Ye will all have to work a bit this week to extract the maximum stimulus from the yarn that follows. Ye will have to rattle the older branches of your own family tree to customize this piece.

I have selected the common names of Patrick and Mary, which will be accurate for many of you, but change these as necessary. The story itself from modern rural Ireland is, I am sadly certain, totally accurate.

It was by fate and accident, really, that Patrick became the sole carer for his mother Mary for the last years of her life on the farm.  A younger sister had fallen into the ritual role after the rest of the siblings emigrated, like the most of their generation, either to England or the United States.

As soon as they reached their early twenties they all left during the 1950s. The cumulative effect on the parish was heavy. There had been a population of hundreds of men and women, and scores of homes, when Patrick's siblings departed.

Today there are only three occupied homes left. It is as much a national reality as a local one.

Patrick's sister, a most likeable woman, found romance in her life quite late on.  She would have expected to stay at home caring for Mary and Patrick for years to come. Instead she found a good husband, had to migrate across the country to Dublin, and duly became the mother of four children there.

In this way Patrick, a beef farmer with a handy small farm, became his mother's carer and sole companion. In the earlier years of that relationship Mary was active on the farm, well able for the routine chores, but she quite rapidly showed age and infirmity after her daughter left.

Patrick was quietly popular in the parish. He was a good neighbor and friend, a capable farmer, a remarkably competent and compassionate carer.

Mary, on the other hand, was always regarded by the people as a woman with a sharp tongue and a domineering manner. Folk said her husband went happily to his early grave to get away from her.

Patrick was quiet and the two of them got on well down those years. He was just over 30 when his sister married. He was a blocky and stockily powerful man, already balding in his late twenties, so he always wore a tweed cap except at Mass on Sundays.

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He always voted for Fianna Fail until Charlie Haughey dented that party, and subsequently he never voted at all. But he was courteous to all the candidates who called to his door and, like everybody else, promised to give them a "stroke" on the ballot paper.

Patrick lived four or five miles from the town and one mile from the country pub that was really the social and community center for the parish, especially after the population dwindled.  He drove a Ford car.  He never had a girlfriend because all the young women had left the parish and, anyway, no woman in her right mind (said the people) would venture to share a house with Mary.

After Mary died and he had his farm work done, it became Patrick's custom to drive down the country road to the pub two or three times weekly.  He would sit at the bar with his farming friends and neighbors and drink up to six slow pints of porter before driving home slowly and safely.  There was almost no traffic left on that mountains road anyway.

What happened was that the drunk driving laws in Ireland were sharply tightened a decade ago, just as Patrick was entering his sixties. A man could be breathalyzed by the gardai at any time and, if over the limit, put off the road for at least a year.

The old police, also, were being replaced by younger police of a different generation who had no mercy at all on drinking drivers. Men like Patrick could not exist without driving licenses and so, almost overnight, in droves, they stopped going out at night.

In remote rural areas there were no bus services or taxis available for them as a fallback. Dramatically, on an ongoing basis, hundreds of country pubs, their community centers really, were forced to close down or only open at weekends.

Patrick, like many other remotely located farmers, might not speak to anyone other than the postman most days of the week.  Again, like many others, he began to buy supplies of alcohol for drinking at home during his weekly shopping trips to town.

There are surveys which show nowadays that individuals consume more drink often when drinking alone at home. And there is no communal chatter involved like the chatter and craic in the bar. There is also a growing database about the increase in rural suicide rates in recent years, deep depression and alcoholism combining to paint this sad picture.

Patrick had not been seen for two days before the postman found him in the shed.  He saw his dangling boots just inside the door before, with horror, he saw the rest of him dangling from the overhead beam.

There was an empty brandy bottle lying in the straw below. There was no suicide note. There was no need for one either.

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