I was a little bewildered when Seanie and Rosie asked me to say a few words. And a little nervous.
I mean they don’t normally put up with the dolts, charlatans, drunkards or buffoons of this world … then I look out in the crowd and realised that so many of us seemed to have cracked an invite … Keep quiet I tells ya. I don’t think they’ve noticed yet.
Initially when told that I needed to say a few words tonight I asked my younger brother what I should say. Sadly he wasn’t asked to make the speech. On account of his suffering from a rare condition of Scottish Tourettes. He said something that was so moving, emotive, time honoured, respectful, in short a celebration of this wedding in one word which I’d like to share with you all: “BOOOTS!!!!” Soon after realised that the real reason Sean and Rosie had asked me to speak was that they wanted no repeat of the Infamous Glaswegian Taxi Driver Accent Mimicking International Diplomatic Incident.
So let’s start with Sean as a young tacker … possessing two elder sisters who were quite capable of articulating fully formed opinions Sean soon realised he had to survive on rarified decision making oxygen at the top. Seanie was left with two options: following his sisters to the water’s edge, or striking out on his own. One fine, sunny beach day Seanie went the former and followed the girls in their bikinis to the water’s edge — a 3-year-old Seanie wanted one of those ‘kinis to play in as well. Sean has always had that determined streak in him. When his mind is set he will brook no disappointment. As my mother is fond of recalling, upon an accidental wetting, the ‘kini bottoms were removed. Skin conditions where the bane of my mother’s life . Plenty of beach going passers-by raised eyebrows as they passed this sandy golden haired child playing with his top half ‘kini and tackle showing. A powerful look. A recent conversation with Rosie on tastes of relative undress she intimated that her tastes ran more to the conventional, eschewing the attractions of the ‘kini top, party bottom ensemble … Rosie, with all due respect, cross-cultural awareness and all that, I can’t help but note that today … 30 odd years and we have a return to form.
Sean is the 3rd of 6 siblings. Depending on the crowd he could choose the times of his belonging to the older siblings set (say when the older Houlihan cousins were visiting), at other times finding that playing with the younger brothers and sister better suited his temperament, interests, and physical capacities (all the better to score all those hundreds in the Campbell st back yard). As young tackers Sean and I had plenty of like-minded pursuits at the time — any and all ball sports — and Nana Ryan’s favourite “Ultimate Anywhere Public Wrestling. We used to have epic battles, Sean and I. Only sometimes would they result in blood (usually mine) and it was rare for Sean to concede defeat without also pointing out the pointlessness of the pursuit (and the fact that he was no longer trying anyway). Beyond the playthings of youth, Sean began to cement his identity with a mix of independence, competitive character, interest in culture (a love of books, film and music (Jennings and cheese toasties anyone). Even as a child he increasingly eschewed unsatisfying interactions.
It was only much later, when I myself had left home, that I recognised some core parts of Sean’s philosophies for dealing with conflict: from James Joyce’s account of his own self-exile: “I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”
At Sean’s 21st his Godmother Fran put her finger on a catchcry of a younger Sean in her: “Doesn’t bodda [bother] me” poetry recital. This catch cry would often underlie Sean’s self-sufficiency, independence and strength of mind. Often in the face of whatever trials and tribulations were presented to him. At times, this response would be particularly ridiculous, where the source of irritation was completely unavoidable and he would refuse to acknowledge it. This was occasionally a game for other family members.
Rosie is an only child. I remember one of my first honest conversations with Rosie, after a few family events (and a few drinks) under her belt. Her insight was offered as a gentle wry ambit: “on the relative earnestness of the Ryans” (I paraphrase here a bit). This half compliment, half observation of our occasional will to ridiculousness: naivety without understanding of privilege or perspective, of emotional response misunderstood as logic, of a myopic nepotistic nostalgia, and yes of obstinacy. Yes our family is all of these things. We are loud. When we get together we mostly play well together, but you’d better be damn ready talk. And to interject. And to heckle and to be heckled.
When Sean first began to talk about Rosie, his public service paramour, he spoke firstly of her sense of humour. Particularly her penchant for delighting in the ridiculous. It took a while for that sense of humour to come out the first couple of times I met Rosie (perhaps she was a little tenative in how her gentle way of using sardonic or black humour to soften and turn a topic is a rare talent would be interpreted in a family full of ridiculousness. Sure, Rosie CAN provide a sharp edge. Rosie, though, often plays the topic rather than the person, and in my experience this provides a means to safely extract or retract an obstinate or foolish position … this skill will be a useful counter foil for Sean
Increasingly I find her warming to close discussion, emboldened to share, to increasingly risk with trust. When to let the love free, to go her own way; when to use her choices to promote closeness and intimacy.
I liked the lifelong aspiration to change that both Rosie and Sean spoke of in their vows today. I encourage you all to consider the need for challenge and change and inherent trust, encouraging them to share their hopes, loves, frustrations, defeats, and determination with all the important people in their lives … That’d be us clowns.
To Rosie and Sean.