God Jul

God Jul

On Saturday, December 20, we invited the family to an evening of Norwegian holiday desserts, including Veiled Farm Girls, which were a big hit. James arrived home from UNH that day, and we were lucky that the evening was sandwiched between two huge snowstorms so they could travel to our apartment. Winter is here.

Christmas in NYC

Rockefeller Center

On December 7, the day after Dad’s memorial mass in Brooklyn, we were in Manhattan to see the Christmas tree, lights, and department store windows on what must have been the coldest and windiest day that NYC has had in years.

We started in the theatre district with stops at Midtown Comics, the Drama Bookshop, and One Shubert Alley, and then it was on to Carmine’s for dinner. It was Shawn’s first time at Carmine’s and he finally got to experience what I’ve been talkin’ bout. Then it was on to Rockefeller Center for the splashes of color that are seen nowhere else on earth during the holidays.

We did the department store windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, and then Lord & Taylor, the latter being the winner in my book this year. The Saks windows were dedicated to A Flake Like Mike, a new children’s book, but the Lord & Taylor windows were dedicated to the old-tyme city department store windows I remember from my youth—Victorian puppetry.

Rest in peace, Paddy

Paddy Maguire 1932 ~ 2008

Paddy Maguire 1932 ~ 2008

We were so happy to visit twice with Paddy on our trip to Ireland. It was so wonderful to spend family time with him again, and I had forgotten how much he resembled Grandpa, with the same amazingly blue eyes. Meenybradden has lost a farmer, turf-cutter and sheep keeper, one of the last of his kind.

Eulogy

For those who asked for a copy, here is the eulogy I wrote/delivered for Dad’s memorial mass this past weekend in Brooklyn. Much love and thanks to all of you for attending, it was lovely to have you there in memory of Dad.

Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Brooklyn, New York
Saturday, December 6, 2008

We all know who Dad was, and what he loved. He loved O.L.P.H., going to school here, making his First Communion here, being married here, and having his children christened here. He loved drum corps, and marching snare in both the Ridgemen and Skyliners. He loved that James was in the championship-winning Spartans, and would have loved that Kevin is in Spartans camp this weekend. He loved trains, and his Lionel layout in the basement. He loved his rifles, and target shooting at New Hampshire Fish and Game. He loved the Boy Scouts, being actively involved in Jim’s troop when we were growing up in Staten Island, and then attending events with James and Kevin’s troop in New Hampshire. He loved the Dodgers, and after they left Brooklyn, he became a Mets fan when they began in 1962. He loved his country very much, and served in Korea. But most of all, he loved his family. He didn’t have much when he was growing up here. Mom was the best thing that ever happened to him. She gave him an extended family that he loved, and who loved him back. And with having two children, and two grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, he was surrounded by laughter and good times, and enjoyed our fun family gatherings more than anything.

Dad was a great historian, with a vast collection of military books. Years ago, when a potential global military crisis was heating up, and we were all worried how it might affect us, and if there was anything we as citizens could do about it, a worried family member said, “Let’s ask Uncle Jim for advice. He’ll tell us what to do.” He quietly led by example. He never asked for much, and didn’t expect much. He just wanted us to be happy. And he had a great sense of humor that kept us happy. He would recite favorite lines from movies and old poems. “Gunga Din” comes to mind. And from the time we were children, at family meals, after grace, he always led us with “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub, Yay God!”

Dad had many wonderful years of retirement in New Hampshire, but this past year in particular was extraordinary for both my parents. In May, their 50th Anniversary party was a weekend of pure joy, as we were surrounded by our wonderful family, really good friends, really great times, and beautiful weather. And in June, Mom and Dad took their anniversary vacation to England and Ireland. They spent a week in London with Norwegian cousin Lars and his wife Louise, and then Shawn and I met them in Dublin for that grand week in Ireland.

When we returned from Ireland, I wrote how very proud I was that Mom and Dad had climbed their way with aplomb up and down steep grassy slopes, passed their way through narrow ancient tomb entrances, gracefully crossed the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, trekked across sand dunes in a heavy rain squall, and handled uneven castle spiral staircases with ease. All of these things were on their must-see list for their trip, and they handled it all like a couple married five years rather than fifty. But the highlight of the trip for Dad was visiting where “The Quiet Man” was filmed, one of his favorite movies. We spent time in Cong, in Mayo, and he was finally able to see the filming locations, including “The Quiet Man” bridge, and we stayed in the B&B named for Barry Fitzgerald’s character in the movie, Michaleen’s Manor.

Dad’s sudden passing was a shock to us all. I looked back to see if there had been any indications that it was imminent, and I thought of a conversation that he and I had in Ireland, in Grandpa’s hometown of Ardara, while we all had lunch at the Nesbitt Arms. He wanted to know what my beliefs were about the after-life. At the time I thought it was peculiar, because he was never one to pry into anyone’s spiritual beliefs, but he really wanted to know, so I told him, and he very openly listened with great curiosity, asking me to clarify certain things. And I know he’s here now, saying, “You were right. And Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle John say Hi.”

Since we all know who Dad was, and what he loved, this day should be about how each of us will remember him. In all the extraordinary memories of this past year, there is one in particular that stands out for me. During Mom and Dad’s 50th Anniversary party, we were being entertained by Grace and Patrick’s talented waltzing, and I was videotaping their dance. I was about to turn the camera off, when Brian stepped in, always the gentleman, asking Mom to dance, so I kept the camera recording. After a bit, I was about to turn the camera off again, when I noticed Dad in the background, approaching the room. Assuming he was about to step in and dance with Mom, I kept the camera recording. But when he tapped Mom on the shoulder, and took Brian in his arms to dance with instead, the room exploded with laughter — it was a golden Dad moment. He then, of course, did an anniversary dance with Mom. I’m grateful it was all recorded, always to remember the part of him I loved so much — silly and whimsical, with great comic timing.