My Dad RIP

My Dad RIP

This past week I have been sharing memories of my life as I approach my 50th birthday this weekend. Today I will share some memories of my Dad, who passed away on July 21st 2016, a year ago today. 

July 21st 2016 and we are driving to Michigan for a weeks vacation with Leanne’s parents. We were up at 4am, dogs in back of car keeping Robert company and we were making good time. At approx 8am I got a call from my sister to tell me my Dad had taken a downward turn and we were in the last few days of his life and she would keep me up to date. Less than an hour later I got the call I was dreading but knew was coming, my Dad had passed away, with my Mam, sister and brother with him. I was lucky that Leanne and Robert were with me and it helped enormously to be with them at that time.

But let’s go back a good few years. My Dad was the the one that drove us to everything, football, scout trips, vacations and family day outs. My Mam didn’t start driving till we were teenagers so my memories are of us all being piled into the car, bags on the roof rack and me standing behind my dad, helping to navigate. 

Of course there were times when we bent the rules on the roads, cramming a bunch of scouts and bags in car was definitely one of them, a driver’s the car at the time was just a VW Beetle. 

Rather than me ramble about things we remember about my Dad I am going to borrow the Eulogy my sister, Anna, wrote for the funeral……

Bright Eyes and One Front Tooth

Bright Blue Eyes,

One Front Tooth,

Warm Heart,

Kind Hands,

Dark, dark hair that turned to white.

A man who put his family at the heart of his world.  And we knew it, no doubt.

A man who was more ethical than ethics required.

A man who let us watch Westerns but told us that the Indians were not the bad guys and to not always believe what we saw in the movies or read in a book.  Life was more complicated than that.

A man who showed is that integrity was to do the right thing, not so others could see, but because it would be the right thing to do.

Gur Cake, Madeira,

Knickerbocker Glories on First Holy Communion Days.

Taxi-ing to rugby, football, scouts, ballet.

Working up from a green dilapidated Volkswagen Beetle to a car with sun-roofs, not one but two.

Full of boldness and giddiness,

Sneaking a Big-Mac into hospital ‘coz he knows you won’t survive on toast and tea,

Getting ice-cream for you for breakfast ‘coz sure you’re on your holidays,

Building stone houses on the beach ‘coz sure they cost you nothing but time and love,

Fitting in a sneaky water fight while pretending to be taking the job of washing up after dinner seriously,

Snuggling under blankets with grandchildren and pretending to be asleep when Mam came in,

But then, at every major step of life, being there, listening, offering advice but never making you feel obliged to take it.

A man who like to keep to his routine but who would travel to unknown destinations, both in real life and metaphorically, with the love of his life.  Always together, in heart and in soul.

A man, understated in emotion, who showed his love thru’ his actions, steadfastness and generosity.

And though his last breath has gone,

He lives, 

In our hearts,

In our minds,

In our souls.

All that and more is the man I was lucky to call Dad and my sister done a wonderful job in putting into words everything we we thought of a wonderful man. 

Now as I get ready to celebrate my 50th birthday, today and over the weekend we will take time out to remember one of the most loyal, loving and friendly men you would ever meet, my Dad. Miss you every day Dad and I hope I am making you proud with how things have turned out. I will have a pint in your honour tonight and we will celebrate your life and the influence you had on us all. 

RIP Dad, sleep well.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

A trip down a railway memory lane

A trip down a railway memory lane

The day of my 50th birthday is fast approaching and I continue with my trip down memory lane and recall some things that helped me fall in love with trains. 

Where I lived in Dublin was close to one of the mainline rail station out of Dublin to the West and South of Ireland. Places like Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Waterford were served by the train from Heuston Station and still are today. My second job after I left school would see me get a job on the trains. And as I loved trains this was probably the best job for me to start my working life. Meeting people every day and working on something I loved. 

I got to travel to Westport in Mayo most days before moving over to the Dublin – Belfast line for about a year and needed my career on the railways working relief shifts on Dublin to Galway, Waterford and Sligo. I got to travel on nearly every inch of track in Ireland over my 3 years working on the train and it was a wonderful experience. 

But my love of trains started well before my working life started. The railway being beside me helped and getting a Lima model railway set for Christmas one year certainly helped. I had pictures on my wall of trains and I vaguely remember train wallpaper in my bedroom too. 

We went on a family holiday to Wales and got to go on a steam train and of course the Isle of Man had all sorts of railway stuff, steam trains, vintage electric and horse drawn trams. I just loved tracks and it’s something I still notice as I drive from place to place. 

Last summer on our drive to Michigan from Atlanta, and even though the day was tinged with grief (more about this on Friday), I noticed railway tracks wherever I could. Detroit was great for that and driving around I got to see and get an idea of how busy it must have been as a rail kink years ago.  

Well my love of railways will now manifest itself into probably one of my life bucket list items, a model railway layout in our basement. I had a small layout back home but I had to leave all my railway stuff behind when I made the move to the USA in 2015. 

Sporty Billy! 

Sporty Billy! 

Taking another trip down memory lane and today it’s all about Sport. OK so now I am nearing 50 but still enjoy playing football (soccer) especially since I made my return to playing a little over a year ago after 20 years away from playing regularly. So where did I get this love for playing football. 

