The March To Madness

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  As soon as Valentine’s Day goes by the wayside (thank God), out comes the Irish music in our house.  On the hideous TV arm of a stick-out in our kitchen now sits a radio/CD player, and in that monstrosity of a device goes one of two Traditional Irish Drinking Songs CDs.

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The title of this post has significance.  For the better part of two decades, I’ve attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Baltimore.

Back in my younger years, we watched 0% of the parade and 100% of the ACC Tournament in the back of Mick O’Shea’s Pub.  That was when Maryland, more times than not, was playing on Sunday…in the finals of the ACC tourney.

One year, while living with a certain Mr. Jairald Hobar, I decided that I was going to make a sign for the parade, and then wear the Maryland flag that we had in our apartment as a cape.  The sign took me hours…drawing the Maryland flag, which is not an easy flag to draw and color, and combining it with shamrocks…with the title: THE MARCH TO MADNESS.  I couldn’t have been prouder of the double entendre.

Many, many a good Sunday spent in my younger years at that parade.  However….back to the kitchen CD player……

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There ain’t much more I love than dancin’ with my girls in the kitchen to traditional Irish music.  Even if the song names are “Maloney Wants a Drink”, “The Pub With No Beer,” “Whiskey in a Jar,” and the song that I sang Katie to sleep to when she was just a wee gal in our row home in Medfield, “Seven Drunken Nights,” (which, when she was even a wee’er gal, she used to affectionately call ‘Drunky Drunky’).

There are many things I’ve apologized for in my life.  Crappy husband…father…son…friend, brother, cousin, nephew…..I’ve begged for more patience, more perspective.

But apologizing for (over)celebrating this time of year….never.  I’ll go to my grave before I apologize for celebrating my Irish heritage.

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I had a cousin…a second cousin really…who was one of the greatest people you’d ever meet.  No matter who was in the room, how many people, she made you feel like the only person in the world.  She made you feel like you were the most important person to her when you talked to her.

She was in her 70’s.  Rabid baseball fan.  Lived in Fort Lauderdale (Davie, really).  And had Lupus and arthritis something fierce.  Her hands were crippled in unGodly shapes.  She taught school.  Served on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County for decades.  She convinced lawyer friends to do countless hours of pro-bono work for those kids.

And she was a volunteer for the Florida Marlins.  A poster of Juan Pierre hung in her guest bedroom. (“He’s my man,” she used to say.)  Well, with her Lupus and arthritis and crippled hands, you know what her primary volunteer job was with the Marlins?  She HAND WROTE responses to fan mail that the Marlins received every year.  Every response was a positive message.

Despite the Marlins ownership at the time being idiotic, penny-pinching nincompoops, she would respond to kids who said, “When are the Marlins going to be good?  When are they going to turn it around?”…with “Now you listen.  The players that we have this year are going to play their guts out for you.  They are going to try their best and leave it all on the field so that we can bring a championship to Miami.  It’s fans like you that keep this franchise alive.”

We were going to take our girls to visit Eileen one April several years ago.  A few weeks before we went down there, she passed away.  The Marlins broadcast team took time during a televised game to honor her spirit and contributions to the team.  They blogged about her on the team site.  The broadcasters paid her tribute during a game the week she passed in April 2012.

I flew down to Florida immediately.

We had paid a bagpiper to play the Notre Dame fight song at the cemetery.  And then we asked him if he knew “Take Me Out To the Ball Game.”  He didn’t (surprisingly, not a very popular bagpiper song)…but he said that for an extra fee, he would learn it just for this occasion.

So we’re sitting at Eileen’s grave, and Take Me Out To the Ball Game starts playing.

That’s a song I don’t ever want to hear on a bagpipe again.

After the service, we walk over to the bagpiper to give him his extra fee.  And he says, “Are you kidding?  It’s on me.”

Eileen was unapologetically Irish.  I remember packing, getting ready to fly down to Florida after she had passed.  And I pulled out a green shirt from my closet with my initials on it…PMD.  I broke down.  I had never been more proud to be a Delaney than at that moment – sharing a last name with her.  I wrote her obituary, and eulogized her at another service in Harrisburg a week late.

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So this time of year always inspires something in me.  I put those Irish CDs on in our kitchen and I bond with the music.  I think about Eileen and my Dad, and how I dress like a loon and act like a banshee at this time of year.  And I am unapologetic about it.

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It’s a double-edge sword.  Because St. Patrick’s Day is also my anniversary.  So the revelery and merriment and toasts and celebration eventually give way to “Can’t we just for ONCE have a nice, quiet, romantic dinner?!?!”

I never have an appropriate response for that question.  Not an answer that my better half wants to hear anyway.

Maybe one day we’ll sit amongst candlelight…with a dinner of something other than corned beef or Shepherd’s Pie…and bask in the glow of a long(ish) marriage celebrated.

One day.

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The Delaney name dies with me.  I have no Delaney brothers.  No Delaney sons.  And my cousin brethren that do have boys…the beloved Schaedlers, also from Harrisburg…are a branch removed from the Delaney name being carried on for future generations.

Some people look at me strangely when I go out on St. Patrick’s day – wearing wing-tip shoes, shamrock pajama pants, a tuxedo shirt, green sequin bow-tie and coat.  That’s okay.  I’ll own it.

As they say, the buck…and the bloodline…stops with me.

Slainte.

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