International Women’s Day 2020

‘To My Mother & Aunt on International Women’s Day 2020’

Written by Helena Byrne 9th March 2020

There’s a long running joke in my family; that there was a two-for-one offer when my father married my mother. My mother and my aunt Ann have always been inseparable, and long before I was a twinkle in my father’s eye, my parents became Ann’s guardians. She’s been a precious part of our family ever since.

Yesterday was ‘International Women’s Day’ and I found myself thinking quite a lot about this, and about the women my mother and my aunt are.

My mother Mary encapsulates the typical Irish mum. Throughout the years, both as a mother and as a psychiatric nurse, she has spent every day of her life taking care of others. At four years old when I’d get home from school, she’d make me toast with chocolate spread. I’d munch it down while watching ‘Bosco’. To this day, it’s the best tasting toast I have ever had. In my teenage years of boys and heartbreak, there was nothing quite like a hug from mum to make everything better. In my early days of performing, mum would be standing in the wings, even more nervous than I was that all would go well.

When I think of my aunt Ann, I think of pure joy. When we were growing up, Ann would play music in her bedroom, the likes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. Not only would you hear the music blasting out of the room, but Ann would be singing along so loud that you could hear it in every spot of the house. Now and again, you’d hear dance moves pattering through the floorboards too. When myself, my brother or sister were sick, Ann would bring us a cup of tea to make us feel better. If one of us was crying, particularly my mother, Ann would cry along with us. She has always unapologetically loved cheesecake, and a hot whiskey before bed was paramount.

Ann was born in an Ireland that sought to hide away people like her. She was seen as inadequate, a lesser person. How wrong they were. Ann has been twice the person most people strive to be. She is both an aunt and sister to my brother, sister and I. She is both a sister and daughter to my parents. She has made us better people and a better family.

For the past number of years Ann’s health has deteriorated, leading to her requiring 24 hour care. With the help of my father, my mother nurses Ann day in and day out. The love between my parents and Ann is so palpable that I’ve seen people taken aback in its presence.

I always knew my mother was caring, but recent times have shown me just how strong she is too.
There is no applause for my mother when she feeds Ann or when she bathes her. It is done out of utter love, because of the unconditional, immeasurable love that Ann has given us all these years.

So, to my mother Mary and my aunt Ann; Happy International Women’s Day. I hope you both know how wonderful you are.

Other Pieces Written by Helena

‘Discovering a Family Tradition – The Making of ‘Scéal’’

‘For Martin – A Tribute’