Adrift from the Mothership. A journal entry by Cathy McGrath

I feel cut off. My species feels threatened. The links of my lifeline feel thin and taut. All these feelings swishing around have a lot to do with a little germ called COVID, but they also have a little to do with a meeting over 30 years ago!
I met him in London. The first few meetings were loud and buffeted, in bars, in crowds, in drunken parties. The first thing I heard was he liked the ‘craic’. I studied him closely for drug use but the skin looked clear, the eyes bright and he never seemed to be on edge. Luckily someone soon put me straight; ‘craic’ is the Irish expression for fun. Then there was the second alarming thing I learned —I also heard he hailed from Ireland. As I had come from the snipped suburbs of outer Johannesburg I had only the ‘news at ten’ version of Ireland to go on —bombs, fighting in the streets, people hating others for their religious practices—actually very similar to the distorted version many others of the rest of the world at that time may have had of the country I hailed from. Anyway, things moved swiftly on and all these skewed misunderstandings got straightened out.
We became a couple, we wed, we lived in Johannesburg for a while, we lived in Botswana, we even lived in Victoria Falls for a spell—it was bliss. Then the dreaded missile was fired, he wanted to return to the home turf, his country was calling. It sounds weak that I gave in so easily but it’s this part of us that is inherently different, so indulge me with a little explanation. My family ’s roots are deep but they like to furrow, we’re the sort of family of ‘wherever you lay your hat…’. A home is where you make and all the rest. I love the country I grew up in but it doesn’t tie me, I know now, and I knew then, I could always love it from near or afar. The year was 1994. The world was so small. Traversing the globe was no biggie. So, of course, I agreed, the Irish pull to place was much stronger for him. My only stipulation was that I be granted leave to visit my tribesmen at least once a year, and this was wholeheartedly agreed to. I knew he’d come too because Southern Africa had got under his skin, it was a wilderness he loved.
First, two girls were born to us here In Ireland and my yearly pilgrimage to the southerly side was more strictly followed, I wanted our girls to know their grandparents and their cousins and so they did. Surprise, surprise a few years later a boy arrived and he too joined the annual travel plans to see the clan in SA. Unfortunately, our boy got very sick in 2004 which put a bit of a halt to our gallop as a family unit. Still, though I travelled with the girls, or he travelled with them, whilst the other stayed behind with our darling boy. In 2018 we eventually plucked and pulled and gathered the courage to travel en famille again, this time though with all the paraphernalia the boy needs – wheelchairs, ventilators, feeding tubes, the lot. But boy did we have a ball, and so did he. And so did the South African family (well I think so anyway). So much so that it became an annual pilgrimage again. We were so happy. But now that is all gone, it’s been whipped away.
My dear Mom is waiting for all to visit again and I feel severed from her. I want to sit in her lounge again, enjoying a cup of tea, in a teacup, presented on the tea tray, poured from a teapot with a tea cozy adorning, the way she always makes the tea. I want to sit in her little garden again and say hello to her birds; the wild ones she gathers with her kindness. I want to sit and chat and listen and gather her always sage advice. I want to spend time with my beautiful Mom. But, she says, over the long bouncy telephone lines, through the static and the echo, she says you will visit again, you will drink tea from my cozied pot again and you will twitter to my birds. And so in hope, and yes at least I have that as many others may not have that after this awful pandemic, I believe her and to her sensible words I cling. I know it’s selfish to wish the skies awash with flights again but I want so much to tighten my ties to my Mother country again.
To all mothers in this crazy world, near and far, lost and found, young and old, from your children, a hug.


  1. A beautiful love letter home. Hope you get over to see Mom soon xx

  2. This made me cry – I’m hoping you get to hug your Mom very soon.

  3. I hope things improve and you get your wish.

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