"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke (©julenisse/Fotolia)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

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Mary's dad with his mum (right) and sister in the early 1940s in Poughkeepsie, New York.

We memorialized my father 20 years ago this St. Patrick’s Day. 

“Oh, your father would have loved this,” more than a few people said. But I knew my father, who’d died four days prior from heart disease, likely would have been unmoved by sharing the occasion with Ireland’s patron saint.  

The youngest son of immigrants and 40 years sober, he’d have rolled his eyes at the holiday many Americans use as an excuse to drink beer and paint themselves green, just as he did regarding New Year’s Eve, which he often proclaimed “amateur night.” 

In the early 1970s, my dad took a brief interest in his McAleer roots, even procuring the family coat of arms to display in our suburban Chicago entry hall. A onetime Latin scholar, he frequently reminded my brothers and me of the family motto: Spectemur Agendo - Let us be judged by our deeds. That was the sum of his investment in our Irish heritage. 

My mother, on the other hand, who chose March 17 for the service, spent part of that morning with a needle and thread mending the tricolor Irish flag we would hang by the front door for a reception following the service. She was Éirinn go Brách to the nth degree: Aran Island fisherman sweaters, shamrocks, breakfast tea and Irish soda bread all the way. 

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The author at Dunluce Castle.