On Wednesday, my son, Brian will step off the red-eye flight from JFK and the sun will rise to meet him. I will have my son, my boy, my only boy with me while we tour our ancestral island with my wife (on her first visit, too).
It’s been thirty years since I’ve been to Ireland. I can hardly wait to see how it’s changed, fear how it’s changed and hope that some things are not changed at all.
I will take Brian to see some Irish Egans. I will meet a distant cousin I haven’t seen since 1984. Together we will visit the graves of my other relatives who have passed on in those past three decades. As homework, I asked him to watch The Quiet Man, something I’m sure he didn’t have the time to do. That’s okay. He has me as his guide.
I will be the Seanchai, and tell him stories of Irish history…the glorious tales of heroic myths like Cúchulainn and Tir Na Nog and Brian Boru.
I will also tell him of the days of the famine, when the British landowners shipped beef and potatoes back to England, leaving the Irish to eat dirt.
He will hear of the Uprisings. He will hear of Kevin Barry, a man younger than my son, who was executed by the English in 1920. He will know of Bobby Sands and the hunger strike that took his life six years before my son was born.
[I love England, as my readers know, but I also understand what some English did to my people.]
I will show him the Cliffs of Moher, and the towns of Galway and Sligo.
I will read Yeats to him under bare Ben Bulben. I will make every attempt to get him a sip of Potcheen. Like a true Irishman, I will talk his ear off while he is cornered in a pub in Culleens.
We will walk among the ruins of Cashel and rub our hands against the ancient rock. The lichen and the moss will scratch our palms. It’s likely to rain Irish water from Irish clouds on his shoulders. The fog may slow our driving through the narrow lanes. But, in the few days he has to be with us, I will touch the highlights that will dirty his fingers with the soil of his homeland.