Thursday, March 17, 2011

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!


THE UNTOLD IRISH STORY by Michael Kyne 

Dear Dad,

It’s been a long time since I spoke with you, mainly due to the fact that you are dead. So it’s high time I tell you all that I failed to do while you were actually, alive.
            As a Dad, you were probably not the best in dadhood, but then again, who is? Yes you drank in epic proportions; I personally witnessed you putting away thirteen pints of good English Ale, a feat I have not been able to duplicate. You had a penchant for pissing off various foremen and getting fired, particularly the time you hit one in the back of the head with a brick! You did leave home with that job, but give you your dues Dad, you came home with a new job by evening. With all of your boozing you always got up and went to work, you may have hated the menial jobs you had to do, but you got up and did them anyway. I may be wrong, but I don’t remember you complaining about the stuff you had to put up with each day, I do remember we always had rent and food. We may have had more if you hadn’t supported so many pubs, but we had enough.
            From you I learnt a lot about life and survival, and from all the things you didn’t give me I was forced to figure them out and accomplish them myself. How many kids these days would know how to fix a puncture in a bike tire, not with fancy tools, but with the forks from Mum’s cutlery drawer. I bet not many people would have the joy of watching their Dad cook sausages on a shovel over a fire in the back garden.
            I remember the stories you told of trouble you got into with your friends at the Black Horse. Most of the stories were of questionable behavior and often illegal in content, but you told them with such unapologetic humor, that to this day I retell them with pride. Do you remember bringing home the chairs with the basket weave arms? As I remember you “found” them in the street, you missed the fact that they were on display outside a furniture store and were not actually abandoned. You brought one home and if I remember, you got collared going back for the second. You felt you needed two, one for each of the two girls, Maureen and Moonyeen. Problem was Dad the basket arms that you were so proud of was just brown cardboard wrapped around the plain wooden arms underneath to protect them. When you told the story, you and we laughed until tears ran down our faces, like all great story tellers you could laugh at yourself just as much as anyone else. And I thank you Dad for teaching me that, and in fact all of your children, Patrick, myself, Moonyeen and Maureen are great story tellers and you will be proud to know your grandchildren Pim and Tandy have the same skill. I laugh the hardest when the kids are telling outlandish stories about me to their friends with the same Irish embellishments as yourself.
            One of the great things you taught me was the need for people to break the law. People are stifled with endless laws and rules and need to feel that stifled laughter as you break them. You had your own parameters as to which laws fell into the “can break” category and it did not bode well if we stepped outside them. When we went out bike riding you and Patrick always had backpacks so that as we rode we could “liberate” cabbages and fruit that came too close to the road. You even brought home a rabbit once that you had somehow run over. Mum thought it was still breathing, but it was the millions of fleas leaving the now cold creature, it was immediately thrown up the yard and never graced our dinning table. My favorite adventures were with you and Patrick when we went “scrumping” which as you know the stealing of apples from local farms. Mostly we did this a few weeks before Guy Fawkes Day so that we kids would go around selling apples to raise money for fireworks. Half the apples Mum would wrap individually in news paper so that they would be ok to eat and cook with during winter. So on one mission you me and Patrick went out to “scrump” apples. You wanted to increase the productivity of the operation, so instead of bags to get the apples we took along a wheelbarrow. Usually we would pick good fallen apples off the ground or pick from low branches. To you Dad, this seemed a bit work intensive. You walked around and picked a particularly well laden tree, and told us to get ready. Grasping the trunk with your big hands, you spread your legs and started to push and pull the apple tree. Pretty soon the tree whipped back and forth violently showering apples to the ground. Pat I ran around rapidly filling up the wheelbarrow. Pretty soon the only things in the tree were leaves and the barrow brimming with apples. I think it was on this occasion that a police car came by as we stood innocently by the road. As I was about five, I didn’t know the art of lying. “Did you get a lot of apples son?” said the officer, “No, just a few” said I. So they made us dump them all out. Of course soon as the police were out of sight, we loaded up and went home. Dad, I have pretty well taught my kids the same, I encourage them to sneak in to movies and to hop over fences to see what’s on the other side. I’m sure my neighbors wouldn’t approve but a bit of harmless lawbreaking is fun and you taught me that Dad and I thank you for it.
            In those days we had very little money and this lead to creativity. I remember we needed a wheelbarrow, the same one used in the “great apple caper”. Now I would go and buy one, but Dad you were better than that. When tea was shipped from China it came loose in wooden boxes about thee feet cube. When the grocer had emptied the box they were available to any one that asked. So out of a tea chest, two bicycle wheels, two scraps of wood for handles, some six inch nails for axles and Lo! A wheelbarrow was created. We made a fish pond out of an old liberated water tank from a construction site, the wood from orange crates made a wishing well top. A shed, later to become a bird aviary was made of wood from fruit crates, wood and tar paper from building sites. Myself at ten and Patrick a much older fourteen built it with old nails careful bent straight and reused. As of a few years ago it was still standing when the new owners pulled it down, that from a couple of kids. For our bikes we would get three or four broken ones and make one good bicycle out of the good pieces.  I still have those skills you taught me Dad and I have pulled off many a big project because of them. My life has been based on nothing is impossible if you want it and those life lessons came from you.
            It wasn’t until I was in England, when I was there for Mum when she was  sick in hospital and then again for her funeral, that I had some great chats with you. Who knew that after the war you became a mercenary in the Franco wars in Spain.  What about you sitting in the cellar of a bombed out hotel in London swigging real Napoleon brandy out of a bottle while the bombs rained down above. How I wish I had more of those times with you. I want you to know Dad, that I tell my kids my stories and yours so that your memories live on and mine as well.
            Just so you know, this is fathers day and I suddenly had to let you know how much I appreciate what you did for me and my brother and sisters. You were a foundling in Ireland which in those self righteous days put the curse of “Bastard” on your little head. You found yourself in a family of boys that bullied and mistreated you. You came to England where, as Irish, you were a second or third class person. Then as a young man you were in world war two, in war torn London seeing who knows what God awful things. Yet being an extremely intelligent man with no education you managed to get you and us through that and, sometimes in spite of yourself, raised four self sufficient kids. Dad I am proud of what you did with so little and truly wished I had told you this when I had the chance.
           
I love you Dad and miss you,
            Your son
        Michael Kyne

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1 comment:

  1. Beautiful writing and lovely storytelling! A true statement coming from a biased source...<3

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