Well it started in my backyard back in Ireland playing with a tennis ball or a football and just kicking it against the wall. As a kid I played football, rugby and hurling. I was kinda small for rugby but I was lucky enough to be fast, it helped stopped the big guys flattening me. Hurling I found a great leveler, the little guy with a. Stick can hit just as hard as the big guy but again it was a little bit of speed thst kept me out of getting hit to hard. See a trend in both of those sport? And so I got really good at football and I wouldnt get hit, at least not to often. 

My football playing days ended really when I suffered a broken femur just after I turned 20. I just couldn’t face a hard tackle again so I stepped away from the game for a good few years, just playing occasionally. But that did not stop me watching football as often as I could. My earliest memories of watching football was the 1976 FA Cup Final in England, followed by the 1977 FA and European Cup finals and the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina. I think it was the 1977 Euro Cup Final that really got me hooked. Liverpool had lost to Man Utd the previous weekend in the FA Cup Final but bounced back on the Wednesday to won the European Cup.  I then started to follow English football and became a Liverpool supporter. 

The World Cup in 1978 was memorable as it was the first time I remember seeing international football, Scotland beating Holland but still going out after 2 previous disastrous games, the ticker tape final which seen a Mario Kempes inspired Argentina hand Holland their second successive final defeat and Archie Gemmils goal in the aforementioned Holland Scotland game are just some memories I have of that world cup. 

As this is a trip down memory lane I won’t go into what I follow today, but I still watch for Liverpool results, watch football most weekends and play most Sundays. But some of my best memories have been watching St Patrick’s Athletic back home in Ireland. I have seen them win leagues, cups and play away in Europe. I have also suffered heartbreak as I have seen them lose more Cup finals than I care to mention. But in 2014 that ghost was laid to rest as St Patrick’s Athletic finally got their hands on the FAI Cup and I was the road to record the whole thing on camera. 

I will come back to memories with St Patrick’s Athletic as they are so numerous that a single post wouldnt do them justice. Being a fan of St Patrick’s Athletic is a privilege I am glad to have, I have met some wonderful people, made live long friends, lost some good people, had some great experiences at games and some heart breaking ones too. 

I suppose now as I live in the USA I have to adopt a few local teams in various sports. So now I have Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (MBA) and now Atlanta United in the MLS. Add them to St Pats and Liverpool as well as Michigan Spartans for college sports and I have a busy schedule just keeping up with results. 

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and I hope to add more over the coming week as the big 50 birthday looms. 

A walk down memory lane

A walk down memory lane

They say that school days are the best days of your life, well I never subscribed to that but over the last couple of weeks I have connected with past classmates of mine via FB. This got me thinking about my school days and my childhood back home in Ireland. I lived in an area called Inchicore, right beside Kilmainham Gaol, which was at the center of Irish history in 1916. 

I attended primary (elementary?) school in St Michael’s CBS, also in Inchicore and across the road from Richmond Park, the the home to St Patrick’s Athletic and McDowells pub, two places I would frequent a lot in my adult life. St Michael’s CBS was also steeped in the history of 1916 and between there and Kilmainham, it’s no wonder I have a huge interest in not only Irish history, but 1916 and the fight for Irish independence. School back then was completely different to the way it is today, teachers didn’t think twice about taking out a leather strap or hurling a duster the length of the classroom at you if you weren’t paying attention. 

As a young lad my sporting interest was football (soccer) , but I also played hurling and rugby but more times than not I was out with a ball having a kick about with friends and playing matches on the weekends. I was quite small but quick and I really loved playing football and as a little 10 year old I was part of a great team who nearly all attended the same school and lived in the same local area. Now below is a photo of me in the team photo and it was the year I was named player of the year. It was the highlight of career! 

As I said I have recently connected with some lads I attended secondary (high school) with on FB and this weekend they are meeting up for a few beers back in Dublin. I seen a photo of our class that was taken just before we finished school for good and I have absolutely no memory of the photo ever been taken and it was the first time I ever seen it. It was taken in 1984, before we sat our final exams in June of that year. 

I hope you have enjoyed my brief walk down memory lane and I am delighted I have been able to reconnect with my ex classmates and that I am still in touch with some of the lads in the football team photo nearly 40 years later. 

51 Weeks! 

51 Weeks! 

Building up to the anniversary of my move to the USA last year I am going to try post a memory or two from the last year since I got here and a few from just before I left Ireland. 

My first one is from when before I left Ireland and it involves my Dad. A week or so before my flight I along, with my Mam, went to the nursing home to see my Dad who had been deteriorating with Alzhemiers over the past while. Little did I know then as I held my Dad’s hand and chatted to him and tried to tell him I was leaving to head to America to marry Leanne, that it would be the last time I would speak or see my Dad alive.

My Dad had met Leanne only the previous July and I doubt if there was much recognition but I was glad he did get to meet her. A year later from meeting Leanne, my Dad passed away. This December when I go back to Ireland to visit my family, I will definitely be taking a moment to remember my Dad and to be thankful for everything he gave me and us as a family.  

Not a day passes when I don’t think of my Dad and miss him but in the end it was probably a kindness that he passed away when he did. As a family we have our memories and they are something we will cherish. Being here in America for when my Dad passed was hard, but it was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly even though there was always a chance when I stepped on that plane on November 5th 2016 that that visit in October was my farewell to my Dad. 

Hopefully I will be able to post another few memories in the coming week