A fine and happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all! Celebrate any way you see fit, because from those celebrations comes happiness and that’s rarely a bad thing.
This entry will not be littered with Irish stereotypes. Those can be found on nearly any web page or printed page you’ll see today. What I’d like to share with you are some of the memories I have of my father’s family, the Condron and Eagleton families, born and bred from the very peat beneath the Emerald Isle.
Now, this is where it gets sketchy. Aside from Andrew, my grandfather, and Mary, my grandmother, the Condrons are not known for longevity. So what details I have are gathered from long-told stories, and the recollections and writings of my father, James Condron – who, himself, passed away at the age of 54 – and many aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. But from these tales, be they true or embellished (like only the Irish can do), come the memories that define this St. Patrick’s Day tribute.
Allow me to offer up a few Irish Ways…the Condron Family variety:
Papa (Grandpa Andrew) was a train engineer for B&O Railroad in Queensgate. Tremendous work ethic, which was passed to my father, to me, and to my daughters. I know little about his personality, but he always had a quiet sort of smile in old family Polaroids.
“Eat, Timmy, eat!” Every time I visited Nanny – my Grandmother Mary – she force-fed me whatever happened to be in her refrigerator. Exactly never was I ever hungry when I left that woman’s company.
How how did Nanny and her band of Irish immigrant lasses come to expand their early-20th Century social network? Through the obituaries, of course. Step 1…find an Irish surname in the obits. Step 2…put on your best black dress, hat and veil. Step 3…get Jimmy (my father) to drop the girls off at Gilligan Funeral Home in Walnut Hills. Step 4…wail and moan for the soul of what’s-his-name in the casket. Serial wake attendees.
Natalie, Jack and Margaret were my father’s siblings. They could be described as the life of the party. Genetic trait, I guess. Not all may have lived to old age, but each had a flair about them that could light up a room. They lived life to the fullest.
And then there’s my father, James T. Condron, an amazing man. That’s not just the gushing of a loyal son. This man was one of a kind. You’ll learn more about him in future scribblings. For the sake of today’s theme, I give you some of his Irish-isms:
He visited family in Ireland after being discharged from the Navy back in his single days…1956, I believe. From the looks of the photos, it was…uh-hem…a good time.
He wore a black tie for exactly one year after his brother’s death, as an old Irish custom of mourning.
On more than one occasion, Nanny and her posse would hijack his date plans so as to be driven to the wake du jour (see above).
With his son in tow, he visited Gate of Heaven Cemetery every weekend to tend to the headstones of his parents, siblings and other family members.
He had the finest rose garden I’ve ever laid eyes on.
He let me sip his beer when we would take a break from cutting grass. Once, at the tender age of 8, a thirsty me swigged half a can, handing it back to him without a second thought. That was the fateful day he told me about the next 10 years…the decade that lay before me until I could buy, or drink, beer legally. I was crushed.
He owned two albums of Irish music that he would play every year on St. Patrick’s Day…to the chagrin of my mother.
He kept in touch with his cousin, Michael Tierney, with long-distance trans-Atlantic phone calls, in the days when it was considered a financial drain.
And above all else, he was the one everyone else counted on…family, friends, coworkers, the patients he helped as a paramedic. Goes back to that Condron work ethic. Strongest man I’ve ever known.
So tonight, I will raise a toast to Papa, Nanny, Natalie, Jack, Mag, and my dearly missed father, Jim, wishing each of them and the long line of Condrons and Eagletons before them a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
And I wish you the very same, my friend.
Timothy J Condron
March 17, 2015