'Of All the Men I've Ever Loved'
- Jim Fitzpatrick
- Jim with
the Irish Volunteers fighting for Michael Collins during the
Irish Civil War of 1922.
A man’s voice on the radio was crooning about all the girls
he’d loved before. It triggered me to think of all the men who were
important in my life. There were 12 in all, in the four countries in which I
have lived. Seven were Irish, two French, one Canadian, and two Americans.
Of all the men I loved before, memories of Jim Fitzpatrick, an Irishman,
still remain above the rest.
He fought in the trenches in Belgium and France in World War
One, and fought man-to-man again during Ireland’s civil war in 1922. He
worked as the foreman in the goods’ department of the Railway, in the
Bagenalstown Station, between Waterford and Dublin. Every day, I’d swing on
the green iron gate, watching to see the cap of his navy uniform come
bobbing along the hedge, and I’d run to meet him. His huge hand would
swallow mine, and I’d have to gallop beside him to keep up. A tall, jovial
man, bushy eyebrows arched above his dancing blue eyes, and he was always
enveloped in a lovely sweet smell of tobacco. His favorite spot was sitting
under the lilac tree, smoking his pipe, reading the sports’ page, and
watching me play.
He was married to my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Christina,
who was an invalid in a wheelchair. My mother had left my father, who had a
drinking problem and was abusive. The day I was dressed to be sent to the
orphanage, Jim picked me up off the floor and said, “We’ll take her, won’t
we Christina. We’ll give her a home.” And she answered, “Yes, we will, we’ll
manage somehow.” They couldn’t bear for me to grow up in an institution.
Without any legal transactions, I became Vonnie Fitzpatrick, and he became
my Daddy Jim. He was 50 years old, and I was two, the only child in the
house. A bundle of energy. As I grew, I heard people say, I was a handful.
Wild as a March hare. Daddy Jim would smile and say, “Ah sure, she’s only a
child. She brings a bit of life into the house. She’s a character alright!
She’s growing up grand.”
He taught me how to plant flowers, grow vegetables, and dig
potatoes for our dinner. When our ducks Daisy and Doreen laid eggs, we’d
search for them, aqua and exquisite, and bring them home in his cap. He did
all the cooking, and on Sundays, he made scones, and I pressed them into
circles with my little Bo Peep cup. They were so light and airy, people
raved about them. When it lashed rain, he’d take me to school on the bar of
his bike, the two of us wrapped in his big black rain coat. He’d help me
with my sums at night, while polishing my shoes. And, I’ll never, ever,
forget the day he brought me home the collie pup in his overcoat pocket.
I still have the love post cards he sent to Aunt Christina
from the trenches of France and Belgium during World War One. I have their
wedding photograph, the gold cufflinks he wore on their wedding day, his
birth certificate, and two photographs of him in the Irish rebels’ uniform.
The photographs are in a prominent place on my mantelpiece.
Most of all, I’ve endless memories of how his face would get
soft, and his eyebrows would shoot up. He’d bend down to look in my eyes and
say, “Well, what have ya been up ta taday? Who’s goin’ ta come rappin’ at
the door tellin’ me stories?” the years when I really was a handful.
He was the only Dad I ever knew. It was lovely to feel I
could do no wrong; and to have been adored. It’s been 48 years since he
died. Of all the men I’ve loved before, he’s the one who’s memory truly
lasted. And, when I make scones, they’re so light and airy, people always
want "his" recipe.
Daddy Jim died of cancer in 1957, two months before my
seventeenth birthday. Before I’d a chance to thank him for all he did for
me. Before he knew that I turned out grand, just as he expected.
*This essay was previously published in the Celtic Heritage
Magazine, NS, Canada, and The Buffalo News.
Published here by kind permission
of Veronica Breen Hogle
Please report any links or images which do not open to
information contained in these pages is provided solely
for the purpose of sharing with others
researching their ancestors in Ireland.
- © 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects,
IGP TM By
Pre-emptive Copyright - All rights reserved