REFLECTIONS OF SHANNON [ by Deborah Cahill: Danny's daughter & Shannon's neice ]

Deborahs thoughts

As is normal when you know someone from birth I don't remember meeting Shannon, I struggle to define a first memory and have mostly impressions from my early years, sitting at her kitchen table or watching TV on her couch. Of trying to stay in the room for 'grown up' conversations or being bored with the grown ups and wandering off to play with whatever fabulous ornament or decorations I could find in the house.

At about 10 years of age I hit a dress up stage and spent hours with her scarves, feathers and bangles draped from my head to feet and she was good enough to take photos as though I was a Vogue model on her Polaroid camera. I'm sure it was the first time I heard je ne sais quoi and had no idea what it meant but it sounded lovely being said in her voice and I felt like a princess.

At eleven, I subjected her to my ear punishing flute practise. I knew Shannon's talent with music and was desperate to impress but lacked a certain something (perhaps talent). Years later when I found out I had sinus problems and was told by my surgeon this is why I couldn't tolerate the higher notes I remember her saying "There's a reason you were that bad". Yet she sat perfectly still through scales and London's Burning and Frere Jacques with encouraging smiles.

I remember a great deal too many of my friends piling into her Valiant for my 14th birthday and the boys telling me how very cool this car was and how they all wanted to drive it.

I admitted to Shannon when I was about 25 that I had spent the majority of my childhood intimidated by her, I couldn't compete with her intelligence or her style and I stumbled in my attempts at doing so.

In an epic conversation at her kitchen table one night we started at about 6pm with a demonstration of how I was going to give one of her cats an injection and wrapped up the evening at about 3am having discussed work relationships and colleague mentoring, animal rights and the psychological benefits of sharing your life with an animal (never a 'pet' but a family member), the benefits of travel for cultural expansion and equally deep and complex issues. I could tell she thrilled at debating these deeper topics but what I absolutely treasure as part of that memory is that those hours where peppered with little 'brain breaks' where we discussed earrings and nail polish colours, what I was going to wear to an upcoming event and how I might style my hair.

It didn't matter that I was grown and thrashing out the details of the world, I could still play dress ups with my Aunt.

I could call Shannon and ask for her help with phrasing a document for work having not spoken to her for months. I didn't need to start with 'Hi, how have you been? Sorry it's been so long…"

I could send a joke email in completely poor humour and know that she'd laugh; she sent me an email that nearly got me fired, with lengthy sessions with human resources about internet policy to follow. I have it printed at home and if I ever start to get too serious about life I can look at it and remember that a woman who had such a refined sense of humour, it sometimes took me hours to process the punch line, also had an absolutely filthy and totally politically incorrect sense of humour at the same time.

What wonderful duality!


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