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11/17/04 4:19 PM
Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig

Random Digressions

Ode to My Grandma
Lessons and Life from My Grandma

Maybe this column is a waste. Perhaps the right people won’t read it. I know when I was in the group of youth who should read it, I wouldn’t have or I wouldn’t have taken much from it. You see, this is one of those I-learned-something columns.

The lesson comes from my grandparents, though they never knew they taught it. Actually it’s more of an affirmation of a long-held sentiment that became real and tangible on a trip to their humble beginnings in the country sides of Ireland.

It was reaffirmed in my grandfather’s boyhood home, a thatched cottage on a remote bog in Worm Hole, Ireland. It was Thanksgiving Day when we traveled from Dublin to Galway singing Irish and American parents, my sister and our Irish cousin

We drove a mile or so down a narrow dirt road closely lined with hedges and walls. Just before a bend, the hedges opened to unveil the small white cottage. I had seen this piece of history in pictures, but now I stood with it and could touch it, the white brick walls, the soft grass, the thick wooden door.

The three-room house was as pristine as a museum piece, but this time the story was personal. This time it was family.

The house is still in the family, and it is a postcard Irish cottage, simple and intimate by any standard--bare floors, tiny rooms, welcoming décor.

My grandfather’s Army picture hangs on the wall where it has hung since World War I. My great grandmother’s heavy iron kettle sits near the fire place. The walls sing of memories I can only imagine.

For this Thanksgiving we ate dried cranberries and sliced turkey on hotdog buns. I’ve had bigger holiday feasts but none more memorable. The entire day was steeped in nostalgic sentiment so personal and real as to overwhelm. It was hard to leave.

The next day was for Grandma, who immigrated in 1910 at the age of 20. No doubt she departed with little money and a heart full of apprehension. She was saying goodbye to her parents, her family and all things familiar. She knew she would never see home again.

I grew up with her for the end of her journey, and now I was returning to her beginnings. I saw her old farm, her school house, her church, and the city of Gort, where she walked to sell eggs on weekends.

I walked the lands she walked. I saw the hills she saw. I heard the voices she heard.

Standing on those now-hallowed grounds, I imagined the courage she must have had to leave behind all she knew for an uncertain future far away.

She went on to meet a fine Irishman in America, have a family and live with my family throughout my childhood and youth. At the time I didn’t know that she spoke with an Irish brogue. It was just the sound of Grandma’s voice.

I wish so much I could hear her brogue again. I wish I could ask her what it was like to live in the cottage and what she must have felt to leave everything for a life in America. I wish I could ask her about her farm, her family and her journey.

Grandma, I wish I had listened more. I never really knew your courage and your strength, but how I cherish it now. I miss you. Thank you.

Pictures of the Irish cottage and other scenes are available at


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