Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Wonderful Beadie

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And his face amid a crowd of stars.
-W.B.Yeats, When you are Old

As I was cycling last night from Glyfada to Faliro, watching the sun go down across the coast of the Athenian suburbia, I felt lonely despite the massive crowd of fellow cyclists from Petaleres. I thought of old age, the figurative "sunset" of life,and Beadie Hennigan instantly came to mind. I had promised her for a long time now I would shoot photos of her sweet self and her treasure home in Co.Mayo, Ireland before coming back home to Greece for the summer. Her poor health lately has had a massive impact on her and since our last April's encounter I have been preoccupied with the whole debate on ageism. 

In her usual hospitable fashion, Beadie once more opened her doors and heart to me over a cup of tea and biscuits. She belongs to that category of people that age only physically: her mental capacity for clarity of thought, her fairness, kindness and beauty transcend the flesh. She is eternally young. And she can remember every minute detail of her childhood, her loving parents -whose portraits on the busy wall of her friendly sitting room stand out- and their impeccable dress-code even though they were poor. Her marriage and her giving birth to 9 children, the tragic loss of one of her offspring haunt her remembrance of the past. And yet, Beadie kept her resilience and optimism against the backdrop of hardship brought about by war, poverty, struggle, and loss. 

I have been admiring this woman since I met her in 2002. Always asking me about Greece and my family. Outside her traditional cottage surrounded by flowers and gnomes a car always pulls, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren visiting, never tired of her precious company. But she wants to live on her own: in a house covered in colour, memorabilia, family photographs, flowers, china and love. I cannot blame her.