Except when it is Friday, May 13, 2011!!! Nope not bad luck...just extraordinary. 65 years ago today a scrawny baby boy was born in a small whitewashed farmhouse in the middle of County Kerry! The 5th baby born in 8 years and the 3rd of three born barely a year apart, he was ailing from the effects of a malnourished and fatigued mother who was about to become pregnant with a 4th baby in four years. There were more than one relative who thought that this new little boy had a bleak and short lived future. So sure that he was one of the babies not destined to make his first birthday, he was baptized with only a first name! The patron saint of Ireland had different plans for his namesake....
In the United States he would have been labeled as a 'failure to thrive'. But waves of rickets, measles, mumps, and chicken pox came and went and little Patrick pulled through. Not exactly thriving but determined to hang on to his little piece of mortality! He finally shook the rickets that delayed his walking for 3 years and had kept him housebound. He loved his little white cottage and was not 'keen' to travel the lanes that led away from his mother's hearth but school was a must. Precious pennies were gathered to buy him the glasses he so desperately needed to see anything beyond his fingertips, like the teacher's slate in the front of the little one room schoolhouse. His little class of nine held only one boy and four of the eight girls were first cousins!
There was the traumatic time when the precious glasses, set carefully aside to protect them from the rough housing of boys, were lost in the tall grasses along the path home from school. The long search well into the darkest of night for them leaving a life long scar and creating a very careful nature in the man who was forming. There were the countless tumbles with six brothers that not only created a strong as an ox musculature but a genuine peacemaker who avoids confrontation at all costs. A gentle soul who spent many a day in the company of his female classmates absorbing the skills of a gentleman who would go on to worship the women in his life...treating them as royal princesses every moment of their lives!
As loathe as he was to leave the warmth of his little cottage, the reality was that there was not enough farm to be shared by eight siblings. Like the many aunts and uncles who made their way to America in the generation before because of poverty, these siblings were raised knowing that they would need to emigrate. Every summer brought visits 'home' from the 'Yank' relations who came bearing the second-hand clothes so coveted by the children who wore them proudly...because as you can see in the picture above clothes were worn to threads...LITERALLY!!! I cried the first time one of the American cousins produced this picture she had taken of my Patrick and he remembered the day clearly...as it was older brother Denis' confirmation day and they were in their 'church' clothes and feeling very dressed up to meet the visiting 'Yanks'! I cried after we were married and I discovered that there were no pictures of my Patrick as a child as his family was far too poor to have a camera! He supposed that there were some in vacation albums of an aunt or two as they had often posed for the visiting 'Yanks'. The result of my written plea to his 'Yank' cousins are these two precious snap shots...that's all! Up until my marriage I had felt I had been 'raised poor'.....
Then around his 15th birthday his uncle came riding up the lane looking for one of the older brothers to come help with the spring planting. Needing as many able bodied workers as he could himself, Patrick's father sent his scrawny 4th son off with the uncle. While anxious to be leaving home, Patrick left with some high spirits as he was heading to a childless home where there would not be two other brothers fighting for space or covers in a bed or fighting over the few spuds served at dinner. Here he would be fussed over by a favorite aunt making the prospect of doing spring planting worthwhile! After a warm welcome and generous hot meal from his beloved aunt he was ushered into a fresh bed which she had carefully placed warmed stones for his shivering skinny body and he fell into the first heavenly sleep of his life...where at midnight he was shaken awake by his uncle informing him that the aunt had died!! He never went home again...he worked alongside the grieving uncle that year and then he headed off to try his fortunes with the Quaker Oats Company in London, England. As brother after brother ventured off to join the "Chicago cousins" he longed for the camaraderie of family. He decided that if his fortune were to be made outside of Ireland it might as well be made in the company of his family. So he went back to the little cottage and with a very heavy heart made his good-byes to his parents and boarded a plane for O'Hare airport.
I sometimes suggest that he take a middle name. For all of his life he has been that steady soul who makes sound decisions and could always be counted on for emotional and financial support in your moment of need. He should be Patrick Peter O'Mahony....the rock of the O'Mahony clan. I am so not a rock. I am so not a peacemaker. I am so not a steady soul. I often ask him just what was he thinking when he asked me for that second date??? [first date the result of matchmaking sister-in-laws(: ] I often ask him what he was thinking when he decided to become a father when retirement had almost been in sight?? I often ask him why he is so very patient with a hot flashing wife and moody adolescent daughters??
His quiet simple answer, "I always wanted my own little cottage filled with my own kit and kin."
Well our hearts are yours our Irish saint!
Happy birthday and many, many more!!!!!
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