Well, I missed my chance for a St. Paddy’s Day blog post in honor of my sainted dad, Eddie Clifford, but the magic of leprechauns that lived in his heart is not a
one-day kind of magic, so today’s the day.
I never met my grandfather, my father’s father. He hailed from County Cork, Ireland, but was murdered here in the U.S. when my dad was just seven years old. They found his body floating in the Hudson River.
I didn’t know that until I was an adult. I chastised my father for never telling me about his father and he, the typical Irishman, replied, “You never asked.”
I imagine my father’s love for all things Irish, and his delightful gift of storytelling came from his father, who worked in a cemetery and dug graves.
My dad could keep a table full of guests enthralled and laughing for hours or enchant them with stories of his dad bringing home old wood, possibly old caskets, for the wood stove and my grandmother throwing him and the wood out the door.
She’d rather be cold than warm the house with wood from someone’s casket, she would say. It was bad luck, and might bring the devil down on the house!
My father spent a lifetime saving money to visit his father’s Ireland, and when he did, he came back elated, except for one thing. He had lost a roll of film from Blarney Castle because of the shenanigans of a leprechaun he had the unexpected pleasure of meeting.
He had gone to a dinner, complete with lively Irish music, in Blarney Castle with my uncle, Donald, and stepped outside for a breath of air. There, at the bottom of the steps, was an unusually small man with an equally unusual appearance.
My dad struck up a conversation with the visitor, who at some point offered my dad a pipe. Not being a smoker, my dad turned him down but asked if he could take his photo instead. They were having a grand ol’ time, each with their own unique gift of gab, and he wanted a keepsake of their time together.
The wizened man smiled, so my dad snapped his picture. When he lowered the camera, the little man was gone. But there, on the steps, was a shillelagh. My dad brought it home with him.
When my father took the role of film to be developed, it was blank, so his trip to Blarney Castle was something for which he would have to rely on memory. When he died, I inherited the shillelagh.
Today I’m making our corned beef and cabbage dinner that we couldn’t have yesterday. I can just imagine dad sitting in the living room recliner, appreciating the aroma while enjoying a cup of coffee, followed by “just a half-
cup” so as not to spoil dinner.
He would be carefully perusing the Sunday paper or enjoying the latest in British comedies, his shillelagh resting
in the corner of the room.
Miss you dad. I hope you and Uncle Donald are celebrating with the angels.