Sunday, March 20, 2011

The More Things Change....

The celebration of St. Patrick's Day each year reminds me of our family's Irish roots.

Also, lately, I've been in contact with a cousin who I met many years ago and with whom I recently struck up an Internet conversation.  I was sharing a note that her mother had written to me over a dozen years ago and now we write back and forth, almost daily, questioning each other about ancestors long gone.

All of that had me thinking about my great-great and great-grandparents, their lives before they came to America, and their dreams for their family as they made the hazardous trip from wherever they came.

I do know that some of my relatives came from County Mayo, some from Galway, and some from Donegal.  What I don't know is what life was like for them in Ireland or what their trip to this country was like.

What I can imagine is that they left much of what little they most likely had behind and came with many hopes that life would just be easier...some may have thought, as they were told, that the streets were lined with gold, that things would change for the better, there would be many more opportunities, and they'd be living the life of Riley. 

I had heard stories of "the old sod," where there was nothing to do, the crops had failed, work was not available, but they were held together by their community.

One story I did hear is that each night one of the great-great grandfathers would make his way to the local pub, find his compatriots who shared his current life's adventures, toss a few darts, and toss back a few beers.

They'd talk about hopes for change, but soon realized that a better life might be elsewhere.  My predecessors decided to leave Ireland, where things weren't going to get better for sure, and take a chance on having something better over the ocean.

I write these stories down, as I search for the personalities of those who came before us and I like to have them for my boys,  so that they know and appreciate the chances that their great-great-greats took to make a better life for them.

This recent family searching activity reminded me of something I had done.

Last St. Patrick's Day, I decided to put this little story on paper and thought it would be a good time to share it with my sons.

I wrote that their great-great-grandfather's had no jobs, they were living with their parents and most likely borrowing some "airgead," that means "silver," noting that they were headed to the pub to meet up with their friends, where they would be discussing any possibilities of work, life or adventure...anything to improve their lot.

At the pub, they'd play darts (most likely for a bit more of the airgead and, therefore, some more beer) until the wee hours, knocking back a few Guinness Stouts...okay, maybe more than a few...and then head home in the darkness knowing that the next day would most likely be the same as the one that just ended.

At some point, they got up the courage or the need to find a way to leave the island and, because of them, we have enjoyed our position due in part to that early effort.

I was looking for the two boys that were home that day, knowing that they were around the house somewhere, to share this story with them.

They were both recently looking for work and had said that they were getting together to talk over some positions they seemed to have found for each other.

I wanted to share the story of immigration, the dangers of the trip those hardy souls made, the hard work and perseverance that led to some successes, and to let them know that our lives were better.

My wife said, "They went outdoors, I think they're out back by the shed."

"Outdoors," I queried?  "Why?"

"Don't know," she said, "Go find out."

I went out the downstairs door and found that they had moved a dart board from the downstairs room and put in on the side of the shed.  Off to the side they had placed a bench and lined up a few bottles of Guinness.

I watched for a moment and listened as they talked about how hard it was to find work, that they wanted to be out on their own, and that the only thing they had to do that day was throw some darts and throw back a few brews!

At that point, I wasn't sure if I should share the story with them to point out how good they had it or suggest that they emigrate.

What I was certain about was the fact that it was probably a good thing that the great-great didn't live to see that, at that moment, about the only thing that had changed was that the dart game moved about 3600 miles west!


  1. LOVE this! The more things change, the more.....

    I'm with you on the sidewalk, community life...just opened a discussion about it on FB....with friends, one being Mike Cunningham! He introduced me to your blog this morning!

    Nice to meet ya!
    ~Kolein Carlson

  2. Kolein...nice to meet you! Thanks for checking out my blog...I'll be looking at yours, as well. I would love to be a part of community life discussion...I'll look for you on FB! Now that winter has sort of ended, I'm looking outdoors to see if Santa left me any sidewalks for Christmas, but all I see is my 300 foot driveway and a yard full of acorns! Oh well, the search continues!