Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Pat's Day

It’s Monday and St. Patrick’s day. Oddly enough, my mind is preoccupied with somber thoughts on this day, which, in their own bizarre way, do manage to connect somehow. You see, over the weekend, the mother of a very close friend of mine tragically died while on the operating table. Without going into much detail, she was undergoing major surgery when she had a heart attack. This caused complications which led to brain injury and death. I believe that she was in her early 70’s ( my friend, the middle of 3 children, is 50). Needless to say, my friend and her siblings (her younger sister is a friend of mine as well) are in a deep state of shock at the unexpected turn of events.

Inevitably perhaps, it led me to think of the death of my own mother, close to 20 years ago, particularly with it being St. Patrick’s day. As a child, my mother was keenly aware and very proud of her Irish heritage. It’s something that she took very seriously and she was insistent that we had to wear something visibly green on St. Patrick’s day in school. This usually worked out to our advantage as there was always some passive/aggressive little freak child who felt the need to severely pinch anyone who wasn’t wearing green. If my memory serves me properly, the child in my class that was responsible for the pinch patrol was named Suzanne R. I recall her as a bitter, quick to anger, little girl with overtly pale skin and bright red hair. She was the quintessential “mean girl”. I’m also pretty sure that she stole my father’s pocket calculator from my desk in 1976 though I couldn’t prove it. I can still see her jejune slack jawed denial of my accusation as if it were yesterday.

But I swerve off track. Only two f my mother’s grandparents actually came from Ireland. Both of whom happened to be her maternal and paternal grandmothers. One was named Julia Shea and the other was named Katherine Downey. Julia married a man named Cyrus Lewis. Little is known of his genealogy with the exception that documents show that his mother was a Native-American - more likely than not, a Mohawk. She was given the name “Jessica Savage” by Cyrus’s father who purchased her somehow. At least that’s how the story goes. She was my maternal great-great grandmother.

My mother’s paternal grandmother married a man named Edward O’Brien who happened to of have been born in the Azores to Antonio and Maria O’Brien. Though the thought of anyone having the name O’Brien in the Azores seems odd, I’ve been told that many Irish immigrated there in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a Irish/Portuguese mix.

Based on all of that information, my mother could have chosen any number of heritages to be proud of. She went with the Irish. That would explain why I had to search for the perfect green shirt to wear before heading off to the grocery store this morning. All the while I was there, I had this silly fear that I would find the thieving and pinching Suzanne R. working behind the deli counter or check out line.

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