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Archive for November, 2015

The name of the True God will be my song,
    an uplifting tune of praise and thanksgiving! — Psalm 69:30 The Voice

Happy Thanksgiving! This Sunday as we begin Advent, we travel to the desert to hear the wisdom from the desert monastics who were the spiritual Olympians of their time. For more info on all the incredible opportunities for spiritual renewal this Advent, check out the December newsletter http://elumc.org/newsletters.htm online now http://elumc.org/docs/newsletter2015-12.pdf . It includes information on Giving Tuesday (Dec 1) where your online mission dollars will be doubled. Giving Tuesday is an effort to focus on charitable giving following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. OF course, what’s left out of that clever naming is Holy Sunday (don’t miss this time-sensitive opportunity to begin this holy season).

Research shows that being grateful helps your brain, improves mood, relieves stress (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/why-an-attitude-of-gratitude-helps-your-health/ ). In my visiting this week, I’ve been moved by the gratitude of those in hospitals and rehab centers on this holiday. Please continue to pray for those places and people on our prayer list

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Moving to Ireland

by guest columnist Eileen Brogan.

On February 1st 2016, I will be starting a new chapter of my life. Some see this as “my retirement years,” others as “my great adventure,” but I see it as “going home.” Since 1997, I have made ten trips to Ireland, some enchanting, some exhausting, some exciting, but in each case, I did not want to return to the States (I cannot even bring myself to say “go home.”) I believe that since that first day I stepped on Irish soil, I was meant to be there, not just to visit, but to live.
When folks ask me why I always go back to Ireland on my vacation, I ask why others always go to Florida, or the Cape or on a cruise? Some of us go where we find comfort and relaxation. For me, it is so much more than simply a vacation; my trips to Ireland renew my soul. And so it is fitting that I will be stepping upon that Irish soil as I “go home” on St Bridget’s Day. My grandmother, Bridget, was born in County Kerry where I will be living for at least my first year in Ireland.

Bridget Carey left a small townland (a settlement of seven families) named Maulnahone in 1900 with her brother John. She was16 and he was 18. They followed in the footsteps of their four older sisters who made the journey in 1888 and 1898. Bridget and John were soon followed by Thomas in 1901, the last of the Carey children. They all settled in the Hartford CT area where their sponsor and wealthy aunt resided.
Bridget worked as a housemaid until she married Martin Fitzgerald in1907. They had four children, including my mother Mary Fidelis. My grandfather, also from County Kerry, was a Hartford Police officer. He died April 15, 1944. My grandmother, known as Granny to all who knew her, remained a widow until her death in 1980 at the age of 97.

Granny and I had a complicated relationship. When I was four years old, Granny came to live with my family, which then included my parents, my two older brothers and me. We lived in a small post-WWII tract house ~ 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. Being the only girl, my parents had Granny move into my bedroom with me. I am sure it made perfect sense at the time and perhaps if I had not grown up or if things had been different, it would have remained ideal. But, I did grow up and I grew up during the turbulent 60’s.

Granny was a very stoic, quiet woman who thrived on her faith, the newspaper and the Lawrence Welk show. She was 74 when she moved in with my four-year old self. We shared a bedroom, but we did not share a life. Granny never revealed any of herself to me. I never learned about her childhood in Ireland. She never spoke of Ireland and she never returned. As a matter of fact, she never really talked about anything with me. She never held me or kissed me or showed me any affection. Oh, there were the occasional holy water showers when I was ill and she thought I was asleep. But most of the time, it was as if we lived in the same room, but in parallel universes.

And so, our relationship was complicated. She was not nurturing and so I did not approach her as one might a typical grandmother, like in the movies. She was not the type to sit and chat with a child, and so we did not chat. As we both grew older, the differences between us outweighed any familial kinship. When I became a teenager, she was 83 years old. When I graduated from high school, she was 88. I learned to resent her presence in what I felt was my room. There was no space in my life for rocking chairs and bed pans, but here I was, living in this setting, a setting unbecoming a blossoming young woman.

Sadly, there was no happy ending. I finally got my own room after my brothers moved out, but the damage was done. This was not like the movies. There was no room for a relationship at that point, or I did not even consider it. Eventually, I moved out and life continued. Granny lived with my folks until she was 95 at which time she moved to St Mary’s Home and remained there until her death.

I recently returned to St Mary’s for the first time as I followed a genealogical trail that led me to the cemetery on the grounds. There I discovered the grave of one of Granny’s sisters. Sr Mary Fidelis, her older sister born Joanna, died in 1955 and was buried just below the windows where my Granny died. She never even mentioned that her sister was interred there. How can someone be so closed up and yet remain pleasant and appear content until the day she died? And yet, she always seemed content. Perhaps it was her unquestioning faith, which I used to wonder about and then envied.

As you all know, I am nothing like my stoic, quiet Granny, which may have been fodder for our strained relationship. It has taken me over 50 years to come to terms with my feelings for her. I now realize it was not just one thing that was wrong. It was a myriad of things that evolved over time as we both grew older. When Granny moved in, I lost what Virginia Woolf referred to as a “room of one’s own.” In deference to Ms Woolf and A Room of One’s Own, I did not need “five hundred a year,” but I was born an old soul who thrives on solitude and, in retrospect, I did need a room of my own. When Granny arrived, my toys were moved to other spaces in the house. My dresser became our dresser. My closet became her closet. I did not know until I was much older how much a “room of one’s own” meant to me. Perhaps it helps explain my choice to live alone all my life.

To everything there is a season ~ a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
And so, here we are in 2015 and I find myself drawn to the home of Granny’s birth. I have been to Maulnahone too many times to recall. I often stand there by the ruins of her family home and try to understand a woman I shared a small 9 x 12 room with for nearly 16 years; a woman who died over 35 years ago. There is sometimes a sadness during those moments, but there is also a strength I feel emanating from my surroundings. All of the history of the poverty and sorrow that led Granny and all of her siblings to travel to a new life, to a new world seems to empower me. To help me better understand the tall, stoic Irishwoman, who spoke only when necessary, her feelings and emotions firmly locked inside. I shared a room with Granny for nearly 16 years and yet I barely knew her.

Fifty seven years after she arrived in the US, Bridget Carey Fitzgerald moved into my room. Fifty-nine years later, I am “going home” or, will I be moving into her room, onto the land of her birth? As I continue to come to terms with my relationship with Granny, I now feel it is our faith and Irish blood that binds us together. Perhaps in Ireland, I will find peace with this woman I never knew.
Granny, I hardly knew ya….

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