My grandmother’s maiden name was Marilyn Slane. Like Saint Patrick, the family name was anglicized (it’s actually Saint Padraic if I am not mistaken) from the original Sláine. Now from what I understand, her family originated from Scotland and moved to Ireland before her parents emigrated to the United States. According to legend, however, Sláine was the family name of the first family of people to settle in Ireland after the Flood.
While we’re talking legends, Sláine mac Dela was apparently the first High King of Ireland. This actually would explain quite a bit, as when I was young, speaking to my grandmother often felt like having an audience with some legendary potentate. She moved in with my parents while my sisters and I were growing up, and often we were sent into the addition built for her when shenanigans were afoot.
She was a pretty heavy smoker, so when that door opened wide there was a mist-like fog of Marlboro smoke surrounding her favorite recliner. We sat at her feet like peasants before a queen mother, and she lectured us with equal parts patience and somewhat blunt honesty, telling us the proper ways to behave towards our hard-working long-suffering parents, who wanted nothing more than for us to lead good lives and do them proud.
Twenty years later, those lessons stay with me. I’ve had ups and downs in my life, times when things have been smooth sailing and times when dark and stormy waters have threatened to swallow me whole. I believe that, due at least in part to these lessons conveyed by my grandmother, I’ve shown respect and appreciation for those in my family who’ve gone before me, who’ve wrestled the same financial demons and trod the same fallen obstacles to get where they are. Rather than drag them down, I want to lift them up, ensuring they can move into a comfortable and proud retirement knowing they’ve raised their children well.
So when I toast for St. Paddy’s, be it tonight or this weekend, it will be my parents and my grandmother who’ll be in my thoughts and in my heart. I’d like to think they’ve raised me well and I’m eternally and deeply grateful for that.
Sorry to wax so sentimental. More on writing and stuff tomorrow.