I arrived at the fairgrounds late. My brother Davey looked as though he had fought at Normandy all night. He politely had a few beers with me, until I thought the night was over. Later, he found his fellow Celtic performers, and they went at it, deep into the night. Now, he has a problem with his guitar. He is nervously fiddling with everything he owns, trying to get ready for the last set, of a long day.
My family is large, even on a Catholic scale. I am the last of seven. I always thought I came from a vicious lot, until I was old enough to read about the Irish. People that aren't Irish, read books like "Angela's Ashes" and they tell others its sad, and tragic. Irish people think it's hilarious, and it reminds them of their family. I thought the people in my family were sociopath's, turns out we are just Irish. There is always a dispute, a problem, or a grudge in our family. When you are not involved it is silly and petty. When you are, it is The Revolution, or The Crusades, with all the atrocities, hypocrisy, and body counts.
I looked around at the wreckage of the days festival. Vast men in kilts, on the down side of their enthusiasm, and their buzz, sat in heaps on picnic tables. I commented to my brother how stupid all this was. The real Irish, would think us all daft for pretending we were anything but, stupid over fed Americans. He sighed and tried to in vain to hydrate his twisted insides.
My Mother was a complicated woman. She served as W.A.V.E. in World War Two, raised seven children, and lost two. She was a great mother and a vindictive demon, when properly provoked. She loved to sing, and I never heard her sing out of tune. My father was in the Navy, and taught survival at Kaneohe, on the east side of Oahu. He was a salesman and the only truly religious person, I have ever known. He had a dry sense of humor, riddled with inside jokes. He was also emotionally withdrawn, and incapable of acknowledging accomplishment. He was quiet, stern and very patient. He knew a few songs on the ukulele. He looked like he was floating, when he did the Jitterbug, with my Mom. As a result of their parenting style, they produced seven people that can never get enough love, recognition or respect. As Don Henley once aptly sang, "for you, there is not enough love in the world". He must have met someone from my family.
Davey has been doing the same set since fire was discovered, and yet you would think he had never set foot on a stage. His nervous energy is so contagious, I have to walk away from him to get relief. A man comes up and asks him to remind the crowd there is still beer in the kegs. Davey, without missing a step, tells the man that if he brings him a Guinness, he will start with a toast, and the plug. The man heads off for the beer. Davey shoots me a wink. He can get a free drink anywhere.
There is a huge feud going on in my family. The details don't matter, the facts are irrelevant, the result is always the same. Some offence is committed, and the defendant is unforgivable. The plaintiff will bring up every crime, dating back to the moment they were brutally smacked on the ass, and initiated into the family.
I was counting the moments until I could make my escape from this horrid cliche, and get back to the safety of my recliner to watch the Sox. Davey takes the stage, and the house lights go off. I take a picture of him and when I look at the screen, my Fathers ghost appears. The furrowed brow, the protruding bottom lip, and that half grin, all exemplify our clan.
My brother Dennis is trying to throw baking soda on the problems. He is neck deep in the negotiations and calls me. I back away, put my hands up, and shake my head. I won't be drawn in this time. There is no favorable outcome. Like nuclear war, the only move, is not to move at all.
Davey makes his toast. It is eloquent and unknown to nearly everyone. I have never been to the land of my Grandfathers, but when Davey sings, I can taste the morning dew, see the gray North Sea, and the long green fields. That is the guitar, that echoed through our house, in Reading Massachusetts. That is the sound I heard in the attic room. Jimmy, Teddy, and David would send harmonies down the hall, like magic from another world. These were the first voices I ever heard sing. They are the reason I am a musician.
We never celebrate any victories in my family. We spend all our energy trying to get the spot light back on ourselves. We never show any sympathy for our siblings pains, we compare them to our own and dismiss them as trivial. If a compliment slips out, it is followed with an insult, to even the field. We are a bitter, self involved, mess. We also love each other, and at the drop of a hat, will give all we have to one of our own. We race to aid of our fallen.
Davey is playing "The Patriot Game". He gives me a look, and I know it's dedicated to me. I watch him and one of the Irish traits takes me over; the inability to stop tears from forming. I think of my parents, God rest their souls. I think of my brother Chris, surfing and playing golf this week, after getting a cancer death sentence last year. I think of how little I celebrate my wife and kids. I look up at Davey, and I see so much of my Dad, my brothers and my sister, in his face. I am overwhelmed. A die hard fan of Davey's hands me a flask and whispers " twelve year old Maccallan". I toast him and wonder why I haven't had it sooner. My brothers voice cracks, and adds to the drama of the song. I wipe my eyes, and the place erupts in applause.
I love my family. We are a flawed group. No one can infuriate me more than my own kind. No one else can save me when I am on my knees. We will never fix our differences, and we will never get along, but God help the poor bastard that gets between us. We take care of our own and the minute they recover, we attack them like hyenas. Were not sick, we're just Irish.