By Aine Greaney.
My father never told us that he loved us. Instead, Dad fixed the things that we loved. Decapitated dolls. Wobbly kitchen chairs. Pinching shoes. Give my Dad one hour in his backyard shed, a few whirrs and clanks from his messy toolbox, and … Presto! Whatever had been fractured was (almost) good as new again.
Dad worked 60-plus hours per week as a lorry driver for Ireland’s state-run freight company. In the busy season, the Guinness Brewery sub-contracted with his company to make extra beer deliveries. In Ireland, believe me when I tell you that there is no busier Guinness season than December and New Year’s.
So by Christmas Eve afternoon, Dad was still working, and our tree always stood, trimmed but unlit, in the window of our front parlor. It never occurred to my mother or any of us five kids that anyone but Dad should or could engage in the Grand Light Showdown. Only Dad could get those miniature lights working and strung.
Our house sat directly across the street from the village church, so we were under deadline and surveillance. In country villages like ours, tongues really wagged—especially during sold-out Yuletide ceremonies. So before our fellow parishioners arrived for midnight service, whatever it took, he had to get that tree lit.
Now, over four decades later, I can still see him standing there in his lorry-driver’s uniform, testing, twiddling, and then, when he found that one, recalcitrant bulb, he would dead-head and fix it until … We had lights.