Too Late For Answers
I grew up in an Irish Catholic family. My mother’s maiden name was Murphy. Dad’s mother had the same maiden name. My sister and I used to joke that our parents were cousins.
March 17th was always a big day in our home. Dad had one Kelly green plaid tie, which he wore every St. Patrick’s Day. My sister and I always donned some sort of green attire for school. For several years we would receive half-dead three leaf clovers from Dad’s distant relatives in County Mayo. The box also contained St. Patrick medals.
To celebrate the holiday, my mother always made corned beef and cabbage, and during dinner we listened to Irish music on the radio. Dad would choke up when he heard the sad song, “Danny Boy.” He reminisced about his parents who had emigrated from Ireland to Denver. Back then, I was embarrassed by his tears, but now I think how tender. I can still see his expression as he talked about his family.
Dad was the youngest of five children, and was baptized Philip. Joey, the sister next to him in age, was nine years his senior. His parents were older when he arrived, and both of them died within a year of each other when dad was just a teen. Joey and her new husband took over his care, and moved from Denver to St. Louis. Years later, my dad and Mary Murphy were married. I was their first-born.
As a young child, I was Joey’s favourite niece, and she shared with me how very devoted she was to my dad. I can still see her, cigarette in her mouth, praising dad, “He has been a good brother, and you know he is a loving father. Your dad was happy-go-lucky and he always made us laugh.”
My dad was the last of his siblings to die. It’s been over 40 years. For his funeral Mass, he was “laid out” wearing the green tie. In his hands was the rosary that his sister, the nun, had made for him. When I looked at his tie, memories flooded in from my childhood.
Our family has continued the St. Patrick’s Day traditions. I still see him struggling with the green tie, and my mother straightening it.
Last summer, all the memories of dad took a bit of a detour. Through a second cousin, we learned that my dad was Jewish and had been adopted. He never learned of the adoption.
Aunt Joey had sworn her family to secrecy, saying, “If you tell Philip or his family that he was adopted, I will come back from the grave to haunt you.” Apparently, family members believed her. No one shared the information…until last summer when our second cousin, the only surviving relative, could no longer keep the secret.
As of now, we have had no luck locating records surrounding my dad’s birth.
My sister, brother and I did have DNA tests, each of the results reflected that we are half Jewish.
So many questions, and few, if any, answers. AQ