O'hara, Kevin Lucky Irish Lad

ISBN 13: 9780765318046

Lucky Irish Lad

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9780765318046: Lucky Irish Lad
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Kevin O'Hara recreates his boyhood with these wonderful stories of growing up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 60s as one of eight children. His parents, born in Ireland, came to this country for their children's sake. His family struggled against grinding poverty but they never gave up and never lost their faith that God had a plan for them.

Kevin learned the lessons of making do and making things last, and what the true riches of the world are: good health and the love of a united family. All these lessons grounded him as he reached adulthood...and was sent off to fight in the wilds of Vietnam as a reluctant solider.

This book will tug at your heart and make you cry tears of both sorrow and joy. It is a story about the Irish-American experience but it is much more--it's the story of a generation growing up in the shadow of the Second World War and the start of a new age of hope and promise, a time when people believed that anything was possible as long as you dared to dream and had faith in yourself.

And a little Irish luck couldn't hurt either.

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About the Author:

Kevin O’Hara is the author of Last of the Donkey Pilgrims, an autobiographic telling of his travels around the coastland of Ireland with his beloved donkey Missy. He also wrote a memoir―A Lucky Irish Lad―detailing his experience growing up as an Irish-American in the shadow of the Second World War. A psychiatric nurse for more than 25 years, O'Hara still resides in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the place to which his parents emigrated.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

Dad’s Heart,

Mom’s Heartache

BELL RINGER OF ST. CHARLES

THE SKIPPY JAR

A MOTHER’S FAITH

DAD’S NIGHTLY DEVOTION

MOM’S MALADY

HOME FROM SCHOOL

DAD’S GOLDEN GLOVERS

TONSORIAL TORTURE

HEALING MASSES

WHERE THE THREE COUNTIES MEET

Bell Ringer of St. Charles

"THERE NOW, BOYS, a sliver of hope," my father would say at the first sight of a crescent moon. "Hurry, turn the coins in your pockets for luck." My brothers and I would quickly flip over our pennies, if by chance we had any, and gaze above trees and rooftops to catch a wink of the young moon.

Dad’s expression came to mind recently as I passed St. Charles Church, in my boyhood parish in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where I still live. The moon’s scant shaving of burnished gold appeared to have hooked itself onto the turret of the bell tower, as if a band of angels were sliding from their starry loft to the belfry. At that moment, the evening Angelus tolled, stirring a host of childhood memories.

Upon our arrival in the States, the tears of greeting soon turned to tears of grief as Aunt Nellie told Dad that their mother had passed away on March 9, the week before we had set sail from Southampton. The following morning, Dad and his three sisters—Mary, Brigid, and Nellie—attended a memorial ser vice for their mother, little knowing that Brigid would die the following month after a long illness. If that wasn’t enough, Dad’s older brother Patrick, home in Ireland, passed away that May. Three deaths in three months’ time. Welcome to America.

Dad had little time to grieve, however, as the seven of us moved in with Mom’s sister, Aunt Nancy, and her family in Lenox in the Berkshires. Uncle Joe, a much-respected principal at Lenox High School, quickly found Dad two jobs—one in a textile mill and the other on a construction site, digging foundations.

With his native gregariousness, it wasn’t long before Dad caught wind of a janitorial position in St. Charles parish in Pittsfield, a modest city a dozen miles north of the village of Lenox. The job didn’t pay well, but it came with living quarters—a great incentive for a growing family trying to establish a foothold in a new land. This Irish parish consisted of church, rectory, convent, and a grammar school that his young brood could attend, less than a football field’s distance from their new home.

"Why not the GE?" someone suggested. At that time in Pittsfield, the county seat and so-called heart of the Berkshires in the far western hills of Massachusetts, General Electric employed nearly 8,500 residents in a city of sixty thousand. No wonder everyone invariably referred to it as "the GE." Dad’s experience working at a power plant in En gland might have served him well, but he wanted to start anew, and he could imagine no better place to do so than the house of God.

So, that long-ago autumn of 1953, our family took up residence in the drafty caretaker’s quarters behind the rectory of St. Charles, bracing ourselves for our first harsh winter. Upstairs in this small dwelling lived Mrs. Durette, a pious little woman of French Canadian birth with a large heart. Her rocking chair by the window faced the church’s high steeple. She explained to us children that the golden cross atop the steeple was as tall as any man in the parish, though it appeared no larger than the crucifix on the prayer beads in her lap.

After supper we would assist Mrs. Durette down the rickety staircase to watch westerns on our big-console, small-screen black-and-white TV, kindly left to us by the former custodian. She was a friend to our family and a comfort to our mom. One morning that first winter, as a heavy snowstorm blanketed Nobility Hill, the old and incongruous name for our neighborhood, Mom and Mrs. Durette looked out at Dad, bent low with an old coal shovel, clearing heavy wet snow from the sidewalks and steps of rectory and church, and up both sides of Pontoosuc Avenue to the convent and school. "Jimmy’s no janitor," she consoled my fretful mother with a hug. "No, your Jimmy’s a gem."

My brothers and I would often accompany Dad on his daily chores. In the summer months we’d play tic-tac-toe on classroom blackboards while he polished the wooden floors to a lustrous gleam. In winter we’d stand back and shield our faces as he shoveled mountains of black sooty coal into the fire-breathing furnaces with blistered hands.

On Saturdays we’d help out in the church, filling vestibule fonts with holy water and straightening missals and songbooks in the pews. Chores done, we’d venture up to the choir loft where, blinded by the light streaming through the stained-glass rose window, we’d giddily play in a kaleidoscope of colors until Dad, sloshing a mop of soapy water in the long aisles below, would glare up and hush us with a sshh! that echoed through the high Gothic arches.

