Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Fave #2: Irish Tragedy

It's story time!

Now, today is one of my FAVORITE days of the year. I love love love Guinness, and tonight, I will drink my weight of it.

The truth is, though, I really am Irish. 1/4, at the least. My family is a huge mishmash of all kinds of ethnicities - Irish, German, English, French, Native American, and probably dozens more. Basically, if you immigrated to the US anytime between it's founding and the late 40s, you're blood mixed in with my family most likely. And it's great being mixed, though I would certainly lament the fact that I didn't get any of the "classic beauty" of any of these cultures. The one thing I missed out on though, with all this melting pot mentality, is some sort of cultural identity. Everything in my family is watered-down.

When I took an early, overpowering interest in Ireland, found out I was more definitively Irish than anything else (well, 1/4 German, too, but I've never really gotten into racial extermination or bratwurst), that - along with my exceedingly pale skin - led me to identify as Irish.

So, today, in honor of St. Paddy's Day, I will regale you with one of my favorite family stories, and the only one I know about my full-blood, fresh off the boat, Irish great-grandparents.

For the sake of honesty, I should say that my family does not keep detailed records of history. I don't even know my great-grandparents' names (except my last name). I'm not sure what county they were from (Clare or Kerry) and I've heard this story told a few different ways, none with very much detail. I know it's true, but a couple of the more minute details (names, ages, etc) I've added to spice it up. Most importantly, though, the dollar amounts are TRUE. Hold onto that fact; it'll be important later in KNOCKING YOUR SOCKS OFF!

My great-grandad came over from Ireland with his Aunt when he was just a kid. His parents and siblings had all died. This was probably around the turn of the century, as my dad was born in '45 and his dad probably 1910 or thereabouts. So make my grand-dad's dad born in 1885 or so.

ANYWAY, Paddy (let's call him) and his Aunt came to Florida and started a life here. Paddy's Aunt was a devout Catholic and a very rich woman.

When Paddy was about 20 or so, he met an Irish girl and fell in love. Her name was Colleen (at least for the purposes of this story). Colleen and Paddy wanted to get married, but neither family would bless the marriage. Colleen was from a Protestant family; Paddy was Catholic. Even today, this would be something of a problem back in Ireland, but at the turn of the century? Not no way; not no how.

Paddy's Aunt expressly forbade it and threatened to cut him off if he dared marry Colleen. But the two were so in love, they got married anyway, consequences be damned!

Paddy's Aunt was true to her word, though, and she severed all ties with him immediately. Paddy and Colleen did ok, though. They built a life and had children. Paddy never spoke to his Aunt again, though. He was angry she had cut him out of her life and made him and Colleen work their way up from poverty; she was livid that he had disobeyed her and turned his back on the Catholic faith.

Then she died. And this is where the story gets good. Because here is the tragedy of it all, reaching down generation after generation and even shaping who my brother and I are today.

Paddy's Aunt left her 1 MILLION dollar fortune (and this was a million in the early 1900s, ok? ) TO THE ARCHDIOCESE of TAMPA. Every last dollar, save one, went to the stinkin' Catholic Church.

And do you know who that one dollar went to? Paddy. Because in those days, as long as your relative left you SOMETHING, you could not contest the will.

1 comment:

  1. That sucks to imagine how much easier your life would probably be if your damn great-grandfather had just married a friggen Catholic..