Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

By Tillie Mush

I came here to Subversify to read about the Irish and Saint Patrick’s Day, which got me to thinking, about being Irish and what that meant to me growing up and all it means to me still. I remembered little phrases..Bob-isms and Bob’s rules of..How to Be…and I remembered the required reading in my house..and a book called How the Irish Saved Civilization. I remembered jokes and songs. But mostly I remembered pride.

It is a funny thing pride…it can keep you safe, carry you on when theres no rhyme or more way to go but one step at a time, just pushed on with stubborn pride. But it can certainly fool you and God knows it can most easily break your heart. It’s a fickle and foolish thing..too much or too little, there is a correct balance so very hard to obtain and harder still to keep. My life has and I guess always will be about pride..stubborn..and oh so foolish pride. So I thought on it and remembered a day when I learned the true value of pride. The gift in it, the challenge of it and the joy it can bring.

I was twenty two and out of a job. I had moved home to feel bad for myself, collect unemployment and be twenty two. That was okay for a while and then Bob couldn’t stand to see my face….or my ass on the couch another day. He his way…“God damn it Tillie Mush..enough!..Tomorrow you are getting a job!”..End of did what Bob point in arguing. We got up in the morning took Rose to work, and we went to Friendly’s, for coffee and an English Muffin just like I was five years old again. He told me for the two hundredth time how he was out of work once, and he would take me with him to Brockton, get his check and we would go for English Muffins, he’d sit on the stools at Mr. Donut and I’d spin and giggle and the old ladies loved me. This time, he said….no spinning. This time, he said “You ask the manager for a job.” Thats what I did. While I was waiting we ate our English, drank our coffee and talked.

A man sat next to us, He was Bobs age, scruffy and cold and trying to come up with enough pennies to buy a cup of coffee. He was having trouble. Obviously hungry and obviously doing his best and going with out. Bob looked at me the way he did when I should watch, listen and learn….I knew it was ‘the no need for words look.’ He turned to the man and said quietly, “Hello young fella. Can I ask you a question?” “Sure,” the man muttered. Bob said “Well, can you tell me when is your birthday?” The man looked surprised and said the date. “Well.” said Bob, “today is your lucky is the day I buy breakfast for anyone who has that birthday!” The man looked really surprised and muttered thanks. I swear his eyes were watering, but Bob told him no need for thank you, its just luck is all, that I happened to be sitting next to you.

He called the waitress over and told her to give his friend what ever he wants..and keep the coffee coming. We talked, they talked, I applied for the job and we went on our way.

In the car, came the lesson. It’s one Ive never forgotten. He was already my hero, but in that moment I saw something that is so missing in this world, so rare and so easily taken for granted. True remarkability..genuine and honest. He turned to me and with those steel blue eyes of his held my attention. He said “Tilly Mush, that was a lesson. A lesson in pride. I could have just bought the man breakfast, gave him a few dollars, made a show of it. But I didn’t….and do you know why?” Of course I didn’t answer. McGlones don’t ask so that you answer; we ask for the dramatic effect of the question. So I waited, until he said simply, “Never take a mans pride; sometimes its all he has.” To Bob that was just the way things were..a rule of HOW TO need to think much about it, you just do. So I learned that day, the lesson about Pride; what it can mean to you; how vital it can be in your life; don’t steal it from another. I saw for myself what pride looked like, because I was like unto Him.

The back story on that day is this: We took Rose to work because she was working, Bob could take me to get a job, because he wasn’t. He couldn’t afford to buy us breakfast, we had coffee. But still, he spent all he had to get breakfast for a guy he would never know and he would never tell anyone about this, I only knew because I happened to be there. See what I mean remarkable in its truest form? Here was as man, so simple and so wise. A man who worked and raised a family, lived in a tent with his kids and drove an old beat up yellow truck with a great dog by his side. He was my dad and my hero and the best man I have ever known.

That is how you measure true success, not by the car you drive or the things you collect. But by the friends you have, the lives you touch, the simple, sometimes easy, sometimes not, unknown gifts you give….and the lessons you teach just by living.

Just lately I’ve had to revisit the lesson of pride. I have been told I’m much too friendly, too easy to just talk to the guy next to me. These statements make me think of that day. I had a chance I thought to help a guy out that needed it, and didn’t know it, and although it failed..I thought of that day. I have wrapped myself in stubborn and called it pride….when it wasn’t. I have given my pride away too easily. But I have learned, as he knew I would the lesson of pride; Never take it and Never let it be taken; but know also when to lay down pride.

For that is most assuredly the greatest gift of all.

Happy Be-lated Saint Patrick’s day..from Tillie Mush..trying everyday to fill the shoes He left her and remember the lessons He taught her, hoping sooner than later She gets it right.


Tillie Mush is a third generation Irish American. Growing up Irish Catholic in a very small town, in a very small house on a long dirt road in the woods, filled to the brim with too many children meant life was a waiting game..always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She spent her days wandering around wearing rose colored glasses, looking at the clouds, dancing to her own tune…and falling down a lot. Over the years she learned that falling is easy and getting back up is not always so, but ever the optimist she did and does. At a young age she learnd to love words in every form; sung, spoken written….and so writing became a kind of hobby. But, in a too small house filled with too many children it became her identity, her reason and her uniqueness…her way to be heard. That hasn’t changed. She still looks up with wonder and thinks too many thinks and on a daily basis. Dreams dreams too big for her little cubicle. For better or worse she takes pen in hand….because in the end she’s a broad that just has a lot to say.

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6 thoughts on “Pride”
  1. I like surprises, especially when they’re nice ones. Being introduced to your work was a very nice surprise; even nicer for reading it first at Subversify. The lilt, the gentle practicality, were very much the delivery of an Irish background. I’ve heard of the book, “How rhe Irish Saved Civilization”. My distinctly Irish friends tell me my authenticity isn’t complete until i’ve read it. I’m sure at some point, i’ll be graced with my own copy.

    My mother (God rest her Irish soul) used to say it was okay to take pride in your background as long as you understood it had nothing to do with your accomplishments. It was good to take pride in your accomplishments as long as you understand that pride in being a good mechanic was every bit as relevant as pride in being a good doctor. She disapproved of braggarts. “Receiving the highest marks in your class or getting the leading role in a play doesn’t make you any better than anyone else,” she’d say. “It just shows you used the gifts the good Lord deemed it wise to give you.” She never gave a clear definition of who the good Lord was; only of what S/he did. (She was of the suspicion the good Lord could be as easily female as male.)

    I savored every word of your article as it seemed to sum in crystal clear letters the philosophy of the Irish mind.

  2. I always enjoy the heartfelt-out of experience stories. It was touching in so many ways. Tales about good people often influence us to better ourselves. If we realize that people’s intentions are not as evil as we perceive them to be, maybe just maybe we’d have more Bob’s in this world.

  3. Here again I’ve witnessed Tillie Mush
    be the magic in the room.

    from a longtime fan

  4. BRAVO!!!
    Finally at last others can read and enjoy what I have been enjoying for quite some time now. You write beautifully, it flows and I am reading it as if you are standing right here telling me. (Lessons learned from my Dad are quite similiar too) But here you are shining girl!! p.s. you say in the end you are a broad with a lot to say, and so I say, I am lucky enough to be listening and learning from you.

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