Monday, March 17, 2014
An Irish Toast
Today is a holiday that is celebrated in our family. Sometimes we attend St. Patrick's Day parades, or gather together as a clan to enjoy the day. We always enjoy the traditional corned beef and cabbage feast, complete with roasted potatoes and Irish soda bread. We do this in part because of our Irish ancestry. One of my maternal lines is Irish, and we take great delight in this heritage.
Our Irish ancestors were hardy folk who possessed a zest for life, and a determination to succeed. My maternal grandfather was a great example of this. He seemed to understand that despite the difficulties that life at times presents, it's important to look for the good, to press forward, finding the humor in challenging situations.
His was not an easy life. When he was in the 8th grade, his father passed away from something the doctor diagnosed as "Telescope Gut." Now we know that it was a strangulated hiatal hernia. Not a pleasant way to go, but at the time, there wasn't much that could be done. After his father's demise, my grandfather dropped out of school to help support his family. He worked hard, along with his numerous brothers, to provide the basic necessities of life.
They worked hard . . . and played hard, always managing to keep a balance, something my grandfather did his entire life. Growing up in a small cabin in the Grays Lake area in southeastern Idaho, my grandfather came from a large family. Though I'm sure there were times they didn't always get along, I suspect that for the most part, they still managed to have a lot of fun together. I grew up hearing the stories of fishing trips, hunting adventures, hours spent singing, dancing, playing simple card games, and enjoying life. I saw how my grandfather and his siblings enjoyed spending time together during their later years and knew that the bonds established when they were younger helped them to remain close.
My grandfather faced many trials during his life. Among them: the death of a child, worry over two other sons who served in the military, injuries sustained during a terrible car accident, economic setbacks, and being struck by lightening twice. But no matter what the challenges were, he always rose to the occasion, setting an example of courageous fortitude.
It amazes me still how he managed to keep his sense of humor intact. He was always smiling and laughing, and looking on the bright side of things. And he was the type of grandparent that grandchildren love. He made time for us, teaching us the songs and games he had learned in his youth. He told hilarious stories that made us laugh, and took us with him when he went out on his ranch to take care of his animals. He taught us that animals were to be treated with kindness and respect and he let us experience things like feeding bum lambs, and seeing how his small dairy operated.
He took us fishing on many occasions, patiently sharing his secrets on how to catch the silvery creatures. Since he worked part-time for the local Fish and Game, he knew exactly where to go to find the fish and we always came home with an impressive catch that we would eat for dinner.
In later years, we were saddened to lose this great man. He lived to be in his eighties and had enjoyed amazing health and strength his entire life. Then pancreatic cancer surfaced and he bravely fought his final battle. Though he was in tremendous pain, he still inspired smiles and laughter until the very end.
It hurt to see him go, but I've never forgotten the peaceful joy that most of us felt during his funeral. It was more like a joyous graduation event as we reflected on the great example he had set for us to follow. And so we celebrate days like today as a tribute to our grandfather--a man who represented all that is good about being Irish. I'm sure if he was here with us today, he would stress that the secret of enjoying life is to continually look for the good, learn from the bad, and keep moving forward no matter what.