See Instalment 1 here
Doyle, Una, loving mother of Elspeth and Isobel, mother-in-law of Austin, grandmother of Gretchen. Passed away from cancer at the Health Sciences Centre, St. John’s, Newfoundland on Monday. Visitation today at Darcy Funeral Home on Boston Way, St. John’s between two and nine o’clock and tomorrow between four and seven. Una was the creative force behind September Rock, the annual drama festival in St. John’s that featured new plays from across Canada. She was also a poet and writer and featured regularly in The Telegram along with other publications and taught drama at various summer schools around the province. Her two plays “Sighs from the Rock” and “Ages Ago” won various awards and she had just completed her second book of poetry, “Death and Other Newfie Jokes.” Funeral is on Friday at eleven a.m. from the Basilica. Donations to the Cancer Society. Cremation. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Cancer Society or to the Una Doyle Foundation, established at Memorial University to encourage young playwrights. She has left us the gift of her amazing joie de vivre.
Una. His Una. Oh God. He had a ridiculous thought amongst all the panic stricken ones in his head. It hadn’t said she’d struggled. He’d always thought how awful that was in an obituary, people struggling conjured up the appalling picture that they’d never gone through the four stages of a foretold death, the struggle came early, the acceptance came last. Anger was in there somewhere too and resignation. He forgot the order of it all, but he knew that acceptance was last. Maybe Una accepted? Oh God, he prayed she’d accepted, she hadn’t suffered. He bowed his head. Dear God, he started, she must be at peace? Please God. Peace.
Unbidden, startling, shocking, tears were flooding his eyes, steaming his glasses, salting his cheeks.
What’s wrong, Richard? The kitchen door had opened behind him; he sensed Doris’s uncertain presence.
Nothing dear, he said mildly, after a pause, shaking his paper and bending over it.
I thought I heard you groan or moan or something, a strange sound? Doris didn’t move from where she was.
He managed a h’mm, dismissive, the sound he usually made, he thought, never having been so aware of his own sounds as he was now in this minute.
He heard her releasing the door and it swung gently for a few seconds. All was silent again until she once more turned up the television.
He had never thought it would end like this. He had thought Una, who had been so present in his head, in his very body it felt like, for these last eighteen years would always walk in St. John’s. Would somehow be tuned into him too. Like a secret radio station. She had never stopped coursing through his blood, thinking about the way she would laugh, the way she would read some of her poetry to him, the way she’d call him stuffy, the way she felt in his arms, how he would lift her up and bury his face in her neck. He carried all of that around with him all the time. Una. Lily of the Valley was her perfume. George Harris was her favourite Beatle. Amber yellow was her favourite colour. Her left knee had a hole where she had a terrible tumble from a bicycle when she was six. Her hair had a life of its own that no cut or perm or treatment had ever tamed. Her fingernails were always bitten. Her bottom lip had an indentation in the middle. She would laugh about her permanent little pot belly that had cradled her twins and like the mark of Zorro would never leave her. She called it her double oven.
Are you sure you’re alright dear? It was Doris again, this time he watched her sensible pink slippers pad over to where he sat, his head bowed. He took his glasses off without looking up and unpacked his Irish linen handkerchief from his cardigan pocket and dabbed at his eyes.
A cold, I think, Doris, I’m coming down with a bit of a cold. And he blew long and hard into the fine fabric.
You’re making the most woeful of noises, Richard, are you in pain? Doris reached over to touch his shoulder and pat it diffidently as she would a stranger. They had long ago lost the maps to each other’s bodies.
Sorry dear, Richard said now honking for good measure into his hankie a second time; I’m having some difficulty coughing.But I’m fine, fine, he amended quickly. Quite fine. Allergies, perhaps.
Doris hesitated for another second then left the kitchen again. Back to her morning dose of talking heads.
Richard went to the hall and put on his coat, his cap and his gloves and glanced in at Doris in the family room.
A breath of fresh air should fix me, he called, timing the sentence to coincide with the second he moved through the front door. He closed it quickly and headed off down and around the corner up Forest Road. He was a good fifty yards up the road when he could have sworn he heard the door open and a faint Richard? trail up the air behind him but he didn’t acknowledge it and thought he heard the door close in resignation. Forest Road, moving in the direction of the hospital. What on earth? Keep moving, he instructed himself, just keep moving. Away from the house. Away from everyone.
It could be a mistake, Una Doyle. There must be many Una Doyles with daughters, twin daughters named Elspeth and Isobel right? Many co-incidences like that in life. A common name Doyle. Very common in Newfoundland. How old would Una be now? Fifty, she’d be fifty, no age given on the death notice. She was fifteen years younger than him.
He slipped into Quidi Vidi park. Their bench. She couldn’t wait anymore. This was where she told him, stealing all the magic off the bench when she left it for the last time. Eighteen years ago next month. He sat and leaned over and stared at the river. He hadn’t thought she’d meant it after their magical two years together. He banged his fists off his forehead, desperately wanting to hurt, wanting a bodily wound, a visible bruise, blood. How could she die and he not know? How could she suffer without him holding her? How could she leave taking her lips and her ragged fingernails and her voice and her poetry and the golden brown of her eyes that matched the freckles on her breasts just so?