I guess when you have a name like Kelly Cathleen Ryan, you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re asked to write an article about St. Patrick’s Day. My first idea was to write about our family traditions and how we incorporate our kids into the festivities. My thoughts centered around making sure the kids have something green to wear on March 17th, the buttons we have that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” and the corned beef and cabbage we enjoy on that special day. I also thought about how our St. Patrick’s Days have changed over the years to become more family friendly if you know what I mean. I remembered our college days and that certain cold, green beverage and going pub to pub with friends. I found myself getting a little nostalgic as I recalled these fun memories. My mind kept going back to how it all began and the reason why this day of celebrating all things Irish is important to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandpa, the first Irishman I ever loved, and then this article went in a completely different direction.
My grandpa was simply the best. He was proud of his Irish heritage and passed that pride along to his six children, and seven granddaughters. My parents decided my name before I was born, so even though I came out with lots of dark hair and brown eyes, favoring my Dad’s Italian looks, I was “Kelly Cathleen” and there was no going back.
My grandpa loved my Irish name and always called me “Brown Eyes.” He was short in stature and I remember he had a long, thorny shillelagh that leaned against the wall in the corner of his bedroom, and he would sometimes use it when we went on walks. (For the Detroit readers, yes, an old shillelagh is more than just that infamous bar downtown!) Grandpa didn’t know a stranger, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him. Grandma often said he was full of blarney, but it served him well in his career as a salesman. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and I think that is what I remember most. He was quick with a joke and had lots of fun sayings; one of my favorites was “You can always tell an Irishman, but you can’t tell him much.” There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, but he is particularly on my mind on St. Patrick’s Day.
Now to circle back a bit to that Irish name I carry with me. My first and middle were given to me by my parents of course, but that Irish last name came from my husband, the second Irishman I’ve ever loved. Chris and I met outside of a house party in Kalamazoo. The night we met he was wearing a white t-shirt with a huge green shamrock on the front. Funny thing is, it was in summer not on St. Patrick’s Day!
I should’ve known what I was in for. Like my grandpa, Chris also had (and still has) a twinkle in his eye. Just like my grandpa he is successful in corporate sales. There are many traits Chris has that remind me of my special grandpa. Life with an Irishman is never boring!
Sure, we will do all of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day stuff on the 17th (like a shamrock hanging on our front door), but our Irish pride is with us every day. It was passed on to us from loved ones who are now gone, and we will do our part to continue sharing it for generations to come. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
– Kelly C. Ryan, LMSW, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator and Team Leader for the Beaumont Parenting Program