I didn't know my Granddad growing up. He was there, walking around, cap in hand, or sitting in his chair, but I didn't know him. My mother told me that he was always talking and playing with them when they were children. I couldn't believe it.
When my cousin was born almost 18 years ago, when I was 13, my Granddad came back to life. A child around the house again stirred him out of his quiet. I continued to ignore him. I had no memories of him speaking to me kindly or bouncing me on his knee, so why should I bother I thought?
When my Granny got sick 13 years ago, when I was 18, he would get up before her, make tea and bring it to her in bed. He'd light the fire and feed the animals and other jobs she used to do. I didn't come down, I couldn't bear to see her that way, weak and without her hair.
Over the years he softened and so did I. I grew up and realised a number of things. That my teenage angst had gotten in the way of me knowing this man, my mother's father, my Granny's husband, and that really he wasn't so bad after all.
Now, on the weekend of his 90th birthday I know him better. I understand his ways and I accept them. I believe he's earned the right not to change or fall in line at this stage.
So, on the weekend of his 90th birthday I want to share some of the things I know about my Granddad.
At 90 years of age he can still lift his feet for you to sweep under them. He can still remember every hurling match he has ever seen or heard. He will only go to Mass in his parish church. If he won the lotto he would go to Dublin. He has outlived all of his friends and his younger brother. He loves fishing, though I'm not sure if the appeal is in the catch or the peace. He won't go near the milking parlour after getting kicked years ago. He knows the difference between the two tabby cats by the markings on their tails. He played wing back for his local hurling team from 1946 to 1952. He won't drink out of the Fine Gael mug someone brought into the house as a joke, nor will he drink out of a china cup. His favourite TV programme is the news, followed by the weather forecast. He loves Oatfield Emeralds. He has lived all his life in the one house, from son, to husband, father to grandfather.
I'm glad we both grew up so that we could get to know each other.