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Barry Crimmins

words to live near


Lloyd The Dog

In sunshine or in shadow Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In sunshine or in shadow

Lloyd lounges (above) and keeps watch in sunshine and shadow (below)

For years, particularly my Boston years, I felt at best, nothing, and at worst, disdain, for my Irish roots. Self-righteous bigots who advocated violence that would never touch their lives, did nothing to make me want to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Then again, piggish imperialists, who had rotted an empire into permanent midnight clearly had no business continuing to occupy and oppress a land that should have long ago become a neighbor free of its military presence. The "troubles" troubled me but I saw no answer to them in the polarized solutions offered by the ancient enemies. I just knew that a lot of innocents were caught up in them and it broke my heart.

Eventually I spent much more time in New York City and met a different band of Irish people -- mostly at Rocky Sullivan's. Those that stood with the IRA had in many cases done so in Ireland as well. They articulated their case with passion and clarity and I almost always respected them. They were not impatient with my questions and they were also hip to the struggles of other oppressed people throughout the world. They were prejudiced towards British authority but they were not bigots. They loved literature, music and politics, had wonderful senses of humor and gapingly wide open hearts. They took me in and reawakened the Irishman within me.

I had always felt it enough of a burden to be an American and so I had spent thirty or so years unconcerned with my ancestors' place of birth. But because of my Irish friends at Rocky's and around New York I was soon surprised to feel the stirring of my Celtic soul. In retrospect. I've no idea how I could have been so dead to it.

I'm pretty damned Irish. I've little use for authority of any sort and out and out despise the unjust varieties. I've even more disdain for those who collaborate with the man to gain perceived advantage. I love language and particularly how it can be used to charm and persuade. I'm stubborn, headstrong and obstinate. I do not fear honest work-- in fact I enjoy it. I feel a greta bond with nature. I'm quick to help those in need. I'm noted for my sense of humor. I have legions of friends. I'm hopelessly romantic. I've often intended to leave the pub long before last call but have rarely succeeded in realizing that goal. Most of all I'm sentimental and that is the greatest blessing and curse of being Irish.

Sentiment has ruled me for the past several weeks. Ever since Lloyd got sick and then died, I've been living in a deep and private place in my soul. You see, there is also a stoicism that is very Irish. It's tougher than the stoicism of other sorts because it is acted out while never denying a single emotion. Don't get me wrong, I've sobbed so many tears over Lloyd that at times I've reached dehydration. When I've had to talk to people who are dear to me about Lloyd, I've lost my composure. But mostly I have kept myself together because while Lloyd was alive, I didn't want to flummox his chances by dragging his spirits down. After he died, I didn't want to risk whatever happens next (if anything) by creating an earthly anchor of grief.

I can't imagine a deeper pain than what I've felt recently. This is largely because when humans get sick, they know the score. If people are taken suddenly, they're aware that that can happen, too. Dogs are innocent of knowledge of mortal consequences. Lloyd relied on me, trusted me and was in the prime of life when the vicious and heartless cancer struck. There were times when he looked at me like he expected me to straighten things out and I couldn't. He didn't hold it against me and that only made it harder. But even now, it isn't about my feeelings. It's about Lloyd. He didn't deserve to die. He was a wonderful friend who generously showed me love and life without any expectation of repayment for such a noble gift. So mostly I've felt profoundly sad for Lloyd. He got screwed. He had a beautiful life. He embodied joy and after nine years and two days, he was gone. In my estimation, it is tragic.

So tonight when I heard the sentimental "Danny Boy" (much more popular here than on the Old Sod, by the way) in a movie I was watching because I could not sleep, its references to seasonal changes and beloved terrain took me down hard. I looked up at the container holding my darling boy's ashes on the mantel over the fireplace in front of which he spent his winters and more tears came. I'm so sorry he is gone and that all of the fun we had is over. The love Karen and I have for him, and that he gave to us, remains. It will stay safe and sound in my sentimental Irish heart for as long as it beats.