Books by Michael Cassidy
The Longfellah’s Son: An Almost True Irish Story
This is an Almost True Irish Story. Murphy was a child of the newly emerging 1950’s Irish middle class. He was raised in the environment of a conflicted marriage that never should have happened. While his privileged upbringing seemed idyllic to the outside world, his reality was starkly different. Life at home was always turbulent; he never knew what daily chaos would erupt.
Murphy was unsettled by the rigid Irish class system where social status predetermined one’s future, thereby condemning innocent children and adults to the inevitability of an impoverished life. Signs of his destruction from alcohol were evident in his early teens. He became a meteor raging through the lives of those who loved him and many who didn’t. Eventually, he emigrates to America where he reinvents himself and becomes another American success story.
There was one final task to face before leaving. Since sobering up, Murphy saw his son Brian’s face in every young boy he’d see. The harm he’d done to the innocent child remained a continuous ache in his heart. But now he was going to increase the damage by leaving Ireland, putting the distance of an ocean and a continent between them.
Brian had turned five the week before. His father’s visit would be a questionable, belated birthday present. That surprisingly warm March afternoon saw a swirling haze floating on the surface of the river Lee as it drifted lazily beside the Marina. He’d spent time wondering how he could explain why he was leaving for America but gave up in frustration. There was no satisfactory explanation. Telling the child he was unemployable, was finished in Ireland, would make no sense at his age.
He’d occasionally seen him over the previous year. The first time was when his mother brought him to the shopping center in Douglas. He’d taken the bus up from Limerick terrified all the way that it might break down and he’d miss the appointment. The boy’s mother would drop him off, he could have him for three hours then was to return him to their new home but not come inside the door. She was renting a house in Carrigaline barely a stone’s throw from their home he’d caused to be repossessed. She was now living with another man Murphy had introduced her to when he was reaching rock bottom. There was a degree of sad consolation they were together since he knew he could never take care of them, but Billy could. He was a good man who’d become Brian’s real father.
On that fateful day, one year before, a handsome four-year-old boy dressed in brown pants, brown sweater, check shirt, and shining brown shoes had stood before him, eyes downward. His light blond hair had a fringe falling delicately over his forehead. His eyes lake blue. He offered a shy, gentle smile before looking quickly away. He barely knew who the man hovering silently above him was. Had only vague memories of him. Both were painfully nervous of each other.
Soon they were sitting in the restaurant of the Metropole hotel cautiously checking each other out. All the clever things Murphy had practiced saying got scrambled in his head. Instead, he fumbled awkwardly as never before while making inane comments as his son looked blankly back at him a quizzical look in his eyes. They made their way through their short time together before he returned the child safely to the front door of his new home.
Now, a year later, he was meeting to say goodbye. Forcing himself to do the deed he took the child’s small hand in his. “Brian, I need to talk to you about something important.” They were sitting on the top of a grassy mound watching three men in a kayak raise and dip their oars with delicate precision only slightly disturbing the river’s tranquility. The child looked at him, smiling from ear to ear. “You’re coming back to live with Mammy and me?” His lilting Cork voice hopefully asked. Merciful Jesus, Murphy wasn’t prepared for that.
“No, Brian, I’m leaving for America. Tonight.” The child looked back unblinking, then eerily smiled. Drawing his arms to his chest like a laid out dead person, he rolled spinning down the grassy bank. Murphy sat frozen as he observed what little that might have been left of his child’s innocence being torn from him with each rotation of his young body.
His friends Nora and Bob lived in the Marina. The plan was for him to bring Brian back to their place after the chat. The boy pushed away Murphy’s awkward attempt to take his hand and instead walked stiffly in front with head bent down. Murphy wanted to scream with the anger exploding inside, take the wounded child, wrap him protectively in his arms, tell him how much he loved him. But how could he justify such a bullshit claim when he was walking away and out of his life? So, he remained as silent as his child.
Nora had a kettle whistling when they knocked on the door. Awkwardly delaying the inevitable, Murphy stayed and drank cup after cup of unwanted tea. Brian gave him an occasional look, but his eyes turned cloudy and away from him on the rare occasion his father met his gaze. Mercifully, he eventually fell asleep on the couch. Now was the time for Murphy to leave. He held his child ever so gently in his arms one last time, kissed his left cheek softly, very softly, terrified he’d wake him. Nora started crying at the door as she watched Murphy walk away down the road. He looked back briefly, then waved goodbye.
That same evening, he sat wordlessly with his mother in Limerick. Soon his brother would come to take him to the airport. Looking out, he was grateful to see a car pull up in the darkness outside. With difficulty, his mother stood up.
“I’ll call you as soon as I get there and settled in.”
“Please be careful, Lovey.” She pushed a thick envelope into his coat pocket and was met with no resistance.
“I will, don’t worry at all. They love the Irish over there. It’ll all be grand, really.” He smiled broadly, displaying more confidence than he felt, then picked up his light suitcase. He wondered should he kiss her goodbye, but that wasn’t the way in Ireland. Any attempt at intimacy would have embarrassed both of them.
His brother came in the front door. Mother and her youngest child formally shook hands of farewell. She then dipped her fingers into the holy water font in the hallway that had a small statue of a sad looking Blessed Virgin Mary, dressed in blue and white. She then sprinkled holy water over him as she had done on any occasion since childhood when he was leaving home. Now he would be protected from all harm.
He waved to her from the gate. It pained him to see her hands over her mouth standing motionless under the hall doorway, watching her child embark on an uncertain future. He was broken inside, wanting to cry because he was scared of what was waiting nine thousand miles away, but also guilty for the pain he was causing her. But instead of breaking, he smiled brightly and, like a politician up for reelection, waved a hearty goodbye, then quickly disappeared into the oblivion his brother’s car provided.
Murphy and his brother had a cup of tea at Shannon airport while waiting for his boarding call. Then they shook hands in farewell. “This will kill your mother.” Were his brother’s final words.
Soon the silver plane was shooting out over the Atlantic, distancing him farther as each second passed from his mother, from the small boy who was part of him, and from Ireland.