‘That’s the river we used to go swimming in,’ my dad told me, as we strolled along the bank.
My dad is seventy-eight now, and walks with a stick. His days of wild-water swimming are long gone.
As I stood there watching the river rush by I pictured my dad’s younger self running past us.
Leaping on to his bicycle. Taking off into the hills.
The whole summer – his whole life – stretching out before him, ripe as the apples in the orchard with possibility.
And now, here we were, almost seventy years later, retracing his steps through the Kilkenny village where he spent his holidays.
He showed me the house he stayed in, that used to belong to his uncle and aunt.
Bright flowers were painted around the door, as if in celebration.
I looked up at the bedroom windows, pictured my dad’s younger self grinning down at us, then gazing out across the valley, dreaming of the adventures to come.
We walked into the village square, where nothing much, it seemed, had changed.
Apart from the mileage of my dad’s memories.
I imagined his teenage self sauntering along those same streets.
I wondered if he ever stopped and thought about what was to come.
If there was ever a moment when the chimes from the church clock tower reverberated through his heart,
And he realised that time is more precious than gold.
And flows faster than any river.
When we set off from the village I left with a gift.
Given to me by my dad’s younger self.
A realisation that life is for grabbing, living, treasuring … but never wasting.