Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

I am currently reading Angela's Ashes. It is the first part of Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up poor in Ireland during the 30s. The story continues in 'Tis.

I am not going to enter the entire section I want to share with you, because it goes for several pages. But it is worth reading in its entirety, if you ever get a chance.

McCourt's father is a drunkard. The family lives on a combination of Government Aid and St. Vincent De Paul charity. The father routinely "drinks the dole money" and then comes home late and makes his sons get out of bed and promise to "die for Ireland" when called upon to do so.

McCourt is telling the reader about his complex relationship with his father. He spends a page or so telling about the time they spend together in the morning. His father gets him up early enough before school to fix young Frank's breakfast and read the paper and talk to his son about the world's news. MCCourt's father teaches him about Hitler and Mussolini and Franco; about the problems in Ireland with the English; about the hedge schools the Catholics held in secret during the days of English oppression; and so on.

McCourt then spends around a page telling the reader about the time spent with his father at bedtime. His father is a great story teller, regaling his sons with tales of the Irish folk hero, Cuchulain; with fantasy stories of polar bears in Australia and Zulus and motor cars and upside down worlds. The father taught his sons to kneel down at their bedside and pray all the necessary Catholic daily prayers.

Then he finishes off with this.

I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland.

I feel sad over the bad thing but I can't back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in films, but you can't say that in Limerick for fear you might be laughed at. You're allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head.
This is a poignant reminder to me of the difficulties faced routinely by those affected by loved one's addiction .

1 comment:

A Stafford said...

He has a new book, "Angela and the Baby Jesus" for Christmas. It's based on a story his mom used to tell him at Christmastime. Have you seen it? There is an edition for kids, and one for adults. It's available at LARL.