Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ancestor Journal, October 4

Today, it's raining and cold and overcast and absolutely wonderful here. I love this kind of weather, and I love the contemplative, cosey, snuggled-up-at-home feeling I get in this kind of weather. And it reminds me....

My grandfather, John Kyron Fennelly, (middle name spelled phonetically on purpose so it could not be mispronounced, since no one who wasn't another Irish Immigrant knew how to say "Ciaran" correctly) was a very quiet, reserved, dignified man. I never remember seeing him outside of a suit, a white shirt, and his characteristic string tie, whose bolo was a tiny pin of the Irish Flag. I never heard him raise his voice to another person, and I hardly remember his smiling, certainly not laughing out loud. He walked slowly, and spoke seldom. We would walk together to the druggist three blocks away from his house, every time I visited him, to get the papers, my seven-year-old self listening mostly to the crunching of the pebbled sidewalks under our feet, because there was scarcely any conversation going on. I remember thinking how dry, warm, and soft his hand was, my little fist securely encircled by his fingers. He smelled of bay rum aftershave, and always had a mint in his mouth, because he did not want to offend with his breath, since he smoked cigars (never in front of the women or the children). The only time I ever remember hearing him express any emotion at all was the one situation in which I DID hear him raise his voice, and that was when, after a whiskey or two, he would argue politics with my uncles, especially waving his fists and shouting about "ROOOsevelt" (said as if it rhymed with "ruse", not "rose"). BUT....there was one thing about him. One thing that makes this his day to be my honored ancestor. He loved rain. Loved it in a way that made him become all excited when he heard thunder, and had him digging in the closet for his "wellies" and walking out in it, bareheaded, face lifted to the downpour, and squatting beside the lilac bush in the back yard to inhale huge breaths of the soaking-wet fragrance. He it was that told me there were fairies one could only see in the rain. He it was who taught me to smell the rain before it came. He it was who made me listen, really listen, to the different sounds of falling water hitting, diversely, leaf and roof and driveway and grass and car hood and flowerbed and my own outstretched hand. I had chronic sinusitis when I was a child, and for me getting a cold in the head was a disaster. But I never recall getting ill after a foray in the rain with Grandpa, because it was as if we were in some kind of a place that nothing bad could enter. Only the beauty and mystery of falling rain. And in this storm, today, I honor him. I love you, Grandpa.

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