March 17, 2020 submitted my Diane Sheehan DeNapoli
To many who are Irish American St. Patrick’s Day is a very special time of year. After the Christmas tree comes down the Irish music starts and in my mind, I only have two months until St. Patrick’s Day. To me St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about green beer or leprechauns. It is a day to celebrate my ancestors shared experiences both challenging, haunting and inspirational.
My Paternal Grandparent’s came to America in the early 1920’s. My Grandfather had served in the Irish Citizen’s Army during the time after the Easter Uprising of 1916. Shortly after his service he was imprisoned by the British in a POW camp for almost a year. After his release, or as the family story goes his escape, my Grandfather ended up in New York City.
Growing up my Grandfather was without question the clan’s leader. He always wore a black suit, brimmed hat, and spoke with such a thick West Kerry brogue most of my yank friends couldn’t understand a word he said. Grant it he would slip into Gaelic when he didn’t want outsider’s knowing his business, but I took great pride in always understanding what he said and more importantly what he didn’t. If a man needed a job, a good wife or a little talking to people came to my grandfather. I could never understand why men half my grandfathers age seemed to be frightened of him. He wasn’t mean, I never saw him raise his voice or his fist, but he was hard. His word was final, his face still and his walk was more like a horse’s trot.
On this St. Patrick’s Day I found myself feeling “a bit out of sorts” as the Irish would say. No parade, no Mass, instead I find myself trying to achieve a state called “social distancing”. The irony of the Coronavirus falling during the St. Patrick’s Day Season hit me hard. Here comes another scourge attempting to negate the Irish spirit. Deep in my bones the memory of the Penal Laws, the coffin ships, the Black and Tans, the Hunger Strikers all seem to bubble up at once. Oddly enough instead of feeling angry or anxious, which I had bene feeling for days, I found myself being filled with a great sense of hope, pride and determination.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, while we may not be able to come together to gather in person, let us celebrate the “Fighting Irish” spirit. Let all good people bring to mind that man’s will to thrive, and support each other, is stronger than any obstacle put in front of him by man or nature. So please raise a glass and join in me in the the Irish blessing “May the sunshine warm upon our face and until we meet again, May the lord hold you in the palm of his hand”.