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My father-in-law had his 70th birthday celebration in the pub last Saturday. I wore a wine-red velvet dress with a black lace collar, black tights, and black broderie anglaise ankle boots. With my heavy gold hoop earrings and my hair pinned up into a bouffant bun, I was pretty and ready to go. After dinner, I peeped into the pub and saw faces: aunties, uncles, cousins, who haven't seen me since my dad died. Lovely, kind, well-meaning people. So I crept upstairs and sat on the bed I used to sleep in when I would visit from Galway for the weekend. I thought, I will take just a wee nap.

When I woke up at 3 am, I felt ashamed, regarding my face in the bedroom mirror, makeup slightly smudged but otherwise intact. I imagined the white box with the cake in it, not yet candle-festooned, to be lit and set aloft, ablaze, by loving hands and presented to the pleased patriarch, himself wreathed by the happy faces of kinfolk. I should have been there, singing and smiling.

I also thought of the last birthday party in the pub, mine; of my father dying the following night, while I was chasing the hair of the dog with neighbours and new friends; of hearing the news, hungover, time irrevocably understood as two eras: before and after he died.

So I was also relieved. All those people I didn't have to talk to. Sorry, so much sorry, sorry all night. So many eyes eager for news and attuned to my performance of grief. The poor girl, mourning her poor dead father.


Today is my 3 year wedding anniversary; it's also the anniversary of the last time I saw my dad.


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