Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan

 Mr. B. and Mr. G.

O.K. just imagine being diagnosed with Diabetes in your teens, injecting yourself daily with insulin, meeting the love of your life, having a great job as a Chief Buyer at a big fashion house and two lovely kids ...

One day your eye feels funny; like there's something in front of it, but you can't rub it away...
Meet my dad, Barry Coughlan.

He went off to London to meet with some specialists and soon after left for a Centre in Torquay, England to prepare for the inevitable - total loss of his sight. He lost the one eye and had a glass one fitted - Jesus, I remember the day it fell out onto the bed and I had to rinse it under the tap before he put it back in. Thank God that didn't happen often!

Anyway, while he was in Torquay learning how to pour a cup of tea, how to light a cigarette and many other daily tasks (with a bit of pottery, umbrella making and basket weaving thrown in for variety), he lost his sight completely - coming down the stairs with some pottery.
Yes, Ger. It broke.

I don't remember him not blind. I'd get down from the table to guide his hand to his cup if he was feeling around for it. I could read before I was 4, from lying on the floor every afternoon reading out the headlines in the newspaper, letter by letter. I'd draw the letters on his hand if I didn't know them.

Before he got the shop, he'd walk us to school every morning and we both got a "talking to" the morning he left the house with a tea towel tucked into his belt. Well, he was wearing an overcoat, your honour.

My Dad and I went all over the place together.
Are you alright there, Mr. G ? me dad would ask.
Fine thanks Mr. B. How's yourself? I'd reply and we'd laugh.

We had pavements and kerbs down to a fine art. "Step down", I'd say as we stepped onto the road. "Step up" at just the right moment as we approached the kerb; him tap-tapping his white stick from side to side. It folded into his pocket when he didn't need it and sprang into action in seconds. Once the elastic in the middle broke and he arrived home with the little white tubes.
We stayed around the corner from the 16A terminus and when we caught the bus, I'd hardly ever have to pay. My dad had a pass and we'd always sit near the conductor. He knew them all and they'd chat away, solving the world's problems while the bus took us to town.

I was only ten when his kidneys finally gave up and he was 35. That really came into focus a few years ago when I had my own 35th birthday!

I would've loved to have had him round a bit longer but I'm glad I got to spend the time I did with him.

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