For many people estranged from their blood and bone of origin, the holiday season can deliver a tsunami of tears with just a touch of wind-in-your-lungs-expulsion, followed by the eternal self-query: "what if I call... maybe this time will be different... does it matter?"
St. Patrick's Day is that holiday of pain and query for me, and it becomes more and more evident, that it always will be.
You see, I grew up in an Irish Pub. Not just any pub, but one of the best pubs. Ever. World famous, it's music stage has been graced by the most authentic, talented and respected Irish musicians.
Conceptualized and created by my Father, it opened in the Summer of 1980 with its official grand opening in November, on the anniversary of the lynching of its namesake.
In the decades of existence, this one-of-a-kind pub has been home to many. In the years I was there, I met minstrels, storytellers, and heroes. It is home to many soldiers arriving home and those honored in requiem. Walls draped with history both Irish and American hold stories of heroism, heartache, death, birth, and celebration. In the pub, I witnessed marriage proposals, musical genius, and patriotic jubilance. I learned more history within those walls than any school or college attended.
And the stories, so many incredible stories; like the day my Dad helped a woman on the street that had fallen; she came inside the Pub with her friends only to discover that her Father was in a photograph on the pub's wall with his platoon in Vietnam. He had recently passed, she was with traveling friends to mourn and heal.
So many unbelievable stories and likely hundreds more that I don't even know.
It was my home too; I brought classmates, friends, lovers, co-workers and most importantly, my daughters home to the pub.
I worked there during St. Patrick's Day events when I was barely out of high school. I loved the fierce energy, 12-hour shifts, and hilarity. My dad had THE place in one of the most Irish cities in America, and I got to be in the mix. It was crazy, beautiful, musical chaos in the house of inebriated-Irish-for-a-day guests, and I loved every minute of it. I felt safe in this place because it was home.
I no longer dwell within the walls of this home, but it resides within me, and I am forever grateful. It was not perfect; it did not nourish everything a young kid needs to be whole. But it gave me things a safe and tidy childhood would not have delivered; an industrious, unbreakable, unrelenting, quest meet people, talk to them and hear them. It made me honor history and fall in love with the story, and that right there is a badassery that cannot be bought or stolen. It is the making of minstrels and wordsmiths who to me are the heroes among us; for they are the keepers of real who share the stories of love.
I am homesick for a place I cannot return to and a root I cannot break. So tonight, I bake soda bread and tomorrow I'll cook corned beef, listening to the musical soundtrack of my time in that city. The music and memories will rattle my heart and soul, breaking open vaults within while healing my heart.
I walk past this book multiple times daily; it features my Father's Pub. It's my teenaged home, and my home in my 20's, 30's and 40's. It is an undeniable, slow to heal, firey part of who I am.
It is a remarkable wonderment to me that the very things I learned to honor, the values that I inherited from this aspect of the prism of my being would be the very things that stiffen my physical spine and humanitarian resolve to reject this relationship with my Father.
Forever haunted by his words, pub music non-stop in my head, longing in my heart for a familial relationship, entrenched in that building woven together by the many people who have performed and worked there over the decades. But today, the wound is wide open, and the tears won't stop, so I surrender to it all, and I heal.