Daddy’s Girl

I remember the first time
I laid eyes on you,
mo leanbh,
your face crimson with rage
as you screwed your eyes tight
and screamed the place down,
your anger a cluttered cacophony
of shrill sounds
laden with accusations.
‘What a powerful set of lungs,’
I thought, deafened by adoration.

I remember the first time
I held you,
mo leanbh,
your little body
deposited carefully into
the cradle of my arms.
I remember my surprise
at your sturdiness,
your strength when your tiny
sausage fingers
gripped my own like a vice.
‘A tough little nut,’
I smiled, imagining Saturday
mornings on wind-swept pitches.

I remember the first time
I took you to school,
mo leanbh,
as you trotted alongside
me, three skips to each of my strides,
so smart in your newly pressed uniform,
full of chatter and excitement,
not looking back as you danced
across the playground,
leaving me a sobbing mess
at the gates.
‘It’ll get easier,’ a fellow parent
soothed with a wry grin.

I remember the first time
you spent the night away from home,
mo leanbh,
your bag filled to the brim
with favourite cuddly toys
and your princess pyjamas
as your mother and I
sat alone on the couch
in a state of agitation,
the house filled with the
emptiness of your absence.
‘She’ll be having a ball with her friends,’
we reassured each other,
adrift in our loneliness.

I remember the first time
you brought a boyfriend home,
mo leanbh,
and your embarrassment at
the dinner table as
your two worlds collided,
your mother and I
trying to ease the tension
with our best small talk
and worst jokes.
‘He seems nice’, we probed,
as your barriers grew higher,
locking us out.

I remember the first time
you staggered in drunk,
mo leanbh,
the sound of the key
scratching against the lock
and the clatter as you
fumbled your way upstairs,
trying to avoid us
and our accusations.
‘It’s for your own good,’ I tried to explain,
my remonstrations falling
on deaf, defiant ears.

I remember the first time
the police brought you home,
mo leanbh,
the beam of the police car
illuminating up the street
like a lighthouse beacon
as you stood on the porch,
your blue-lit face full of angst
and defiance
as you shouldered past me,
leaving the policeman to explain.
‘This won’t happen again, officer,’ I apologised,
the words hollow in my throat.

I remember the first time
the hospital called us,
mo leanbh,
notifying us we could visit you
as you lay helpless,
the bed swamping your emaciated frame,
your eyes drowning in apathy
as we clutched you,
urging you to cling on.
‘We’ll fight it together,’ we promised,
sheltering you in our arms.

I remember the last time
we saw each other,
mo leanbh,
your face crimson with rage,
your anger a cluttered cacophony
of shrill sounds
laden with accusations.
‘This time you’re on your own!’ I threatened,
my heart filled with empty rage
that dissolved as the door closed
behind you.

I try to imagine the next time
we will see each other,
mo leanbh,
your arms soft, white,
unspoilt by needles,
your cheeks ruddy and dimpled
by the smile
crinkling your eyes.
You have gone on without us,
But we won’t be long behind you.

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