Today on the 16th anniversary of our father's death, I remember our dad Michael and the long ago St. Patrick's Days we enjoyed with him.
St. Patrick's Day of the year 2000 is a day I recollect with great sadness. On that day there was no cause for celebration. Our family spent the day in a funeral home accepting visitors who had come to pay their last respects to my dad who had died on 16 March, the day before that St. Patrick's Day.
Dad had mixed feelings about St. Patrick's Day. He liked the day because he was proud to be an Irishman, who usually enjoyed thinking about and talking about life at 'home'; however, I think he disliked the day for the some of the same reasons. Sometimes thinking about his past life at home in Ireland simply made him sad. Recollections of the tremendous fun he and my mother had once enjoyed with friends and family in Ireland could be just as easily replaced by thoughts of those upon whom he would never again set eyes.
The best St. Patrick's Days in my recollections are those which fell on a weekend. With a plan in hand for a day away, we would all pile into the car, enjoying a luncheon or early evening meal together along the way. There were the St. Patrick's Day celebrations when my parents welcomed Irish friends and family from home. I can still hear the joyous singing, the steady thrum of the guitar strings, the distinctive thump of the bone on the bodhrán drum, and Uncle Séamus wildly playing his accordion, while clapping and peals of laughter wrapped around the end of each tune.
Then there were those St. Patrick's Days on which our father would take our mother out to a lovely dinner, and then to a dance or some other kind of social event at the Irish Canadian Club. The house seemed to have a warm glow about it on those evenings as Dad waited for Mam. While she got ready he would play Irish music on the stereo — The Dubliners and The Chieftains, or the Irish tenor John McCormack — and he might happily croon along with the songs. Sometimes, I would sit with him and he'd talk about 'home'. Dad's stories about life in Ireland, and the places and faces he most missed, seemed to match the timbre of the music humming beneath his words. I recollect those times as very precious.
Although we could not buy real Irish 'small leaf' shamrock on this side of the pond, on the morning of 17 March 2000 before we went to the funeral home, my husband stopped by a local florist to pick up some Canadian shamrock for me. On that day I very much wanted it to stand among the roses and other beautiful flowers next to my dad's casket; it was oddly important to me that it should be there. For me, it represented the best of what my dad was as an Irishman, and as an immigrant to Canada.