Time Flies

Time Flies.
Death approaches.

My Irish Grandmother, on my father’s side,  used to say that.

I heard that uplifting saying often as a young lad.

‎If you are raised by Irish Catholics, you are imbued with a  predilection for humor that makes you smile while crying. Literally.

Let me give you an example, a possible Irish graveside toast: “Johnny. Here’s to ya. I raise my glass, to a man funnier than a one legged man in an ars-kicking contest. But ya owe me money, so, go push daisies”.

Ireland was so desperately poor 150 years ago, they wrote jokes and limericks  to make it through the day.

I never understood the “Time Flies, Death Approaches”‎ saying.

I never understood it. I knew both were true, but why would you combine them into some sort of greeting?

“Ok Sonny. Nice to see you. Time flies, death approaches”.  Ummmm.  Is that goodbye? Am I going to be hit by a bus? Is Grandma in a hurry to die?

“Get in the car Jeffrey, everyone’s fine. It’s a joke”
‎-But mom, it’s not funny-

“Keep walkin, it helps Grandma remember to put on make-up and wear her nice dress‎”

The Irish died a lot, so their humor is not always humorous, in the traditional sense.

I once went to an Irish funeral, in a small seaside town in County Sligo.  I thought I had been tricked into being an extra in the sequel to “Waking Ned Devine”. I found myself looking for David Kelly to come careening through the village on his scooter wearing nothing but his helmet.

Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine

Continuing

The funeral was festive. Well, aside from the crying widow. (And what’s with those bagpipes? They sound like the final gasping chords of a dying organ raised by violins)
The men were telling funny stories, over a pint…..and a whiskey.

It was morning. ….oh, yes, there was mourning, as well.  (the women were in charge of that part of the festivities. “I’ll be over there Margaret, laughing and drinking,  you stay over here and look sad so the widow doesn’t cry alone, and keep her back to the card game!”)

The Irish have so many great phrases, like “Here’s to me, and here’s to you, and here’s to love and laughter. I’ll be true as long as you, and not a moment after”.
So sweet. Right?

I’ll never forget my friend Neil’s wedding. His Uncle Sean was attending from Ireland.

Just as Neil was approaching the ‎altar, from the side entrance, Sean calls him over, puts his arm around him, and in his thick Irish brogue, whispers: “Neil. Remember, it’s the first 20years that are the toughest”.

-Sean smiled, and then frowned, and then smiled again…..the priest called for Neil before he could ask Sean if that was a joke, or advice. (obviously it was both)

Unfortunately, my father inherited the family jokes and sayings…  almost like ‎some cruel heirloom.

I can picture the late 19th century pep talk from Irish mother to daughter: “Gretchen O’Malley! Yes, the Protestants inherit land and sheep and jewels, but we Catholics inherit something they will NEVER have: our JOKES!”

….”And to my son, not the handsome one, I bequeath my sad jokes and sayings. Jack, you get the house”

Another one of my father’s favorites was “such is life”. Never understood that one either.

“Dad, I ran over my son’s turtle with the lawnmower”.

“Such is life”. Well, I suppose so….IF YOU’RE A BLOOMIN IDIOT.

“Dad, looks like I’m going to have to get surgery to remove my 3rd arm‎”.

“Such is life”. Well, I suppose so…but my tailor’s sad, he has made a fortune from it.

….You know the saying “you had to be there” after the re-telling of a story falls flat?  Irish humor, like all humor, is “local”.‎ You have to be FROM there.

For example, New Yorkers found Seinfeld funnier than Oklahomans . (although I DO find Oklahomans funny)

Irish humor evokes a heartier laugh from a fellow Irishman in the same way a Borscht Belt comedian is going to bring down the house in Miami, and leave them scratching their heads in Branson, Missouri.

And then Dad died.

My siblings and I had wondered how we would feel when it happened. There were tears, and jokes, right on schedule. Time had flown by, death had approached, but it made a pretty rough landing.

My Dad’s last words to me? As I leaned into him on his death bad, August 10, 2012: “Dad, you taught me so much. Even the bad lessons were valuable. Like, I never took the belt to my son for crashing his bike into my car. I’m going to miss you”.

-only kidding, I only considered saying that-

Keep in mind, I had never said “I love you” to my Dad,  even though I often felt that sentiment. (mostly after the “disciplining” stopped)

“I’m going to miss you Dad”….it was the overwhelming #1 answer on my survey of things to say to him. I then moved closer and mustered the energy to say: “I love you Dad”.

