North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Katie Bourg
Senior Daze 

Time for Irish remembrances


It’s almost St Patrick’s Day. It is spring, and Charlie is out doing his thing more everyday. It is time for spring cleaning but only after I bank down my St. Patrick memories.

My father was born on March 16/17. If that is confusing, it was to the family, too. It had to do with the time and place of his origin. My grandfather was a militant Irish Protestant. (That’s Orange as opposed to Green.) He was honored to be King William in the Orange Day parade. My father was born a few hours after midnight. The country doctor cared for all the community, but was also an Orangeman. His friend should not have to face the talk of the town. Together the men decided to remove the humiliation by altering the record – just a little. My grandmother remained honest and repeatedly stated, “It was four in the morning—I was there.”

It was the beginning of many surprises to come.

At the age of 15 my father left his Canadian home and settled in Minnesota. He studied law with a lawyer, changed his mind and acquired a CPA or the Canadian equivalent. His spelling was indifferent and awful, always. His math skills were too good to be true. He joined the American army, lost his health, and earned many medals. He received them sixteen years late because he wouldn’t allow a French general to kiss him. In years to come when teased about this he would only say, “Every man is coward about something.”

Ignoring his health, he moved west, got married and concentrated on raising a kid. His methods were unique and confusing. Almost before I could read, I was given a small allowance and required to keep financial records. Since I was a ‘fat kid’ and always on a diet, following my own crowd required questionable bookkeeping. My ‘books’ consistently failed to balance on Saturday mornings, and much ranting and raving sent my mother out of the house for shopping. His words still ring in my ears. “Nobody loses ten cents." I would not get my weekly quarter until confession was over. There was just time to get to the local theater for the Saturday matinee to watch Flash Gordon. Ming the Merciless seemed a much more gentle soul than my father. The memories remain. Today I spend cash on things I consider poor choices. I don’t want them showing up on my computer.

When I brought home a French husband I expected disapproval. Instead, he found a son, and was determined he must teach the boy everything he knew. I, who had always been ‘Daddy’s girl,’ found myself second in line. I frequently stayed home having children, while they planned our lives.

He taught me to argue but not with him. I wouldn’t win. He taught me that profanity only diminished my ability to express myself, and that expressing myself was the key to an effective life. He certainly expressed himself to his commanding officer. It took him 16 years to get his medals.

My mother explained him by simply saying. “He’s the man Diogenes was looking for. But if he ever found him, he couldn’t have lived with him.”

One day, so many years later, I heard my husband talking to a grandson. “Be careful of girls,” he told him. “Stay away from the things that get kids in trouble. Get an education for a good future.”


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