Over My Shoulder: Tis A Blessing…

by Ann Murphy Robson

“Tis often said that on St. Patrick’s Day there are only two kinds of people: those who are Irish, and those who wish they were. Of course, that may be one of the many myths which the Irish have promoted for centuries.

As one who grew up in an O’Meara-Murphy household with aunts and uncles whose names were O’Brien, Houlahan, Ryan and Rowan, I believed this myth until I met a Robson.  I was the first in my family to marry other than an Irish person. I was the oldest girl in my generation and soon
my cousins would follow suit and marry good people of varying nationalities.

My mother did love the non-Irish person I married but often chided him for not being one of us.  He had the last laugh. When his cousin did the family history, it turns out that his great-grandmother had come to America from Waterford — pretty hard to be more Irish than that and thus ended one small family feud.

All was forgiven when the first grandchild was born on St. Patrick’s Day. She almost waited too long, making her arrival in the Oswego Hospital at 11:04 p.m.  She continues this “I’m running a little late” trait to this day.  But since she was born that way, I usually don’t expect her on time.

There is much to cherish about growing up Irish.  You learn early that you belong to a tribe that is very literate, quite lyrical and always ready for a good time.  We seem to have a blessing or a toast for every life event from cradle to grave.  When the last of my mother’s generation died, her obituary started out with “May she be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows she’s gone.”  Following her burial on a cold Canadian January morn, we retreated to my brother’s home for some warm food and a pint or more.

Most of my cousins and some of their families were there and we began catching up with each other.  Then the true Irish wake began when we started sharing stories first about our recently deceased Aunt Bessie, and then we branched out to stories about our respective parents.  We spent hours together as we hadn’t done since the previous death. We started shortly after noon and long after sunset were still enjoying being together.

We had our number of funerals through the years – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles from the O’Meara family of 10 – yet this one was special; it was the last of a generation. We’d been through more than a century and were now seeing the end of an era. No one wanted to leave. Now we were the elders and maybe we knew things would never be the same.

Yet, most of us have retained a good deal of the green blood with which we were born and raised.  We still knew how to laugh and cry together and tell stories in a lyrical way.

For those wishing they were Irish this month, I offer my favorite blessing:

“May your day be touched by a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart, and warmed by the smiles of the people you love.”

Ann Robson is the author of “Over My Shoulder: Tales of Life and Death and Everything In Between.” She may be reached at overmyshoulder@charter.net.