Updated: Jun 11
This month, I am delighted to have Theresa, another true stalwart member and friend, our Parliamentarian, long-standing member and occupier of many Board positions, introduce herself and give her brief history to us. I think you will agree when reading her contribution that she truly is a great writer — no wonder she guided the Book Club so well these past couple of years! She has sent me some “different” pictures to attach to her piece; unfortunately I cannot copy/paste them so cannot attach them to the piece she has written — sorry!!
On August 7, 2008, I was standing outside my rented beach flat in Venice, California, chatting with a neighbour. I happened to be returning from a nice long walk with my two Vizslas, Jonah and Sophie. In two days time we would be off on our next adventure, a new life in Ireland. Colin had left before us to get ready for his new teaching post at the University of Limerick and I was in charge of selling our home of twenty years, a chore that we thought might take months, but in fact happened in two weeks. Hence, the rented beach digs.
But, as capricious fate would have it, my high-spirited four-legged companions decided to forgo their years of semi-committed ‘good-dog’ training and lunged for a hapless Bichon daintily walking across the street. I spun round and round like a top clutching their leads, and finally let go only to crash heavily on to the cement sidewalk with a loud crunch, the unpleasant sound that accompanies the breaking of bones, in this case the top of the humorous. (The Bichon laughed as he scurried to the safety of his owner’s arms.)
In three days time, I made my entrance as a permanent resident of Munster more than slightly bruised, with my left arm useless in a sling, and groggy from days of pain medication. My new life was about to begin.
I had fallen in love with a particular house that I saw on-line while still living in
Los Angeles. The house was in the heritage village of Ballina. We were subsequently told by Colin’s colleagues that Killaloe / Ballina would be an ideal place to live. We decided to buy the house although instinct warned that the “Tiger” was dead or dying and holding tight would be a smart move. We bought our lovely cottage and yes, the bottom fell out of the market shortly after. Promised pensions and salaries were cut and we joined our new countrymen in bemoaning our losses.
I had retired after twenty years from my position as Editorial Director, at the Center for Civic Education in Los Angeles, developing textbooks in the areas of law-related education. I had a team of talented people that I worked with and whose company I really enjoyed. We were intensely deadline driven and committed to producing quality texts that had to have congressional and academic approval. I had been overworked and by the time I retired was quite exhausted. The Centre agreed to keep me on for 18 months doing free-lance editing while I lived in Ireland. However, without the camaraderie, I was happy when that tenure expired.
I found myself at loose ends and had not made any close friends in that first year and a half; I was beginning to question the wisdom of leaving family and grandchild (at that time there was only one) behind. From an overly full life of caring for elderly parents, having my sons, their families, friends, and a full time job, I ended up in a strange country with only my dogs to keep me company. And poor Jonah, more highly strung than his sister, was having an equally hard time. He proceeded to destroy the furniture and take revenge on the house for the loss of his pool, his home, and the sun.
One evening after joining the Killaloe book club, I met another California-American ex-pat. Her name was Michele and she took me under her wing and brought me to an IWO meeting at Eileen Sherry’s house. Eileen was another American ex-pat who had lived in Ireland for decades. The women that I met were warm, open, and extremely helpful with advice. The Irish members shared cultural insights and clues and the ex-pats commiserated and shared their experience.
I now have life-long friends and an amazing IWO support group: Sarita dropped everything and drove out to help when I marked eight years in Ireland by breaking another extremity-- my right foot. One member got much needed help when her house was flooded. We’ve visited members in hospital, shared grief, and given rides to those in need, and the list goes on.
I am very grateful for the women I now share my life with and to whom I owe much