On Neponset Avenue

"An Irish Farewell"
"There's a lingering in the doorw`ay
When the Irish say farewell
And there's always one more story
That the parting guest must tell.
Then an extra round of handshakes
With a kiss or two and thenÂ…
Reassuring shouts of pleasure
Urging them to come again!
Screen doors held ajar in summer
Like an invitation wide
For the flies and the mosquitoes
To find banquet fare inside.
And the same is true in winter
As the house grows freezing cold
And the fond farewells continue
Till the last goodbyes are told.
But beneath the joy and laughter
Is the haunting little fear
And the remembrance of the partings
That occurred in yesteryear.
You can never change the Irish
Tho you often may rebel
As they linger in the doorway,
'God be with you and farewell.'"

By Josephine Wayland (1963)

Thanks to the kindness of Anne Wayland O'Hara, I received this lovely poem, written by Anne's Mom, in an e-mail last week. Anne, who lived on Neponset Ave., across from Boutwell St., spoke of the many family members and friends who would drop by their home, especially when they were walking to or from St. Ann's on a Sunday. Everyone, most of them of Irish ancestry, seemed to gather at the door, chatting for a few more minutes before they left. In the winter, Anne's father would call out, "Are we heating Neponset Ave?" I can also remember moments like that from my youth, although my grandmother would say, "You must have been brought up in a barn." Anne's Mom was quite an accomplished poet. She has reason to be very proud of her Mom's poetry. By the way, Anne's brother Greg is featured on New England Cable News, Ch. 14, on Boston's Comcast Cable.

Our family finally has some wonderful news. Our niece Terri welcomed a granddaughter on March 5. Her son Jeff and his wife Samantha became the proud parents of Kiera Hope at 6:05 a.m. on that day. Kiera weighed in at eight pounds, two ounces and is 19 inches long. Jeff sent photos to all the family via the internet of the baby alone, in the arms of her parents, and in the arms of her older sister Jaelynn. Jeff, who is in the Army, arrived home from Iraq just as Sammi was going into labor. He rushed her to the hospital and awaited the baby's delivery. Terri and great grandmother Peg, who is Hubby's sister, decided that they would fly to Kansas, where Jeff is stationed, to see the newest addition to the family for themselves. They left on Thurs., March 13, and came back to Boston on St. Patrick's Day evening. When Hubby picked them up at Logan Airport, the first words from their mouths were, "The baby is even cuter than she looks in the e-mail photos."

Just before St. Patrick's Day, I received a call from Collette Quinlin from the Boston Irish Tourism Association that I had won two tickets to the If You're Irish Show at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on March 14. I had looked at the e-mail announcing the show but had not entered the contest. Little did I know that Daughter Sue had put my name into the drawing, knowing that Hubby and I would enjoy the show. Hubby took out his maps and plotted the course to Lowell. We have only been to Lowell a few times and are not familiar with the streets.

We left Boston about 3:30 p.m., figuring that we would miss rush hour traffic. We were wrong. Traffic was tough. It took us one-half hour to reach the Zakim Bridge. Once we arrived there, traffic improved somewhat. We finally got to Lowell and found the Auditorium. Since we were early, we decided that we would find the Pizza Hut Restaurant that we had just passed before coming upon the auditorium. (It was a Lenten Friday so pizza sounded like the perfect meal.) Someone must have moved the restaurant or moved the street in those few minutes because we couldn't find our way back to the restaurant. We did find a Subway Shop and figured we'd get a tuna sub. We discovered that Subway also has tiny pizzas so Hubby ordered one of those plus a tuna sub for us to share. They were both very good.

Then we went back to the auditorium. (Thank goodness we were able to find that again.) We saw a sign for "Event Parking" and turned down the small street. The neighboring church allowed parking in its parking lot for a modest amount, only $10. We were happy because it was only a few steps from our destination. We kidded the attendant saying that we were from Boston and were having a difficult time negotiating the streets of Lowell. He could not have been nicer as he listened to us. He even asked us about the theater scene in Boston and the street traffic around the theaters. He specifically told us the directions back to pick up Route 495 on the ride home.

I picked up my tickets by showing my driver's license and we went to our seats. The auditorium is quite large and very well maintained even though it is an older building. A mother and daughter came in early and sat next to us. They were amazed that we had driven all the way from Boston for the Irish concert. They were so pleasant that we chatted for most of the time before the show began.

Then it was time for the show to begin. Out came the conductor, producer, and arranger of the evening's music, Frank McNamara. With his lovely white hair, he reminded me a little bit of Arthur Fiedler, especially when he was conducting. He is a wonderful pianist. By the age of 13, Frank was studying piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. In recent years, he worked with the Irish Tenors, with whom he has made five CDs as producer and arranger, in addition to three PBS specials with the group.

Frank spoke between each of the evening's songs. He introduced Derek Moloney, a terrific Irish tenor, who sang such wonderful Irish songs as Toora Loora Loora, and Galway Bay. A beautiful soprano, Deirdre Shannon, classically trained at Dublin's College of music, brought tears to my eyes when she sang The Isle of Inisfree. Cora Smyth, a violinist, played several selections. It was easy to see why she was picked to play in Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance. We were also fortunate to hear a large choir of voices sing such moving songs as A Nation Once Again, Only Our Rivers Run Free, and Let There Be Peace. They were the blended choirs of St. Michael, St. Francis, and St. Margaret Parishes. We were sorry to see the evening end. It was well worth the trip to Lowell to hear all this lovely music.

I was sad to receive a phone call from Maureen Costello telling me that our mutual friend Irma Sheehan had passed away about 12:30 am on March 18. Irma was my roommate while I was at the Bostonian Nursing Care Center, recovering from knee-replacement surgery in late July and most of August last summer. From the first time I saw Irma, accompanied by two EMTs, waiting to be brought into my room, I couldn't have been happier to learn that she would be my new roommate. I have known Irma for probably 40 years. I knew her late husband Dick for almost that many years. I remember when their son Karl died of Muscular Dystrophy and how Irma and Dick held fundraisers for the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. Over the years, I knew how she enjoyed working for the K Club Senior Citizens Group when Dick was its president. She didn't stop helping the group when Dick stepped down as president. She helped the group until this past fall. She was also a daily churchgoer at St. Ann's.

I was delighted to have Irma as my roommate for most of my stay at the Bostonian. (She was recovering from abdominal surgery.) She couldn't have been nicer to me. She made sure I had ice in my water pitcher because it was during the hottest part of the summer. She knew that I was going to be forced to stay in bed for three hours each day, with my leg in the continuous passive motion machine, to strengthen my knee. We chatted often, especially in the early morning and after dinner in the evening. I must praise Dick's family, his nieces and nephews, who often came to visit with her, bringing presents and flowers. They treated me so nicely because I was Irma's friend. (My family all loved Irma too and included her in our conversations.) I also loved her friends, Susan Graham and Marie and Maureen Costello, who were wonderful to Irma. When neighbors came to see either Irma or me, most knew both of us so we had great conversations. One of our nurses even noted, "Your room is the social center of Neponset." I am so glad that I had a chance to see Irma just a week before she passed away. Irma was weak so I only stayed a few minutes. I did meet her lovely Irish aide Bridie, who treated her beautifully. I will miss Irma. We became close during our days at the Bostonian. I am sure that she is in Heaven, with Dick and Karl at her side, looking down on her many friends and Neponset neighbors. She will be missed.

I laughed at this saying by Mark Twain: "I am pushing sixty. That is enough exercise for me."


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