Groove is in the heart; Irish is in the blood

Artwork by Charles Fazzino

Artwork by Charles Fazzino

By Savannah Thorne
In my pre-teens, U2 was just managing, with muscular elegance, the transformation from a bizarrely awesome Christian band to tenacious hard-line political rockers. At the same time as I fell head-over-heels for their style and their anti-war messages, I became deeply obsessed with all things Irish. I did not understand why, as my family heritage was English and German, but I avidly sought out movies from the obscure but biting Northern-Irish anti-war movie “Cal” to sweeping and lovely mythological dramas like “Faeries,” an adaptation of the tale of Niamh and Oisin. I wore out my Betamax copy of “The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold.” In the course of a few weeks I found five four-leaf clovers and considered myself blessedly lucky. I wore orange on St. Patrick’s Day to be “funny.” I talked Ireland, studied Ireland, found heretofore unknown Irish poems and songs. I was gripped by the Irish spirit. Their music, dance, poetry, anthems, all stirred my soul in a profound and unfathomable way.
Then one day my mother, who had been in and out of mental institutions since I was the age of seven, pulled me into her closet because it was the only place in the house that “wasn’t bugged.” I thought she was just going to issue more paranoid and insane ramblings. But she announced that she had something important to tell me. I never could have been braced for what she did say: the man I had thought was my father all of my life was not my father. My real father was an Irishman.

Reeling, I left her room and called my best friend on the phone to discuss what I had learned. Suspicious, she convinced me that this story was, indeed, nothing but insane ramblings–a fabrication. It was “too good to be true” and my mother was merely crafting an Irishman to fit in with my Celtic daydreams. I believed my friend, and dismissed my mother’s tale as ranted fantasy.

As the years passed, once in a while I would query my mother about this mystery man, probing for holes in the story. But she told me of a man she had fallen for at a book discussion, a man she had abandoned her suburban, civil life to run off and marry. She named him, gave me his location (Atlanta), and described him as very distinguished, vaguely resembling Burl Ives. I asked if she knew his address, and when at last she divulged every last thing she knew of him, I decided it was time to believe the strange tale.

I searched for his name in Atlanta, and found only one match. I crafted a tentative, nervous letter, explaining that I did not desire to upset his life, and did not want anything other than medical information, but would love to communicate further if it was acceptable to him.

And in this way, I found the stranger who was my father.

We both agreed to a DNA test for certainty’s sake (in which I was asked where the baby was and had to answer, embarrassed and feeling awkward, that *I* was the baby), and we found 99.9% accurate matches. From that moment on, I connected with my biological dad in a way I never had with my so-called “father”. We emailed constantly and talked on the phone occasionally; we found our wedding anniversaries were one day apart: his on St. Patrick’s Day, and mine one day later, as fountains joyfully spewed green water into the air. I found out he liked to wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day to be “funny.”

At last, one day I had an event to attend in Atlanta, where he lived. We arranged a time and place to meet. I will never forget walking into a dark-cornered Atlanta restaurant clad in a sapphire-blue Oriental gown to meet with a goateed, smiling man who did, indeed, mildly resemble Burl Ives. He smiled, told me he could see a strain of himself in my red hair, and that my voice contained the siren call of my mother, which had made him fall for her upon hearing her speak. We talked easily all evening, discussing our lives. It was the only time we ever sat face-to-face, but it is a moment that will glimmer in my memory, treasured as a dimly scintillating gem, forever.

I was sorry to be rejected by the rest of his family when he passed away, denied the right to attend his funeral. But I am glad I had that small time with him before he died. Though my stepfather had raised me as his own, in his heart he never cared for me. Yet the biological father who had never known me a day in his life showed deep love. Blood magic spoke.

Ireland had called to me before I had known its mossy green ran in my veins. It has always made me marvel that I connected in a passionate way with a society and culture that I did not even realize at the time was mine. It was part of me, part of a secret knowledge I did not share, but was honored to become aware of.

How many genetic memories lie within us, untapped? In the modern world, we seem to believe it defies logic to declare that a son or daughter inherits the tendencies of the father or mother, beyond medical proclivities. But in our mythology and deeper tales, why are curses inherited till the seventh generation? Why does the Old Testament record so many lines of heritage? Because our ancestry remains relevant. It remains awake inside of us, waiting to be awakened. On Saint Patrick’s Day, when we read “Kiss Me I’m Irish” on buttons or drink green beer, I always think of the man who vaguely resembled Burl Ives sitting quietly in a dark restaurant, waiting to meet his daughter for the first time, smiling with gentle acceptance.