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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

At the end of the Earth

So, here I am, at the coast at last. Been a couple of years since I just upped and drove out here for a night on a moment’s notice. At this time in the morning (8 o’clock) there’s one hardy soul wearing a wet suit, paddling water and looking over his shoulder in the hopes of a wave big enough to carry him ashore. When I arrived here yesterday afternoon a couple of beach parties were under way, and the smell of saltpeter in the air from a few fireworks I just missed.

It was Father’s Day a year ago that Dad threw a terrible wobbly during my visit to Northern Ireland, and the family reunion I’d planned had to go ahead without him. I didn’t blog about it at the time because it was too upsetting. My nephew had flown in from England for it. My brother and sister-in-law had flown in from Scotland for it. My eldest brother, who worked weekends at the time, had taken time off from work for it, and I had timed my visit from the States around it. Let’s just say that old resentments never settled between a couple of members of the family reached a head (not me!), ending up with Dad refusing to go to the restaurant, and calling his girlfriend with an hour’s notice to tell her so. The rest of the family made the best of it, and in Irish gallows humor even managed to laugh about it. But I certainly had a hard time understanding that level of... well, downright childishness. I vowed it would be the last family reunion I’d attempt putting together. None of them had ever been particularly successful. Except perhaps, for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary just before Mum died. Last year after the dinner I drove back to a dark, empty house. Dad had gone to bed early, taking both dogs with him and shutting his bedroom door. A gloomy homecoming to a home that wasn’t even my own. But… enough said. Like all families (hopefully!) we all survived to tell the tale.

That next day Steve, Moya and I drove out with the intention of heading directly up to the north coast to see Dunluce Castle, probably my most favorite place on Earth. But somehow we ended up staying on one of the two motorways there, all the way to Omagh instead of cutting north to the M-2. And once we realized we were almost at Omagh, it was a hop, skip, and jump to Derry/Londonderry (heretofore referred to as Stroke City) where Moya’s Mum and Dad lived. We had a lovely visit, but then by the time we’d driven back toward Dunluce Castle, we only had literally five minutes for me to look at my beloved ruins before we had to hot-foot it back to Dad’s for dinner. After the disastrous night before we didn’t want to be late. Thou Shalt Eat Dinner at 7 o’clock, saith the Dad. There Will Be No Deviance From This. Ever. Unless the Creator gives one a special dispensation.

At Dunluce, like a heat-seeking missile, I honed in on a group of American tourists and we all took each other’s photos in front of the castle. I knew I’d be back the following year when I did my annual ‘Dad visit’. Except here we are, over a year later, and I have no plans to go back this year, for the first time since I immigrated here. But we’ll see. I have enough air miles to upgrade to first class (oh, joy!) and every week that passes I feel better and better. (At least I do now that I’ve actually stopped pretending that I didn’t need convalescence like normal people after surgeries and radioactive treatment!) Being bull-headed didn’t work in this instance. I simply had to accept I was human and act accordingly. So far, so good. Pity I had to be selfish about it and cut all people out of my life for a while. But really, when it comes down to not offending them and your own survival, there ain’t a choice, now, is there? In some cases, (not anyone in particular so don't take offense!) :-) people weren't ‘nourishing’ for me and I simply couldn’t deal with them while I needed to concentrate on getting through all the challenges I had to face. But got through it I have, and I finally feel that I can begin to look ahead to the future once more.

You know, I never intended this blog to turn into a tell-all confessional. But there’s something very wonderful about being this honest and getting all the great feedback from readers and friends. I know so many people now, who have gone through such similar experiences to me. A lot even worse. The things that people have shared with me would make your hair stand on end. So many brushes with death. It certainly changes a person’s perspective.

It’s raining lightly now and I’ve moved to sit in the passenger seat of the RV so I can still watch and hear the waves. Last night I put a lawn chair at the edge of the earth (as I like to call it), poured myself a glass of Moscato, and watched and ebb and flow of the waves as the cloud-filtered sun slid slowly down and was swallowed into the horizon. I was pleasantly surprised at how kind people in an RV park are when they realize you’re a woman on her own. At least 5 groups of families stopped to say hello, and I had 3 invitations to dinner. I politely declined all, and eventually I was the last person out there as the sea turned from its twilight shade of gun-metal gray to foaming shadows.

And now it’s time to begin packing up and heading out. I’ll enjoy the waves just a little longer, though. The ocean is so soothing. Next time I’ll stay more than just one night.


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