My father was fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, but was not a fan of the commercialized St. Patrick’s Day festivities. As I grow older, the more I appreciate the culture of my Irish ancestors: resilient, creative, and brilliant storytellers who can tell the funniest of jokes and sing the saddest of songs and care deeply for family and country.
Of course, there is a darker side to every culture and I witnessed my father struggle through what he called “black” moods of depression and over-indulging in alcohol. I touch upon this in my book, The Reluctant Caregiver. But his love of his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland and his hopes of a united Ireland never wavered. In fact, in the last conversation I had with him just a month before he died, deep in the fog of dementia, he told me he wanted to go to Ireland.
So I will raise a toast to Dad with some Irish whiskey tonight and continue my exploration of my Irish heritage.
I have a lucky giveaway to share with you. Get my e-book, CBD for Caregivers, which I recently revised, for free through April 1.
I couldn’t help but think about my father this week as Joe Biden was inaugurated. Biden is an Irish-American Catholic who proudly recognizes his Irish ancestry, frequently quoting Irish poets and writers in speeches. I think my father would approve.
My father’s interest in politics began early. He was born into a devout Irish Catholic family in Belfast. Nazi air raids sent him and his family fleeing into bomb shelters in the middle of the night. His initial love of America was due in part to the U.S. military’s role during WWII. He closely followed the violent, deadly developments that took place between nationalists and unionists in his beloved Belfast and surrounding areas during the Troubles. By this time, he had already immigrated to America, which was a good thing, because he alluded on more than one occasion that he may have become directly involved in the unrest if he had remained in Northern Ireland.
As a child, what I remember most about my father’s political beliefs was his adoration of all things Kennedy. He loved to tell the story of how he met a young JFK in New York City. My father was a bellhop at the hotel Kennedy was staying at and he got to shake his hand. He also followed Robert F. Kennedy’s political rise closely and I believed he attended at least one rally in Los Angeles. My father lamented the Kennedy curse that cut short the political aspirations of the two brothers.
My father’s heritage directly influenced his political perspective. He had great disdain for Britain’s control and interference in Northern Ireland, and closely followed other countries who battled for independence from crown rule. His many letters to newspapers reflected a deep political interest in conflicts around the globe. In spite of political turmoil, my father remained devoted to all things Irish, beaming with pride when those of Irish descent were recognized for their talents. As my mother wrote in my father’s obituary, he loved his adopted country and homeland equally. He recognized that the good parts outweighed the challenges. It’s a poignant reminder for me right now, as America struggles through its own cultural and political strife.