband, a wry ‘computer-head’ called Tim. They had a pretty young daughter called Gemma, and a lively toddler called Fin who was the same age as our Leo. The minute I met Tim I knew he and my husband would get on so I decided to use him as leverage to persuade my husband to leave Dublin and see that Mayo was a cool place to live. Sabine and I managed to manouvere both men into her kitchen one Saturday but our plans backfired as they failed to ‘connect’. It was my first time observing what I can only describe as Extreme Testoterone Socialising. Sabine gave Niall a can from Tim’s beer cache in the scullery then Niall stood silently drinking it as Tim entered the room. Our host looked my husband up and down, picked up a beer himself then walked out of the room to continue whatever it was he had been doing before we came in. Niall held his nerve, continued drinking the beer then boldly helped himself to another just as Tim re-entered the room. Cans in hand, the two men circled each other silently then, unable to bear the tension any longer, I dragged my husband away.
Niall said nothing one way or another on the way home. I rang Sabine and said, ‘Was that a disaster or is it just me?’
‘They will be fine,’ she said, ‘they are just checking each other out.’
The following weekend Niall went into The Village Inn and Tim was standing in his spot on the left hand side of the bar.
‘Pint?’ he said to Niall.
‘Pint,’ Niall said in reply.
Over ten years later they had the same opening gambit.
When my husband put his coat and cap on after a hard day’s work I’d know he’d just received the ‘pint’ text from Tim. I knew where both of them would be standing at the bar (the far end near the back door) and that they would order their drinks with barely a nod to their landlord and friend Aidan. Sometimes they would sit in unwinding silence then after an hour go home to their respective families. Other nights they would ‘get going’ and talk and argue late into the night. Other pub regulars would join them, and sometimes they would be parted by conversation with other company but no matter who else was there, was a thread of understanding between Tim and my husband, a deep friendship connecting them. They were so similar, both had an old fashioned quietude about them. Sometimes their silence was serene, although sometimes I read it as masculine buried anger that was holding its tongue. However, the two men could always read each other.
‘Tim gets me,’ my husband once said about his friend. I know he meant the world to him.
The whole of Killala and its hinterland came to pay their respects to Tim. He was the man who bought broadband connection to our internet-challenged outpost so was well known in the area. He and his wife Sabine were not Catholic but our priest Father Paddy loaned them the church for a civil service which included the playing of a Clash record – a first – as was my reading the lyrics of his favorite pop song, Sit Down by James. It was an uplifting celebration of his life.
The cremation in Dublin yesterday was Tim’s final goodbye. Although nice things were said and more music was played I could not help but feel desperately sad all through the short service and even afterwards as we toasted our friend in a pub in Harold’s Cross. Another young man, a good man has died, leaving a wife and two young children bereft. Another seemingly pointless act of God that has left me feeling empty inside. On the way home on the train I put my hand on my husband’s arm hoping he would understand that sometimes, I ‘get’ him too.