Today I have been pondering all things Irish. Well really, I have been pondering two things Irish: my corned beef and cabbage dinner, and my grandmother. I think the dinner is self-explanatory, but I might need to elaborate on my grandmother.
My grandma, Delia Edwards, was born in Ireland many moons ago. Growing up, the only real hint that I had to her heritage was how, when she was frustrated, she would utter the words: Jesus, Mary and Joseph in her authentic Irish brogue. I didn’t really hear her accent all that much except when she said those words. In fact, even today when I want to conjure up and Irish accent in my mind I simply imagine my grandma saying those four words, and it all comes to me.
Now, mine was not a grandmother who baked cookies with, nor did she teach me how to can peaches. In fact, the only thing I ever really saw her make was orange juice. Instead, my grandma taught me all about class and how to be gracious. My grandmother taught me that if you give someone a purse, you should make sure there’s a ten dollar bill inside! It is because of my grandmother that I enjoy writing letters. She was my first real pen-pal, and I wrote her many letters over many years.
Because of my grandmother I wash my face every morning with Pond’s Cold Cream. The little white jar with the green lid was a fixture in her home, and now it is a fixture in mine. I enjoy trips to the bookstore, partly because once a year she took her grandchildren book shopping. This is a tradition that my mom continues with my children. I love playing cribbage and reading People magazine. These were all things that I learned at my grandmother’s home.
I feel so fortunate that I was able to grow up in close proximity to my grandparents. We visited their home every week. For me, Sunday afternoons are supposed to be about big family dinners with aunts and uncles and cousins. Our current situation doesn’t allow for that, but that’s always what I think we should be doing after church because that is always what I did after church.
After my grandma had her stroke, I was able to walk to the hospital every day on my way home from classes at Dal. Even though she wasn’t speaking, we still had some amazing visits. That was also the time that I had some of my best visits with my grandfather. It was then that I learned about the hotel where the spent their wedding night, and how much it cost, and how grandpa put his shoes in the hall before bed and in the morning they were waiting, polished.
After my grandmother died I learned how important she was to every person that she met. I have never been to a funeral that was more filled with love. At her viewing I ran into a woman that I had worked with previously. It turned out that my grandmother had given her a job when she was young and no one would hire her; she remembered my grandmother thirty years later.
There wasn’t a false bone in my grandmother’s body. She was the most genuine person that I have ever known. She wasn’t raised in the lap of luxury. In fact, her upbringing was fairly depressing. Growing up poor in Ireland isn’t exactly a dream childhood, but you never would have known it to talk to her.
I’ve never heard anyone say a word against my grandma, and I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to live my life in a way that would inspire that kind of love from the people around me.
So, on this feast of Saint Patrick while I’m enjoying my boiled dinner and my Shamrock shake, I’ll be raising a glass to the woman who is the very epitome of class.