Once upon a time, in a land far away, or at least that’s how the fairy tales begin. My parents met many years ago growing up in Ireland. They met at the young age of 12, or so my mother said. My father says it was later, but I always liked my mother’s story so that’s the story I’d like to tell you. My mother was born in Mullingar, County West Meath, Ireland. She was the oldest of 5 children. At the age of 12, her father got a better job in the west of Ireland, in the big town of Westport, so the family moved. That’s where our story begins.
My mother had a very happy childhood. She adored her father, as they were very much alike with the exception of stature. He was 6’4″. As an adult, my mother stood 5’5.5″, the smallest one in her family. She was always small. There was one particular nun who used to tell her “Now, Marie, good goods come in small parcels”. Mom passed this one on to me since I was also tiny as a child.
Once in Westport, my mother’s family settled in, for the most part. Although her father and mother said that they always felt like “blow ins”, meaning that they never felt as if they truly belonged. They did however, meet my dad’s parents. As dad would tell it, his father had business in town one day and stopped by the Collins house, my mom’s family. Who answered the door, but my grandmother stating that my grandfather was not at home but they were welcome to wait. My mother made the tea (dinner for you Americans). My father was extremely impressed with mom’s efficiency and delicious cooking, not to say anything about how cute she was! Ah, puppy love. But they were kids. Regardless, that was their first meeting.
The families became better acquainted and invited my mother out to the Walsh farm for her holiday in the summer. This happened to be where mom noticed my dad. She was struck by how hard everyone worked on the farm. In particular, my Aunt Bea, who was as strong as the boys and as smart as a whip, according to my mom. Mom noticed dad’s wavy, black hair, hazel eyes hidden behind his spectacles and that when he wasn’t working his tail off on the farm, he always had his nose in a book. Always studying. He was quiet and reserved but very sharp. She simply noticed, but that was it.
Mom was invited to spend more holidays out there at the Walsh farm. She watched my grandmother brush out her long thick hair. She worked on the farm, she cooked, she became very close to dad’s sisters. Dad was one of 8 children, 5 girls and 3 boys. Mom brought life to the farm as only mom could do. Dad is the smartest man I have ever known. Because of his incredible intelligence, he was eventually able to go off to university at University College Galway to study Medicine. Mom was also very bright, but her family did not have a great deal of money to send her to university. She wanted to continue to study very badly and luckily after some inquiries, her incredibly kind Aunt Lily in Manchester, England wrote saying why don’t you come to study here?
Mom left for England where she worked her way through nursing school. She sent much of her earnings home to help her family. She and dad wrote back and forth during that time. They had courted just prior to leaving for school, but education was always the priority in their lives. Dad has always said, education is never wasted. He’s right. During the summers, mom was able to get dad a job as a porter on the railway in England to earn some money. They dated during that time, but they were so very frugal. While the other girls in the nurse’s home were going off to the dances every weekend having a good time, mom and dad had more sedate dates that didn’t cost a dime. Dad always could stretch his penny. If only we all had that gift!
When mom was finished with her nurse’s training, she went of to become a midwife. That was the top field for nurses in those days. She was the creme de la creme. She delivered so many babies. Dad had to choose a residency and a make a life choice of where to live. He had 3 sisters that emigrated to the US and he decided that he could make a better life here. He packed his bag and off he flew. He headed to do a residency in Ophthalmology in St. Louis while mom was back home.
Mom finished her midwifery and returned to the west of Ireland. She started to make a life for herself again, but without him in it. She wasn’t sure if she would ever see him again. Her mother encouraged her to see other young men just to have something to do and to get out. Mom knew her heart only belonged to one, however, and no matter how hard she might try, she couldn’t have feelings for anyone else like she did for my dad.
Dad finished up his long residency and although he didn’t write very often during those years, he did return to Ireland in 1960. Mom was living in the nurse’s home in Castlebar where she was working at the time. She always told me that when the girls came to get her, they were so excited to tell her the “Yankee Doc is here”. She was convinced she could be cold and aloof towards him since she hadn’t seen or heard from him in some time, but when she walked into the parlor and saw him, her heart melted. Several weeks later they were married. She waited another 6 long weeks for her visa to come through so she too could emigrate to America to start a whole new life as an Irish-American doctor’s wife in 1960.
Mom and dad were married 55 beautiful years. I never heard them raise their voices at each other. They completed each other. Dad refers to mom as his Wild, Irish Rose. We lost mom November 25, 2015 and the world will never be the same. Dad doesn’t have his spunky other half to get him to move his “tootsies” as she was known to say. There is less sparkle in his eyes, but I know she is somehow still in charge somehow! That was just her.
I have always said that if anyone wanted to know what true love looks like, just look at my parents. Their love was the perfect love if ever there was such a thing. It’s what I want for my own marriage. I know what I observed for all of my life. I can only hope to be half as blessed as my parents were. Always united, always in love and only needing that one other person to complete you.