Gallery C

Green Beer
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St. Patrick’s Day – Special Memories

By James Donahue

This day is not a national holiday but it might as well be. Everybody in America celebrates it. In fact, people all over the world celebrate it. And I am not sure why this is.
My own Irish roots make it possible for me to join in the festivities without feeling as if I am trespassing on somebody else’s party. Not that I feel like celebrating. For our family there has been a dark side to St. Patrick’s Day.

My wife’s brother, Wayne, died suddenly on St. Patrick’s Day. He was one of those special people that everybody loved. I considered him among my best friends and mourned his death as much as the death of my wife, my parents and my brother. It was a sad day when we put Wayne in the ground at Caro, Michigan. His funeral procession was so long it seemed to include the entire town.

Also among my memories of this holiday was the day a friend and I drove through an ice storm from Harbor Beach to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, to spend a weekend with some old college friends. It was an insane thing to do but as young men, we thought we were invincible and made the trip anyway, even though the roads were slick with ice.

All went well on that trip until we got to a big gully on old Highway 10 leading into Midland. The hill was steep enough that the road was widened to allow cars to pass slow-moving trucks, which was a good thing. Ahead of us was a maze of cars and trucks, all caught in the ice, their tires spinning, and nobody making much progress. By the time we saw the danger it was too late, we were already over the crest of the hill and descending into what looked like a pit of doom.
I decided the only way out of that mess was to keep the car moving at all cost. And that is just what we did. Since no vehicles were coming at us from the other lane, we were free to pass stalled cars and trucks when that lane was clear. When it wasn’t, we swung to the right shoulder and passed on that side. Sometimes we squeezed our vehicle in between two other stalled cars. The plan worked. We made it down one side of that big hill and up the other side without stopping once.
It was a great day for the Irish.

My Irish name landed me some special feature work on newspapers that liked to publish stories commemorating St. Patrick’s Day. Consequently I met some wonderful people so fresh from the Old Sod that they still spoke with a brogue, and got to tip green beer with a lot of people fainting to be Irish who were mostly German and Polish. But then we were all Irish on that special day.

In truth, I didn’t have much more Irish blood in me than most of the others I met. My grandmother on my father’s side was from France, and my mother was almost pure English. It just worked out that we had an Irish family name, and that was all I needed.