Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Whether you are Irish or not, Happy St. Paddy's Day. Go out and enjoy. Pretend to be Irish if you aren't, be proud to be Irish if you are! Just be careful and use your head.

OK, hopping off the soapbox.

There is an old saying, "God created two kinds of people, those who are Irish and those who wish they were Irish."

I'm one of the lucky ones. Half Irish (on my mother's side. Her mother's maiden name was Kilkenny, her father's name was Carolan), and always proud of it. I love being Irish and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

When I was a kid, St. Patrick's Day meant my grandfather would drag out all of his Irish records. No U2, but instead the Clancy Brothers, and a host of others whose names escape me right now. I'm pretty sure my mother still has those old albums - I bet if I went over there and rifled through the hall closet, I'd find them.

My grandfather lived with us almost my entire life. He was like a dad (mine was elsewhere, but that's another topic for another time) to my brother and me. He helped us with our homework (he was amazing - an 8th grade education who was a math whiz. Taught himself to read blueprints.) A steamfitter, he helped build Newark Airport and it's family lore that he had to convince the "college boys", as he liked to call them, that their plans were backwards and the pipe-and-ductwork was going to end up on the outside of the building. He was firm believer that a college degree didn't mean a person was smarter, only that they tested well. He was living proof of his theory.

He taught me how to drive a stick-shift and was extremely patient when I threatened to burn out many, many clutches. He let me drive his car (before I had even a permit) when my mother wasn't around. He helped us with school projects.

He baked everything under the sun. He cooked dinner every night (no matter what it was, he cooked it the same 350 for an hour. I was eighteen before I learned chicken and beef do NOT taste the same in reality). Every night, after dinner, he would make our lunches for the next day. My mom, my brother, and I would come down the next morning (to find oatmeal already cooking, cereal, bowls, and spoons laid out) and find three identical brown paper bags in the refrigerator, the tops rolled down and stapled shut, our names written on the outside in black magic marker. Inside there would be a sandwich, homemade cookies, a pickle spear wrapped in foil and sealed in Handiwrap so it wouldn't leak.

One time, he made these chocolate sugar cookies that were absolutely delicious. My brother and I raved about them. We saw nothing but those cookies for almost a year. Got to the point where we couldn't pay anyone at school to eat them. We asked my mother to ask him to please not put them in our lunches anymore. Not one of us could do it - no one wanted to hurt his feelings. After about nine months, he changed things up a little. Added mint to the cookies. Still no takers. Still no one would speak up.

He never complained about the cooking, though we kids drove him crazy. "You're a real piece of work" was his favorite description and it's one I use to this day. I can still hear him, hear the exasperation in his voice. I miss that.

He dreamed of going to Ireland. The Auld Sod.

He died when I was seventeen. Six days after my seventeenth birthday. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. With his family around him. Just as he wanted.

In 1993, my mother and I went to Ireland. We fulfilled his dream of getting there. At WB Yeats house, we dug up some soil and, when we returned home, put it on his grave. We brought Ireland to him.

He is the reason why I am so proud to be Irish. He's been gone almost twenty years and I still miss him every single day. I wish he could have met his great-granddaughter and his great-grandson. They'd have been dubbed "pieces of work", just like my brother and I were.

4 comments:

Southern Writer said...

Thanks for the good wishes for Princess Sneezy, Kim.

Kim said...

I'm hoping everything is ok - I think it's awful that we can't even trust the companies who are supposed to care for animals. We're keeping you and Sneezy in our thoughts and I am so sorry about Catfish. I wish there was something meaningful to add, but nothing but time will help heal the pain of his passing.

Sarah said...

What a good memory. My Grandma makes the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever.

Kim said...

Yeah - it's great to be able to go back, but it was kind of a difficult post to write, and not exactly what I'd intended when I started it. St. Patrick's Day brings out the irish in more ways than one, I guess :)