A farewell journey

Mom

May the roads bring success to you,

May the winds be forever at your back,

May the sunshine be warm on your face,

May the rains fall lightly upon your fields, until we meet again.

And may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Go n-éirí an bóthar leat

Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl

Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh

Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna

Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,

Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

Good bye, Mom. Your final journey awaits, and I cannot follow. But your memory will here linger still, until I have the courage to go on.

What’s in a name? That which we call…

rosebyanothernameOne thing I have struggled with while uncovering my family’s complicated past is the lack of consistency in naming conventions before the digital age.

In the Information Age, if you type in your name or ID with a single letter missing or out of place, your application gets rejected by whatever online program it is you’re trying to get access to. We all have numbers assigned to us—social security numbers, student numbers, worker numbers, case numbers, credit card numbers, you name it.

The past?

Thhppt. What’s a number? What’s a name? That which we would call a rose… Continue reading

Finding the Tree in the Family Forest

IMG_2197While visiting Montreal and Upstate New York for summer vacation, my family were greeted by an unhappy surprise.

My mother has Stage 4 cancer.

I’ve been spending the past two to three years researching my ancestry (at, you guessed it, ancestry.com) and I had already hoped to talk with my mother about her memories of our Irish and French Canadian heritage.

I’d already managed to find quite bit online via various databases, both public and private. But there’s no substitute for family stories. And now I have a time limit.

Continue reading

Notes from the Nineties: Cois Fharraige / Ag an gcrosaire

From now I’ll be spending some time on the blog briefly explaining the background of some of the stories and poems in my new book Notes from the Nineties (already available for pre-order! Only $1.99!).

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The first story in the volume is called “Cois Fharraige,” which used to be subtitled “or, By the Sea,” which is the meaning of the Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) title. The poem that follows the story (“Ag an gcrosaire,” which means “at the crossroads”) stems from the same time period and experiences.

From 1995 to 1997 I studied creative writing, literature, history, and Irish language in the University of Notre Dame MFA program. (Actually, when I entered the program it was an MA but changed to a “terminal degree” at the end of my first year, but that’s another story…). When I told my roommate that I was studying Irish he first said “don’t the Irish speak English?” And then he added, “Gee, that’s going to improve your job offers” (or some such words). Continue reading