It wasn’t so long ago, probably right there in Cobh, that my great grandfather stowed away on a ship bound for the United States, and the course of our family’s history was changed. Patrick O’Shea settled down on a little hill in Oregon without a real road. He walked where he needed to go, and there in that house without the real road, he raised my grandmother.
Eventually she moved to the bottom of the little hill, over the river and through the woods, and a new home, my home, replaced my great grandfather’s house.
… at some point, they carved out a little road.
As the youngest by far, I wasn’t lucky enough to get to know my great grandfather, or even my great grandmother who lived to one hundred and four. But from the little bit that I know, he was a fascinating man — the kind who would stow away on a ship — who chose to cross the border to enlist in Canada when he was told he was too old to fight for the U.S., and who was always the first to offer a round.
One of many reasons that we wanted to visit Ireland together was to go back to the place where our family once lived. Though my grandfather left for the states, his brothers remained, and our closest Irish relatives were there until just sometime in the past decade.
But my father, the Irish in our blood, had never been.
We weren’t sure if other more distant relatives still lived in County Cork or elsewhere, but we knew, at least, that if we were lucky, we might track down and pay our respects to our great uncles’ graves.
… that is, if we were very, very lucky. We had little idea where to start.
All we knew was two towns, their names, and the dates of their deaths.
Thanks to the nicest groundskeeper in all the land, we were able to have the perfect end to an amazing family trip, feeling just a little bit closer to our roots.
… of all of the beautiful sights in Ireland, that little spec of family history, and my father’s joy in finding it, was the one we wanted most.