I talk about my Mom quite often on my blog, how she shared her recipes, taught me life lessons, and the skills to live life to the full.
Today, on Father's Day, I realized I talk a lot less about my Dad. But rest assured rearing me was a joint effort, a partnership between two loving individuals.
Because my Mom stayed home when I was a kid, she fills my Irish story lines with ease. She talks a lot more than Dad, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Her voice echoes through my memories. But when I look back I realize Dad was everything I could have ever asked for.
I often wonder if Americans think every Irish childhood is a miserable one. Much of our literature gives that impression. My childhood was far from the typical miserable, Irish, Catholic upbringing. I was blessed to grow up in a happy home, with a father who is a kind and loving man.
And so today, on Father's Day, I thought I might share some lessons I learned from my Dad.
My father never rushes. He does everything at his own pace. "I'll get to that, in God's good time," is one of his favorite sayings.
Or slower still, he'll get to it... "in my own good time."
We'd have nine days in a week, if my father was helping at the time of Creation.
He thinks things through, contemplates before speaking, and does nothing in haste. He may be a plodder, but rest assured he has plodded successfully through life.
2. Never Write A Letter In Anger:
He always told me never to write a letter when angry.
If I did commit a knee jerk response to paper, he advised me to put it away, rest on it for a day or two, then reread it before sending it.
If sentiments remain unchanged after this deliberately enforced breathing space, then by all means share those angry thoughts with the world.
As a result I have never sent an angry letter, and lived to regret my words.
My father is my best supporter in life, but never in a loud and ostentatious manner.
Being typically Irish, he believes we should never blow our own trumpets.
He never praised me boastfully as a child. His encouragement came when things went wrong. With Dad I knew everything was always going to be just fine, no matter what happened. Unflappable is a word that comes to mind when I think of my Dad.
When thinking about our futures, he always told us to aim for the stars. Nothing is impossible if you're determined enough to plod through to the finish line.
4. People Always Come First:
When I was a little girl I crashed a chair through a crystal cabinet, smashing at least half of the Waterford crystal my parents received for their wedding. A Hummel shepherd in a beautiful nativity set, lost his sheep as a result of my horseplay, and Our Lady lost her halo.
But my father never cared about the loss of objects. His reaction was - "Thank God she's not hurt."
That's how I learned I was more important than all the things in the world.
5. Love Of Family:
My father is one of thirteen children. By the time he became a father most of his brothers and sisters were living in America and England. Even though only three siblings remained in Ireland, as a child I knew I was part of a large extended family, with roots in Ireland, and branches extending to England, Canada, and especially America.
When we were children he would love to tell us...
"I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn..."
~ Thomas Hood
And as he spoke, our minds wandered back in time to the old place, the thatched cottage where he was born.
He grew up in Ireland in the 1930's and 1940's when Ireland was an impoverished nation. He tells stories of a happy life on a farm on the side of a mountain in the Ballyhoura mountains, of running in the big meadow, with joy and abandon, oblivious to the hardships of life around him. His father died when he was three years old, and his mother, my grandmother was widowed at 39 years of age, but he has nothing but happy childhood stories.
Even though our tribe scattered to the four corners of the world, my father maintains ties with all. Homecomings are big occasions for our family. Dad always opens the door to our long lost cousins.
He loves to meet and entertain them, listen to their Irish American tales, and share stories of our ancestors. As a child I knew I was part of a large tribe, and that we had many stories to tell, both Irish and American.
6. Learn From Your Ancestors:
My father has spent years recording and documenting our family tree. He has traced our roots back to the 1700's.
We do not hail from an illustrious line of noblemen, but from hard working Irish farmers, who tilled the land, built stone walls from rocky mountain fields, and above all, who survived through thick and thin.
He has discovered that our family links with the United States date back for centuries beginning around 1840.
His research helps us gain a greater understanding of the challenges our ancestors faced, how they survived the Irish Famine, and how emigration has transformed our family in Ireland. He has inspired in me a great love of genealogy, an appreciation of family history, and how important it is to view the past with love, compassion and an open mind.
His stories of our family explain why our family is resilient and strong. He is the guardian of our family history, helping to keep memories alive. He is dedicated to giving the next generations, an idea of who they are, and where they come from.
When I left for America many moons ago, my father told me to remember I can always come home. No matter where I wander, no matter what happens, no matter what goes right or wrong, I can always go back to where it all began.
His words have sustained me through the years. Knowing my family is my rock, gives me a beautiful feeling of protection.
My father taught me to be a loyal and supportive friend, the kind of friend I’d like to have myself. He is always there for his friends and family, especially when the chips are down.
He goes the distance to help. Whether it is bringing in the hay or simply lending a ladder, no act is too big or small for Dad.
9. Money Is Transient:
My father never focused on accumulating wealth as a path towards happiness. He believes money is transient, just "resting in your account" to quote Father Ted, before it passes through on its journey around the world.
Dad taught me to treat unexpected windfalls as an opportunity to set a dream in motion, or a chance to share my good fortune with others in need.
Worldly possessions mean little to my father. I can't ever remember him buying a fancy thing for himself.
His happiness comes from giving, not always things, but giving of his time, his undivided attention, his love and his protection.
And so today, on Father's Day, I say thank you to my father, for his unconditional love and support. I am who I am, because of Dad.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Here are some other ramblings and recipes about all things Irish and Irish American, which you might enjoy.