On Being Irish
It's obvious I feel kinship to the French side of the family, my mother's people.
Who weren't that different, in social class, from my father's.
But I know so much less about my father who, for all intents and purpose, left the family when I was eight.
What I do know is that they were, are, Irish. Oklahoma farmers who were probably pushed out of Ireland by the potato famine in the 1850s -- who fought the dusty Oklahoma soil for their existence, especially during the Depression. Tough people who give survival its real meaning.
During the Depression, my father joined the CCC, Civil Conservation Corps, right out of high school. I know he graduated, because one of the few stories he told was about attending his graduation ceremony in denim overalls, his only clothes.
And I know that he somehow moved from that into the military, where he seems to have found a structure that suited him.
It is rare for an individual with my father's background to become an officer ... and my father retired from the Air Force a lieutenant colonel, with a bronze star and a purple heart, having served with honor in combat, in the Pacific theatre of World War II and Korea.
So, the Irish are courageous.
And they drink.
My father was a sad man ... I rarely saw him after my mother left him -- and then I rarely saw him without a drink in his hand. A high-functioning alcoholic, I think. Self-medicating his depression.
Not a poet, my Dad. But he liked to paint. Especially nature scenes. And he liked to build things, I remember a brick-and-mortar chimney in particular. And he loved power tools. And he kept bees.
So, the Irish are industrious. And melancholy.
But what I value most of my father's Irish heritage is something he would never have admitted -- but I swear he had it in him. Because I have it in me. And I didn't get it from my mother.
It's a kinship to magic. A belief in things we can't see. Knowing the way things are, even when you have no way of knowing.
The Irish -- the Celts, the Gaels -- are magic. Against all odds, again and again, their magic has surfaced, even when they will against it. How else do you explain this people who have survived so much ...
and still they sing, they write great poetry, they dance ... they inspire.