His mother wanted him to come back to Ireland. He wasn’t ready to return. But he (always) weakened. Mothers can do that to you.
On the trip that he told me about first, the story started with a journey that took forever because the plane could not land in Dublin. The jet had to bypass Dublin and go to Manchester, return to Shannon, and then go on to Dublin again.
The plane could not land in Dublin. There was six inches of snow on the ground. Snow is not an Irish thing. No one was prepared.
And then there was the rail journey from Dublin to Sligo, ordinarily three hours, that took nine hours, again because there was six inches of snow on the ground. At one point, the train stopped for passengers to use the bathroom in a tiny station: 500 people and one bathroom.
On that part of the trip, any hard liquor on the train was liquid gold.
But these things were just the way it was. He got there. His mother was ecstatic, and all was going well. After Christmas dinner, his younger brother told his mother he was “going out for a while.” His mother went off on that. “He is always going out,” she said. She is an elderly widow and her younger son lives with her.
A little while later on Christmas night, there was a lot of noise in the little house. The mother started to rage. “He’s got a girl with him,” she fumed.
Finally the younger brother walked into the living room with a young boy and said, “This is my son.” The boy had a slender build, brown hair, and brown eyes. He just stood there saying nothing. He was a lovely boy.
The boy’s father hadn’t known he had him. When the boy’s mother came out with it, six years after the fact, the father insisted on a DNA test, and it was his. No one but the young boy’s mother knew until then.
The grandmother of the child invited the boy and his mother to come for tea and cakes the next day. It was lovely, everyone thought.
Later, the young father was asked, “Why not marry her?”
“Ah, I couldn’t do that. Who would do my laundry?” he answered.
“Well,” the visiting older brother said, “I do my own laundry.”
“And who would cook for me?” the young father asked.
My friend, the older brother said, “She is a nice girl, has her own home, why not?”
Now the next day, when the grandmother was asked about the situation, she said of her youngest son, “Ah, who would do his laundry, who would take care of him?”
And my friend, who told me this story, understood then what was happening.
He knew that his mother did not want to lose her youngest son.
Like most Irish stories, there is a backstory, and it is sad, yet funny as well. Stories like these are one of the reasons my friend is not inspired to return home often.
Some years ago, when my friend was one of two brothers at home, his father failed at business. The bedrooms in that house had thin walls and the young boys could hear their parents talking or arguing. They heard their father say, “I’m not going to work anymore,” and their mother immediately answer, “I’ll go to work.”
Their father never worked after that, and the mother slaved. Finally the father left the mother with the two boys. The mother was very bitter toward the father. There was no love lost.
Now the mother’s sister had been wild over the husband. She never spoke to my friend’s mother again, because she thought the mother was unfair to her husband.
On her deathbed, the sister spoke. She said to my friend’s mother, “Well now I’ll be up in heaven talking to Tim long before you will,” and she died.
Then the gone-astray father died. The funeral director began to write his obituary: “Tim Sullivan, beloved father, loving husband,” etc., but the family would have none of that.
They decided to write the obituary themselves. Then the problem of listing the surviving family members arose. My friend, who told me all this, is gay, and has a partner. Finally, they decided to put that in, despite their home being in a tiny village. It could have been a business partner, but so be it.
Then there was the lovely lady who had been kind to the father, and the family wanted to recognize her. Her name was Honora, but she didn’t want her last name put in, so they listed only “Honora.”
This being a small town, people started to talk. Had the deceased father been playing around with her in the old days? And since there were two Honoras in town, there was a lot of talk.
So came the burial at the crossroads cemetery.The casket got stuck and couldn’t descend. The spurned wife laughed under her veil. She hid this from her friends, but she told her son, my friend.
Now when it was time for my friend to return to the States, he knew once again why he had first left Ireland. And he knew again why it was difficult to return.
Truth was truth. But in Ireland, one never quite knew. Off he went to the airport, after checking the weather.
This time, he booked a direct flight home from Shannon and left just before the government closed the airport. Snow was expected.
Sheila Flynn DeCosse lives in East Hampton, and has had writings for children published in Cricket and other children’s publications. She is working on a historical novel about East Hampton.