He looked up at me…..his 80 year old Irish blue eyes tired and defeated,  and says: ‎ “such is life”.

CUT. !!!

Back it up people. Places!! Doing over that scene. Nurse, walking out of room.

Typical Tragic Movie, Pre-War Father saying goodbye to middle child.

Son, look like you are hoping father says ‎”I love you” back to you. Good, tears streaming down eyes.

TAKE TWO: ACTION!!

“I love you Dad”.

Nothing.

So, my final “conversation” with my Dad, ended with his favorite ‘Such is Life ‘ phrase.

No Dad! Wrong line!

Why not go off the stoic script? …, why not say “I love you”, as your last words?? Seriously Dad!

Why couldn’t he hand me an Irish heirloom I can cherish, and pass along to my children?

It was a perfect ending actually…..such IS life. The endings are as imperfect as the beginnings and the middlings‎.

So, let me pass along a blessing….a seat of the pants, impromptu blessing:

May they cry at your wedding and laugh at your funeral…..and if you are given the chance, remember to dance……and if your child is holding your hand, and saying goodnight, or goodbye, say “I love you”…..and if you raised them right, they’ll say “I love you too”.

Come On Out to the Country!

For all of you who are tired of the chaos here in Mayberry, what with all those cars backing into Sound Beach that you have to yield to, and the line at Sweet Peas! come on out to Kent Connecticut on May 17th for a slow-paced , fun-filled Sunday. (10am to 3pm)

Enjoy the picturesque hills of one of New England’s hidden treasures; an artist’s paradise, nestled in the bucolic Litchfield ‎Hills, See Bulls Bridge to the south of Kent, and Cornwall Bridge to the north, two of New England’s endangered species: the covered bridge.

-who can tell me why they covered the bridges? Oh Lesley put your hand down nobody likes a know-it-all.‎…let me tell you:…the cover preserved the bridge road surface from the elements and extended the life of the bridge.

The bridges are separated by 20miles of Ethan Allen Highway, a country road that meanders along a babbling brook that we call the Housatonic. (an old Native American term that translates to Whose Drink is This?)

Take 95 to one of those Norwalk exits and head north on route 7. Tell the kids you’ll give them a signed copy of Robert Thorson’s “Stone by Stone, the definitive history of New England Stonewalls” or something like that. Professor Thorson is our guest speaker….the guy is awesome. His books are awesome. ‎…and the Eric Sloane Museum is awesome.

Robert also wrote a kids’ book…..what kid doesn’t love a book signing and lecture from a UConn professor?!‎  ‎In case they aren’t psyched about it?

You could tell them: “they found Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel!!” -show them the below picture to prove it.‎…maybe don’t tell them the part where Mike died and they actually used Mary Ann to dig his grave.

steam

So, where was I? Oh, I remember. I was heading through Danbury, staying on route 7.   After you get to Kent (and stop into -forgot the name- chocolate shop) keep straight, past the dilapidated barn in the hay field ‎on the left….I’m serious, look for it, you’re very close when you see it.

The Eric Sloane Museum, and Connecticut Antique Machinery museum are about 1/4 mile north of Kent’s one traffic light. Pay attention because if you miss the light, there isn’t another one until Rutland Vermont. (Ethan Hated traffic lights and as part of his will he said “I’m going to give you my 308 mile highway but you can’t put more than 4 traffic lights on it . Not many people know that).

So, come on up to Kent next Sunday…..5/17.

This will be a great day….there’s a locomotive that was originally used in the sugar cain fields of Hawai’i, I swear that is true. See picture. (I know how to sneak into the train barn)

train

We are building a dry stonewall on the museum grounds. If you come I will let you lay a stone on the wall, anywhere you want, as long as it’s in the right place.

wall

There will be some high-carb, high fat deep fried refreshments and carbonated corn syrup with artificial coloring and some processed cheese products ‎……
Ok, only kidding…..the food will be awesome.

After the book signing and lecture Robert Thorson has some hands-on stuff for kids.
‎ I also have a fun game planned for the adults.

I call it “The Rolling Stones”.

You pick out a stone, sign it with chalk and see who can role it the farthest down the hill without hurting your friends. Here’s the catch……you have to go get your stone and bring it back up the hill….so choose wisely.

‎See you next Sunday. Unless you have something better to do. (hard to imagine what that could be, but, whatever. If you’re like me, you want your children outdoors, unplugged! ‎ Hash tagging, twit chatting, face timing. Those are winter sports. The sun is shining. Come on up to the Eric Sloane Museum; we can show your children some cool things to do with their other 8 fingers.