March 30th, 2020

Dear Mom,

If you look on the wall to the right of your front door you’ll see a picture describing your Irish heritage. Featured in this picture are some important details about who you are and who we are. If your caregiver takes it down and brings it over to where you’re sitting on the couch you’ll see that your McGreevy family came from County Roscommon (I think, or was it County Clare?), in the middle of Ireland. The picture describes your family crest and the tartan pattern of the McGreevy clan. Did you know that the name McGreevy means, son of the red- haired youth? Thank you for making me part-Irish! Dad recently sent in his saliva to be analyzed and he found out that his ancestry is from Ireland, England, Germany and Sweden so both of you contributed to my Irish, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” nature. Frankly, dad was disappointed when he learned this. He thought for sure he was Jewish because his mother, Grandma Lehwald was adopted and Aunt Marge once told him that Grandma Lehwald’s parents were German Jews. My dad thinks of all Jewish people as the smartest people in the world so he intentionally grafted himself into their line, only to be disappointed.

When we were growing up, you made being Irish fun! We always looked for four-leaf clovers and pressed them in books You served us rowdy St. Patrick’s Day breakfasts, complete with trad-Irish music, green pancakes or my favorite, Lucky Charms cereal even on a school day. The kitchen looked like a birthday party with giant green cut-out shamrocks hanging from the light fixtures. Our front door decked out in some gaudy, shiny, overly metallic green thing you could spot while driving by on Batavia Ave. You read us the story of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland and saving his people. Somehow you managed to make being Irish more than a badge of grit and steely character, you made it cool.

Every January when the two of us sit down together and make our goals for the year, one keeps recurring on your list— to go back to Ireland. Fortunately, in your later years we did make the trip, the two of us and our Irish lassie, Jessie went to Ireland in June of 2011. We arrived in Dublin and drove across to Galway that first morning. I was the appointed hauler of our giant suitcases and the driver on this trip which made for a harrowing arrival as we found ourselves cruising on the opposite side of the road before we barely had our eyes open. The tiny cottage in the town of Spiddal was our first stop, and legendary because there I drank my first pint of authentic Irish Guinness which caused me to actually cry in my beer—delicious to the point of tears. There is not a craft beer in America that holds a candle to Ireland’s Irish Guinness, but you don’t even like beer so let’s move on.

We picked up quartz speckled pink and green rocks in Galway Bay and shopped the alleyways of that lovely town. Brown Thomas was our favorite store and you bought one of my most beautiful dresses, the black linen dress with the vertical white ribbons—to die for! Stopping at the Cliffs of Mohr made us feel like we were stalking a gothic novel – so windy! By the time we arrived in Eenis the sun came out – for the rest of our trip. Blessed, so blessed to enjoy sun day after day in Ireland. When we came home you painted the painting hanging to the right of your TV which depicts the Irish landscape in its multi-layered green hues, but the addition of the purple tones and pinks is what gives that scene its true colors. I love that painting and I’m claiming it right now, when you die— oops, this letter is supposed to be about you, not me, sorry. 

We drove on to Killarney and Kinsale, the pastel town by the sea with the seahorse door knockers, through Dungarvan – every man wearing a lavender dress shirt long before it was trendy and then, Waterford for the crystal and the cute dog we met at our BnB. I snapped one of my favorite photos of you in your golden years standing along the Wicklow Way. Leaning on Goggie’s cane, looking into the golden light. Gazing toward heaven, you look like you know the path ahead. We finished in Dublin by eating the best steak of our lives at Shanahan’s on the Green thanks to Uncle Jay.

O Come Ye Back To Ireland, you gave me this book long ago and I hope we get back. Thanks for being a loving Irish mum from a clan in the western suburbs who passed on her love affair with Ireland to me and to your Irish lassie girl, Jessie. If we don’t get back we can always go to the Irish Shoppe in Fish Creek and live out our fantasies there.

Ta gra agum duit (I love you in Gaelic),

Here’s a picture of your Irish granddaughter Jessie dancing:) Remember when were there, everyone thought she was from Ireland:) xo.