By Arthur H. Gunther III
On an expectedly festive St. Patrick’s weekend that began in low spirits with three favorite draft beers out of stock at a village pub in my outer New York area, a mortal sin, my namesake hiked spirits when he ran 13th out of 3,500 in the Shamrock Marathon on Sunday. That was worth drinking to.
So is my mother, an Irish lass born on St. Patrick’s Day, the daughter of Mary Bonner and John Lyons, a longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks. Six years later Patricia would lose her mom, waking one morning to her lifeless being, a grandmother I never knew, gone at age 32.
Those days in the first quarter of the last century were not easy for many, and Mary and John had their troubles. They lost 10 of their 13 children, some to the worldwide flu pandemic, others to the raw dangers of at-home birth. Patricia survived and so did John, the first born, and William, the last. With their mother gone and a father unable or unwilling to care for them, all three were sent to orphanages.
None ever complained nor overly judged. My mother was as Irish as tea in her acceptance of misery and fate, of the dirge that is every Irish person’s accompaniment. Yet she never sang that song for her own two children, working hard for family and home and not looking back at the ghosts always chasing her. Her wit was inherited, to be sure, and she recalled enough of the old stories to pass on.
My own childhood was made festive enough on St. Patrick’s Day by the stories, the wearin’ o’ the green and the grand family birthday my father always arranged for Patricia. She had many more than Mary, until Alzheimer’s eased her from the ghosts but also from we, the living. A long, sad goodbye, that.
But this is St. Patrick’s Day, or it will soon be after this column’s posting, and so my mother’s birthday. Grand it was that her grandson Arthur 4th, in a run called the Shamrock no less, gave her a present in his fine win.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay may be reproduced.