“Irishmen are dreamers, musicians, and stubborn people…” That is the lead for the newspaper article that was written about my father. That is what he said. He was a dreamer and a true musician of the mind. Although he did not play an instrument, his hard working spirit and his decency as a person make me honored to call him my father.
So many people are getting ready to eat their corn beef and cabbage and drink their green beer. For me, this holiday is about the roots that are deep like the crevices in the Emerald Aisle’s shoreline. These crevices go back to Ireland, as my great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland. I have his immigration papers.
I don’t know if the Irish are secretive, but I do not know that much about my grandparents or my great grandparents. I never met my dad’s parents as they died before my parents met. I do know how proud my father was of his Irish heritage. I asked my dad when he was sick with cancer, “Tell me about my grandparents.” He said, “They were secretive,” and he gave me a cold look. I know my dad had a hard childhood. He was literally born into the Great Depression (October 1929). His family owned movie theaters on the South Side of Chicago and lost everything in the Crash. I think that is what makes the Irish so beautiful is the pain they have had to endure (as a country, as a culture, and in history) to survive. It was never easy being green, like they say.
I get sad when I think about my dad. Here is a link to a post I wrote about him teaching me the beauty of nature and poetry: My Father — My Thoreau. I want to tell him so many things and hear his voice. I know all about prayer and how “I can still talk to him,” but it isn’t the same. Sorrow is a deep ocean.
I wish I could walk into the kitchen of my home in Wyoming, circa 2002, before he got sick and smell his corn beef and cabbage stewing on the stove. I wish I could sit down in the living room (Dad would be in his white arm-chair and Mom would be in the other) and listen to him tell a history lesson or recall a St. Patrick’s Day from his childhood in Chicago. I wish I could tell him how brave he was fighting his way out of Inchon in Korea.
I wish I could tell him I finally mustered up the courage to watch, Chosin, and now I understand why he couldn’t sleep through the night, why he wouldn’t let us watch M.A.S.H. on TV, and why he never talked about the war. I wish I could tell him everything I never said, with just one more hug, one more hand shake, one more gentle Irish kiss on his cheek. But I tell him through words, through my writing. My best friend, Heidi, was my maid of honor at my wedding. She is in the photo below. My father told her at my wedding, “Make sure Megan writes. She is a writer. It is in her blood.”
- This is a photo of my girls (bridesmaids). Heidi is the one with the long blond hair two to my right. This wedding was after my father passed away in 2003. We got married outside under the big beautiful Wyoming summer sky in 2004. So I tell people I have been married twice (to the same man). The first time we were married was in my parent’s bedroom before my father passed away.
- My father with his war buddy. I got a call from his war buddy shortly after my dad died. I was too raw to really talk to this man. I wonder if the man I spoke to on the phone was the man on the right next to my father. The man I spoke to said he remembered my father’s black curly hair sticking out of the foxholes because he was so tall. He also told me a kick ass story about how my father saved his ass with his calm in a crisis mentality. Maybe you could say it was the luck of the Irish, but I say my dad was one cool cat!
I wish I could tell him how deeply grateful I am that he quit drinking, cold turkey, to be a better husband, to be a better father, to be a better man, and ultimately to save his own life. The memories of war and the Great Depression as his childhood backdrop haunted him. He lived through so much and never complained about it.
The fact that he got out of bed each day, with 70% frostbite effects to his legs, from Inchon, to go to work as a security guard at the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago and work the second shift, makes me so grateful. He was a man of integrity, honor, and true Irish spirit. I wish I could tell him thank you. Someday I will go to his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery and introduce him to his grandson, Benjamin. For now, I honor him on his favorite holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.
- Betty and John were special people. Anyone that ever met them knew this. They were storytellers and magicians. They made people feel good. Sure, like everyone they had their problems, but deep at their core, they were the pot of gold. My magic – my love.
As most of you know, my mother has brain tumors. She is in a nursing home. She says my father comes to visit her. They were soul mates. Here is a picture pre kids, when my parents were falling madly in love. My father, ironically, was a photographer. He did not have a zoom lens or a fancy camera, but he captured the magic in a photo. I get my “eye” from his Irish eyes!
I leave you with a video of images and music from Ireland. Blessings to you on this wonderful day that celebrates the Irish and their tenacious and hard-working spirit. May you find your pot of gold. I know mine is carried within the memories and love I have for my Irish family.
* Originally posted on my personal blog on March 17, 2012: http://memomuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/irish-eyes-irish-hearts/. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve, 2012.