My Grandma was 100% Irish. Her parents had migrated to this country from Ireland in the 1800's. The Pride on that side of the family is immense.
Being that they were Irish Catholics, they found the environment in Ireland a bit stifling at the time, to say the least. My Grandma used to tell us about how bad they had it, and how they wanted better for their children. They saw America as a land where anything was possible, and they wanted that for their children.
I can't imagine the courage it takes to pick up and move to a country where you don't even speak the language. My Grandma was the first person born in this country on her side. She took this land of opportunity for everything that it was worth.
I've discussed on here before about how progressive she was. She owned her own businesses, refusing to be thrown back into the kitchen after WW II. Beautiful and intoxicating, she never met anyone who wasn't a friend.
She also partied like a rock star despite being diabetic, which led her to an early grave. She is the only Grandparent that didn't make it to the 90's, and in fact died at the tender age of 54, when I was 7 years old.
The only thing that makes up for the fact that she died so young is that she truly lived every single second of her life. Even those last couple of months, when she was pretty much bed ridden, she'd have these huge parties in her bedroom, playing poker, laughing, listening to music. You could hear her laugh from a mile away...
Her husband, my Grandpa, or Pappou (it's Greek for grandpa. we are not Greek. My sister started that, and the only explanation I have is she must have been Greek in a past life.) is probably the Grandparent I know the best, because he is still kicking. My Dad's parents died when I was in my mid-teens, and they lived rather far away.
He is half Irish, half English. His Father was Irish, and one of the meanest bastards ever to walk the Earth. I may well be the only human being that man ever adored, and it was probably because even at a young age I wouldn't put up with his shit and asked him ten million questions until he'd talk to me.
My Pappou learned from the past, and he is a very kind and gentle man. He was very proud of his wife, and never let what society say rule his manhood or how she should behave.
My Great Grandpa had it bad, real bad, when he came to America. He had it pretty bad over there in Ireland too, and it always amazes me that here I am, just two generations away, living in such comfort and security.
I know having it bad doesn't really give an excuse for being a bastard, but it was a different time, with different social mores. My Mom told me that when she was growing up, if they were bad my Grandpa would take them to the basement, hit a pole with his belt, and tell them to scream so that my Grandma thought they were being punished.
He said he would never, ever hit his kids like he was beat.
All these different genes, all these struggles, all these hardships all come down to my generation. My sister, brother, and I have never went hungry. We have always had a nice place to live, always had electricity and running water.
Our Great Grandparents and Grandparents gave us the world by the balls through all their hardships, courage, and struggles. They dreamed that their children would do better, and I like to think that they are smiling now, knowing everything they went through was worth it.
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
You raised the road for us, your offspring, and I hope we never forget where we came from or the sacrifices made to give us these blessings.