It’s great to be Irish
I’m Irish. And I’m proud of it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was Irish or when I didn’t think it made me better than everyone else. I have a lot of friends of different backgrounds and I love them all, but I do feel a tad bit sorry for the ones who weren’t lucky enough to be born Irish. One friend in particular was born with the gift and turned his back on it despite the irish flag tatooed on his calf. It broke my heart. How could you disregard your heritage when it is so storied and strong and proud as that of the Irish? I’ll never understand.
See for me, being Irish is more than just looking at the family tree and figuring out where the grandparents came from. It’s who I am. At the worst moments of my life, I have found my strength knowing that I’m Irish and the Irish never give up. They drink and they fight and they drink somemore, often times amid the dead; who if the story of Tim Finnegan’s Wake is correct (and you bet I believe it is) get a drop of whiskey and come back to life kicking and screaming. Growing up my family had a dog named Tim Finnegan. Who names their dog after a song about an Irish Wake? We do. Because everything about the Irish is at once hilarious and charming and tragic. Like John Wayne in the Quiet Man, when the Irish get punched they just keep getting up for more.
Because of my love of my own heritage, I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day. The way I celebrate it today with two small children is very different then the way I celebrated it as a younger person. Back when I would be at the bars at noon and stay there until the next day. Back when if they weren’t playing traditional Irish music, I would request the DJ spin “Come on Eileen” and out dance Michael Flately. Back when wearing something that said “Kiss Me I’m Irish” could get me in trouble. Those days were good. Now I make corned beef and cabbage in a crock pot for my kids and watch Waking Ned Devine, a movie I love for many reasons but mostly for the scene when Michael, pretending to be Ned, gets attend his own funeral and hear the eulogy his friend Jackie gives:
Michael O’Sullivan was my great friend. But I don’t ever remember telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front and hear what was said, maybe say a few things yourself. Michael and I grew old together. But at times, when we laughed, we grew young. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man, and thank him for being a friend
It’s beautiful and it’s true. Most people never say the things they need to say to the living. And that’s why we mourn the dead so much. There’s always regret.
I didn’t know the last day I ever spent with my mother was the last – but she did. And when we were saying goodbye, she hugged me in a way that was different than how she’d hugged me before and then she told me that I was a wonderful daughter and that she was sorry for being so hard on me because although she’d never said it before she thought I was perfect. At that moment, I just thought we were having an really awesome day, but later I knew that she was saying goodbye and at the same time giving me the greatest gift of my life. Absolution.
So this St Patrick’s Day, while you’re drinking your green beer and singing “Danny Boy”, don’t forget to use your gift of gab to cut through all the blarney and thank your family or your friends or the drunk guy next to you for being there because you never know when it’s your last chance to speak up and trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Happy St Patrick’s Day!