Irish Roots – Pulling Away From Home

picture of green shamrocks.

For me, my Irish roots and pulling away from home have always been both a source of joy and sadness. When I’ve gone on work trips or vacations, there has been a certain sweet sadness as I sat in the back of an airport limo and looked back at my home, knowing that I was leaving my loved ones behind. But then, I’d turn forward in the anticipation of the journey ahead, safe in my conviction that I’d return to my cozy base camp (home) and would be reunited with my loved ones again.

I am a child of parents who immigrated to the United States from Ireland. My parents didn’t know each other in Ireland. My mom is from County Mayo and my dad was from County Cork. After the second world war, when there weren’t many job opportunities in Ireland, my parents pulled away from home and journeyed to New York. It was a time in history when Irish families already here in the States helped other family members come across the Atlantic Ocean.

When my dad left Carrignavar, County Cork he travelled to Ellis Island in NYC by boat. Then, he went to live with one of his cousins (who had sponsored him) in NYC until he was able to work and get his own apartment. He was about 25 years old at the time. Carrignavar, by the way, means “man of the rock”.

My dad was definitely a man of the rock: always kind, always gentle, always caring of his family. Family, the home base, meant a lot to him. If you’ve read the first book in my Star O’Brien series, Death on Clare Island, you may have noticed that I dedicated that first book to him. His mother, my grandmother (and namesake) died in childbirth when my dad was two years old. The year was 1926. What has always struck me a deeply sad was that my grandfather wasn’t able to care for his children. So, he kept one, the oldest boy, and the other three children (including my father) were separated and taken in by various family members.

You might say my dad was a bit of an orphan until he met my mother. Together they made a home base here in the US – a base that we have never had to worry about being pulled away from. My parents were proud of their American citizenship. I’ve always been proud of my Irish roots and ancestry. Together the love of being American with an Irish heritage is something I celebrate each day without fear.

Unfortunately, this week the scenes of Ukrainian women and children leaving their homes with nothing but a knapsack and a family pet are heartbreaking. It is difficult not to cry when I see a man bending down to say goodbye to his child before the man turns to return to defend his family’s base camp, his home in the Ukraine. Will these families ever be reunited? Will they ever feel the joy and anticipation of begin together again in their home base. I hope so with all my heart.

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