Therese and Gretta


Therese Kieran in conversation with
Gretta Kieran

Gretta Kieran is my mother. She lives in south Armagh, Ireland, and will be 85 years old on the 27th May. She’s a retired teacher and the most selfless person I know. Gretta’s own mother died aged 50, when she was just 24.

Note 1: March-May

Feeling..? An emptiness, fatigue. Sorry for less fortunate people. At first the social distancing was difficult; not going for a coffee or the shops but we soon learned to stick to the rules. The telephone tires me out. I go at a slower pace. Support local business – it’s important. Meals give the day structure. The human body is frail enough. I’m trying to get up a bit earlier, decide what needs to be done. I keep the worktops clean, use tea tree oil; dust doesn’t annoy me but I can’t stand crumbs. It takes longer to get dressed. The bird table is the best thing we got. There’s a certain freedom too – no make-up and no need to feed anyone who calls. Thank God the early morning palpitations have gone; before, I’d wake up thinking I’m going to die. I take one paracetamol and half a Panadol every night.

Note 2: May-July

She’s complained of low energy for weeks, but on her 85th birthday, surrounded by family in the sunshine, she’s beaming, suddenly restored. She’s been painting stones for a “Covid snake” in the woods, and can’t get enough of the television drama Normal People;

is now reading Sally Rooney’s award winning book.

“I love Connell,” she declares, many times. “Well you’ve seen enough of him,” my sister replies. We reflect on her improved mood.

“You just have to get on with it, I felt so weak, until I decided, less of that would do. I still miss my cappuccinos, but people are decent and your father is good, brings me up tea and toast in the mornings, oh I love that, he’s looking after me well.”

I admire a crystal vase I’m arranging flowers in.

“Waterford,” she says, “over a hundred years old, nicer than that other stuff.” And then, “Would you like it..?”

“I’d love it!” I say.

“And what about the pink Belleek set, who might like that?”

I suggest dividing this antique retirement gift between her grand-daughters. She’s not keen on it being split up. Or how about my sister in Glasgow? She says she’ll think about it.

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