Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Big Fellah

RIP Patrick Deenihan, 1931-2012.
My mom called this morning.  "Dad's gone home to Heaven," she said.   

Dad would have been 81 next week.  He's struggled with Alzheimer's, heart troubles, asthma, and a host of other ailments for years now.  He passed peacefully in his sleep; a blessing given how frail and disoriented he'd become.  

My dad was born in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, Ireland in 1931.  He came to America in 1960, and he and my mom were married in 1967. I think it was hard from him always being so far from his family.  He and my mom worked very hard to make sure my sisters and I felt connected to our Irish family as much as we did our family in the States.  

Mom used to tell us, "All the kids think their dad is Superman.  Yours really is."  He was a brick wall of a man with what my friend Josh coined "Popeye arms," a former boxer who had worked farms and construction his whole life and could lift 50lbs. in each arm the way most of us could lift a baseball.  He was a titan with a thick Irish brogue and a voice made gravelly from years of smoking.  My friends would call the house and hang up in fear if he answered, and would stare at him with a mixture of fear and awe when they met him.  But once people got to know him they were always charmed by his witticisms ("Don't get smart, stupid;" "A shut mouth catches no flies."), his kind heart, and his generous nature.  He was a teddy bear wrapped in a grizzly's body.  

Which isn't to say he wasn't tough.  But he possessed the very Irish dichotomy between gruffness and sentimentality.