My dad rang the church bell at masses, weddings, and funerals, and tolled the Angelus morning, noon, and night. He’d unlock the bell closet, take grip of the thick rope, and with firm pull and steady hold—lest the bell double-clang—pour out the mellow-toned "voice of God" over the parish.

Parishioners praised his bell ringing, especially at Christmas, when the merry and sleepy-eyed shuffled into midnight Mass. "Jimmy, you can make that bell sing," they’d say. "Solemn at funerals, joyous at weddings, and magical on Christmas night."

"It’s a knack you have," another man chimed in, as he and his family stood back to admire Dad working the ropes. "You should be ringing the bells at St. Patrick’s Cathedral."

Of course, we too loved to ring the bell, like tonsured monks of old. Dad would hold our hands between his own, and after one mighty tug the rope would lift us clear off the floor, as the bell resounded to the heavens.

There was no clowning around on the bell rope, however. Dad called it "God’s work," explaining that the Angelus, which echoed the Ave Maria of Our Lady’s Annunciation, had been calling Catholics to prayer three times daily since medieval times. The Angelus peals in a rhythm of 3-3-3-9, and Dad rang its sequence with impeccable timing, reciting the Hail Mary in Irish for deeper devotion.

A few years later, when Dad was no longer janitor, but still rang the bell, my friend Michael Nichols and I discovered a secret passage in the choir loft that led to the bell tower itself. Daring to enter, we climbed wooden steps that creaked and spiraled toward the stuffy confines of the belfry, but quickly retreated at a loud clap of pigeons above. But the next Saturday we reached the one last ladder and emerged into the daylight of the belfry, ducking low in fear Father Foley—or worse still, my dad—would spot us amid the commotion of pigeons.

On that spring morning, Michael and I crouched behind the railings and surveyed our dominion as if from a castle parapet. We looked down upon the gnarly woods and dark flowing river to the west, and sent a signal to our ally in the south, the glistening blue limestone spire of St. Joseph Church. We circled the bell and boldly ran our fingers over its Roman numerals—MDCCCXCIX, laboriously calculated to 1899—and its given name, Maria et Julia, etched on the curved surface.

Before descending, I reached underneath the massively heavy bell to grasp its metal tongue, which burned with cold fire. Afraid that I had profaned the holy object with a touch that might corrode the bell’s shining ring into a rasp, the next Saturday I confessed my wrongdoing to Father Kane, a young curate whose people hailed from beneath Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain.

There followed a long silence in the stuffy box of curtain and screen.

"What compelled you to do such a thing?"

"I don’t know, Father. To feel the weight, I guess, and how it was inside the bell."

"Well, son, no harm done. But I wouldn’t want you to get caught by Mr. O’Hara. He tolls that bell with great reverence, you know."

I gulped. "Yes, Father."

"For your penance I only ask you to stay out of the bell tower. Can you promise me that?"

"I can, Father, yes." And I kept that promise out of respect for my earthly as well as my heavenly father.

On the present night, beneath this crescent moon, the evening Angelus peals automatically on some electronic circuit. As the last notes of the carillon echo over Nobility Hill, no janitor in metal-clasped boots is making his way toward the old house. No Mrs. Durette calls down to watch "the cowboys." No brick school house, with its silent swish of nuns, remains. The moon speaks no folk wisdom of old, though it whispers of the past.

I remember, as I walk to my current home—still within earshot of the bell—how one Christmas night as a young boy I stirred in my sleep at the pealing of the bell, and rose to the window to watch my father trek across the churchyard, a humble figure heralding the birth of the Christ Child, but to my eyes like a rose-robed seraph trumpeting on that long-ago Bethlehem night.

Yes, I can picture the old man still, just as he was. How his mighty hands would clasp the bell rope, his chin anchored firmly to chest, the smooth repetition of pull and hold, his blue watery eyes intent but half closed, and his mumbling the Hail Mary in Irish, a quiet prayer for all the world to hear.

The Skippy Jar

MY YOUNGER BROTHER DERMOT and I—all of six years old in 1955—watched Mom drop a single dime into a large empty Skippy peanut butter jar.

"What ya doing?" I asked her.

"I’m saving our dimes for Ireland. ’Twill take awhile, God knows, but it’s a start."

She sighed as I peered into her glass container, her lone silver Mercury dime laying flat on its bottom.

"Can I go?"

"You can both go, ...

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9780765318039: A Lucky Irish Lad

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ISBN 10:  0765318032 ISBN 13:  9780765318039
Publisher: Forge Books, 2010
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Book Description St Martin's Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Kevin O'Hara recreates his boyhood with these wonderful stories of growing up in Massachusetts in the 1950s and 60s as one of eight children. His parents, born in Ireland, came to this country for their children's sake. His family struggled against grinding poverty but they never gave up and never lost their faith that God had a plan for them. Kevin learned the lessons of making do and making things last, and what the true riches of the world are: good health and the love of a united family. These lessons grounded him as he reached adulthood.and was sent off to fight in the jungles of Vietnam as a reluctant solider. This book will tug at your heart and make you cry tears of both sorrow and joy. It is a story about the Irish American experience, but it is much more - it's the story of a generation growing up in the shadow of the Second World War and the start of a new age of hope and promise, a time when people believed that anything was possible as long as you dared to dream and had faith in yourself. And a little Irish luck couldn't hurt either. Seller Inventory # BZE9780765318046

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