Veering from the script today to remember one of my favorite people.
Seamus was born in Derry, Ireland in 1940. I don’t know when he came to Michigan, but I believe it was close to 40 years ago.
I’m not certain, but I seem to remember him saying he’d not been back since. His twin sister still lives there to this day, and his children made their own pilgrimage as young adults.
He has a wife, two living children, four grandchildren, and one son who passed away several years back.
I first saw Seamus when he spoke to my college Irish history class about growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Not too much later I saw him manning the door at the local Irish pub, and decided to introduce myself.
During the next few years we enjoyed many conversations, laughs and songs over glasses of dark beer and whiskey. Seamus had an impressive mastery of one particular word, which he pronounced “foulk.”
As Tommy Tiernan says, that word is the chisel with which the gentle Irish tongue navigates its way though the sharpness of the English language.
So true. So. True.
It would be impossible for me to accurately explain how Seamus impacted my life, so I won’t really attempt to do so. There were many who knew him better, and far more who never knew him at all. I don’t know where on that spectrum he would place me. But, he always made me feel like family, like someone he considered a good friend. True to the spirit of his people, Seamus was welcoming to any genuine person who had the time to listen.
Even though his presence in recent years was infrequent, he was often invoked in stories and music. I imagine Seamus will loom large in the memories and tales of our friends, and achieve a sort of mythic status among his contemporaries. For the moment, I’m having trouble simply accepting that he’ll never again make a surprise visit on St. Patrick’s Day, as is pictured above in 2009.
All I know is that I’m glad – so glad – that I gave him a call last week. I’d almost waited until Monday, which would have been too late.
To the man who called me Dicey and taught me the meaning of craic, I raise a parting glass. Slainte!