My mother’s name was Lily. Like the flower. She opened this café after my father died. He died across the road. In that hospital. I was a teenager. I suppose she needed a project. Something to keep her occupied. Excuse me a moment. A customer is calling.
“Would you like some more tea, love? Here you go pet.”
I was their only child. Then, I became my mother’s only child. She probably assumed I would fly the nest in the not too distant future and she would be alone. It was nice of her to think that I could have been someone. Pardon me, please.
“Hi Tom. How is she today? Good, Good. Sit down and I’ll bring over a sandwich for you. You’re wrecked, you poor divil, Sit yourself down and I’ll look after you.”
Where was I? Oh yes. Lily’s idea bloomed one evening soon after my father died. An epiphany, isn’t that what they call it? Well, she announced it in the front room like she was the national broadcaster.
“I can’t sit at home gathering dust like that old bookshelf over there. I’ll see about starting my own café. Opposite the hospital. Nothing fancy now, just tea, sandwiches, home-made cakes, soda bread and soup. You know yourself what I mean, comfort food. Food that gives you a hug from the inside. God knows, we all need that sometimes. While Jack was in hospital, I’d have taken any type of hug going.”
She never asked me what I thought of the idea. No-one asked me anything actually. They just talked at me. They all said the same sort of thing. They were “sorry for my loss”. They “remembered Jack fondly”. He was a “great family man”. Someone even said “he was mad into the hurling, t’was a pity he didn’t have a son to enjoy it with”. I like hurling. We watched a lot of sport together.
I better hurry up with that sandwich for Tom. He’s having a hard time. The wife hasn’t long left. He’s been in here every afternoon for the last three weeks. Same seat by the window. I’d say he’s keeping an eye on her window from here. See, you never switch off when they’re ill or dying. People will tell you to get some rest. But you can’t.
My father had a nice death I suppose. He died at noon in his own bed. Gaggles of aunties downstairs. I know he died at noon because the bells of the blasted Angelus were bonging him a final farewell. My mother was roaring at the bedside. Then, the choir started lamenting.
“Ah Lily, c’mere! C’mere Lily! Lily!”
I’m not sure if anyone spoke to me. They might have. It was a long time ago.
“There you are now Tom. And a nice little bun. No charge. You need a bit of looking after today I think.”
God help us, he’s a lovely man. Nice gentle voice. I like listening to him.
As is normal, the doorbell stopped ringing. The priest and the aunties stopped calling so often. We were finally alone with our grief when up pops the idea for this place. I couldn’t leave her do it on her own. She said she was able but she didn’t mean it. I suppose I didn’t really mind staying put. Everything happens for a reason as they say.
“You’re off Tom. Good luck to ya and I’ll see you tomorrow, please God. Thanks very much.”
He always says “Goodbye Ms Lily”. Like the name of the café. I haven’t the heart to tell him that’s not my name.