I’m kinda Irish. Well, actually, I’m half Irish, but it’s old Irish blood that runs through my veins. I’d like to think there’s still a “lilt of Irish laughter” in me though. But, on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone feels kinda Irish. It is a happy day that celebrates the beauty of an old culture. Of course, we all know that St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish, but he has become the patron saint of the Emerald Isle for his missionary work nearly two millennia ago. Everyone wants to be an Irishman on St. Paddy’s Day. Well, there are some Irish folks that I want to be like.
Every summer, my family went to the Russian River like a lot of San Francisco families. One such family was the Murphy’s. I knew Tom Murphy. He always drove by the pier in his totally cool green boat and waved. I don’t remember ever having a ride in it, but I would admire how it matched his red hair. Tom was a nice guy, good guy, solid. I met his sister shortly after at Mercy High School in SF, she was a year behind me. Ann Marie, I can still remember clearly, was always laughing, smiling and telling jokes. I didn’t know then that an illness ran in the family to which both Tom and Ann Marie would succumb. Surely, a mother’s hell.
Some years ago, I was reading the Irish Comics — the obituaries — and came across Mrs. Murphy’s obituary. I had never met Mrs. Murphy, but the obituary writer summed up the character of this amazing woman: she was “a woman of faith, patience, endurance and grace, she faced head on the heavy onslaughts that nature threw against her and she stood up with courage and hope and without complaint.” In the midst of my own troubles, I was encouraged, if she could endure “with courage and hope” so could I. I was strengthened to go on “without complaint”. I am still working on that one. She exemplified the kinda Irish I want to be like and the kinda Christian I’d like to become.
I know some other Irish folks — the kinda Irish I want to look like. I first met the Carlins when I was a wee lassie, probably up at the River too. I envied their twinkling blue eyes and beautiful wavy auburn hair. According to Mrs. Carlin, Mr. Carlin is a “hundred-percenter,” meaning both parents are all Irish. He reminded me of James Cagney - not “Public Enemy” Cagney or “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” Cagney — but the charming “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Cagney. Decades ago, I spent a couple days with this family. “American Pie” played non-stop on the radio Helen kept on all night. I took that habit home, much to the consternation of my sister. Helen and her sister walked me all around from West Portal to Stonestown.
Often when I take the kids on a drive through the City, I drive by St. Cecilia’s. I tell them that’s where their grandfather went to school. I drive pass the Carlin’s house, but can never remember which one was theirs. I hoped to see one of them in front yard. No such Irish luck — well, until this past Sunday.
My daughter had a game at St. Cecilia’s. She had gone ahead with a friend, and her sister and I were meeting her there. Impatient to get to the game on time and not wanting to turn left at Sloat, I drove straight and took West Portal to Vicente and happened to drive on the Carlins’ block. As I passed, I saw a figure stooped over the little garden in the front yard. It was Mr. Carlin.
“I’m gonna drop you off, I’ve got to visit someone.” I said to my older daughter and dumped her at the St. Cecilia’s parking lot, “I’ll be right back.” I was so excited to see Mr. Carlin. By the time I got there, he was no longer in the front yard, but the garage door was still open. I illegally parked across the street and skipped over to his open door. “Hello…, Mr. Carlin,” I said as I knocked on the door frame. He got up and was happy to visit. I wasn’t sure if he remembered me, but he remembered my father. I told him I had always wanted to stop by and say hello, but forgot which house was his. He said I was always welcome, told me the number and to come by again. After our little chat, I told him I beat him and had ten kids…then he remembered, “Yes, your dad told me about that.” He eyes still sparkled and were still a deep beautiful blue. I hopped back in the car, very happy and went to the game.
No big deal, huh? That little visit blessed me so much. I had hoped for so long to say hello to this old family friend, and I got the opportunity. Everyday we have opportunities to say hello to someone or smile at someone, even if it’s the Burger King guy who is just trying to get the order right. Those little things are blessings that we can be a part of. It doesn’t take much, folks, to lighten another’s load or warm another’s heart.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, I am gonna roast me a leg o’ lamb — I don’t do corned beef and cabbage — listen to some Christy Moore and Ronan Tynan and top it off by watching “The Quiet Man”. I will also remember the kinda Irish I admire, Mrs. Murphy and her strength of character and Mr. Carlin and his smiling Irish eyes. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, folks!!