My wife left me.
Well, no, not like that. She went on a trip to Ireland with friends, and left me — a still working man — at home to fend for myself for 10 days.
That is not a good thing. As anyone knows, men — particularly those on the shady side of 60 — do not do “home alone” well.
It’s not that we stay out late and eat food that is bad for us. We do, but our concept of staying out late has changed dramatically. And our ability to eat pizza in any great amount has shrunk to the point of harmlessness.
But we do tend to straighten things out in order to kill time. As a result, my dear spouse will be unable to find a thing upon her return and I will have forgotten where I put it. That’ll teach her.
I’m jealous of this trip to Ireland. My wife’s ancestors are all English and German. In fact, she’s on a direct maternal line to Quakers who came from England to Nantucket Island and found glory for years in the whaling business.
But my maternal line is Irish — McCrudden, they are. As well as Hickey, himself, and others. A Toburn slipped in from the North when he came to America, but a pretty Irish Catholic girl brought him into the fold and saved his soul more than a century ago.
My ancestry has shown me, it’s funny how we bide the time. A day might seem eternal when we are living it; a decade a passing fancy when we are looking back. For the Irish, the lines are even fuzzier, as yesterday is always richer than dreaming about tomorrow.
I tell people that I was raised in an Irish Catholic household. That claim on paper is more than a little ridiculous. You have to go back quite a ways to find someone actually born on the Old Sod. And my father’s ancestral line is decidedly John Bull. (Much to my everlasting shame.)
But our home was Irish Catholic anyway, or at the very least, Irish Catholic American. My mother’s stories — endless, embellished and entertaining like any Irish Catholic story — were not of the Emerald Isle. But they were about the first- or second-generation Irish in the immigrant city neighborhoods of her childhood.
From my mother, I learned of things like “Soupers” — Catholics allegedly forced to convert to Protestantism during the Great Irish Famine of the mid-19th century in order to get a little soup to eat.
From my mother, I learned of great-great uncles who swore they could never go home to Ireland because the Brits were out to hang them the very day they returned.
From my mother, I learned of great-great aunts who in their old age that could still launch boats into a wild surf because of their days of smuggling kinsmen out of harms way.
Like any kid, I devoured this stuff. So when the man next door asked me what I was about when he saw me playing soldier and I answered, “I’m a revolting Irishman!” his howls of laughter only mystified me.
After all this, it is my wife who got to watch Notre Dame play Navy in a football game in Dublin. It’s my wife who will sip Guinness in its home pubs. It’s my wife who will attend Mass where it has been celebrated since St. Patrick.
A friend recently remarked that she can’t stand Irish poets because they are so whiny. And I thought of Francis Ledwidge, an Irish poet who died in World War I:
“Oh what a pleasant world ’twould be,
How easy we’d step thro’ it,
If all the fools who meant no harm,
Could manage not to do it!”
I mean no harm. I hope my wife enjoys every minute of her Irish lullaby. But just wait until she tries to find something when she gets home.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.