When the time came to say goodbye to Missy and Father McCaul, we phoned ahead to our relatives in Seskinore, whom we had never met, to tell them we were coming to visit the next day. The phone in the Parochial House was one of the very few in Bruckless, and it had no dial. You had to crank it to ring the operator and give her the number you were calling. The Moses family was expecting us, since our father had written to tell them we were coming. They said they would expect us for “tea,” so we tried to time our arrival for late afternoon. With Carolyn riding “shotgun” and checking the oncoming traffic for me, we made much better time.
When we arrived at the Moses farm, Grandmother Malone’s half-brother, Uncle Davey, aged seventy-four, and Aunt Annie, his wife, were both waiting for us at the gate out on Letfern Road, waving frantically for fear that we might drive by and miss the turn down the lane to their farmhouse by the river. “Tea” turned out to be a huge meal: heaping platters of meats and vegetables, lots of potatoes and home-baked goodies and, of course, tea, that took both of us literal-minded Americans completely by surprise. We had unwittingly stopped for a good pub lunch just a few hours earlier and were by no means ready for the welcome feast Aunt Annie had prepared for us. We did our best to eat enough to be polite while answering all sorts of questions from around the table about ourselves, our father and “Aunt Tillie,” as they still called our grandmother. I realized that they had never met Pop. He had never taken the time to visit Ireland, in spite of naming our house in Coraopolis Heights for his mother’s village.
After “tea” had been cleared away, our cousin Bertie Moses, a quiet man of thirty-eight, who ran the farm for his father and would eventually inherit it, volunteered to show us around and take us to the other Moses farm in the next townland where our grandmother had been born and raised. He was accompanied by his fiancée, Eileen Beggs, who did most of the talking. A lovely young woman who taught at the village primary school, she had just turned twenty-eight, ten years younger than Bertie, and they were going to be married that October. Irish farmers often married late in life, compared with Americans. Bertie had waited patiently until his father had retired, built a small bungalow for himself and Aunt Annie at the top of the hill and vacated the farmhouse by the river. Then he had proposed to Eileen.
Carolyn and I drove south to Dublin, stopping at the old Shelbourne on St. Stephen’s Green. The next morning, I drove her to the airport to catch her flight back home. Then I went my own way back to London, visiting the ancient ruins of St. Kevin’s monastery at Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains and catching an overnight ferry from Rosslare, near Wexford, to Fishguard in Wales.
We arrived at the ferry terminal in the early morning after a sleepless five-hour crossing. A cup of strong, sweet, milky tea and a currant bun was the only breakfast available at that hour. Leaving the harbor, the two-lane road soon starts climbing, going from sea level to eight hundred feet in only three miles. Big trucks were belching smoky diesel fumes and moving slowly up the hill like a lumbering train of pachyderms. I was choking on their exhaust, having trouble seeing far enough ahead to pass them. Then I saw a man I had chatted with on the ferry, hiking beside the road with a huge back-pack, holding his right hand extended in the universal sign-language of hitch-hikers. Another pair of eyes!
A couple of days later, having dropped off the hitch-hiker and returned the car to the dealer for shipment back to the US, I boarded my Pitt faculty group charter flight and took off for Pittsburgh and home. I had fallen hopelessly in love with Ireland. Even now, as I sit here at the computer, I hear Ireland calling me back. I feel drawn there through my very DNA by all the generations of my Irish ancestors, going back to the monastery at Clonmacnois and even beyond. I will go back again before I die.
But first let me finish my story. When I reached my third floor walk-up bachelor apartment at 4738 Wallingford Street in the no-man’s-land between Oakland and Shadyside districts in Pittsburgh ’s East End, there was a letter waiting for me. It was covered with exotic, colorful stamps, written on coarse, grey paper and mailed from Delhi, India. It was a “Dear John letter” from Anne, the woman I had loved for a year and left in the Middle East a month earlier. I won’t bother you with the painful contents. Suffice it to say, our “relationship” was over. She closed the letter with a particularly cruel twist of the knife, “All cats are grey at night.” Ouch! Thank God, I was about to experience the sweetest, happiest Pittsburgh memory of all, or I probably would have drowned in self-pity and depression.
That month, September, 1960, I started teaching an evening class in marketing and advertising at Pitt, where I was a perennial grad student and teaching assistant. The first night of class, I saw Earl, one of my old drinking buddies, in the front row. After class, I invited him over to Wallingford Street for a beer and some serious reminiscing. When he saw where I lived he said, “John, I’m dating a beautiful German girl who lives right down the street from you!” I said I would love to meet her. He used the phone in my apartment to call her, and she invited us over for coffee. A month later on October 13, 1960, Christa, my neighbor, was wearing my fraternity pin; Earl was dating someone else; and the Pittsburgh Pirates, my beloved “Bucs,” beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series for the first time since 1925. Pittsburgh went wild, and the party lasted all night. Christa and I drove up and down Liberty Avenue with the top down in my recently arrived Sunbeam sports car. When we got back to Wallingford Street, the car was full of shredded paper and ticker tape that had been thrown out of the windows of downtown offices. A year later, I was back in Ireland again, this time to introduce Christa, my new bride, to Missy. Christa and I are still together to this day, forty-eight years, five children and eight grandchildren later. But that’s another story.
©2009 John Malone for SeniorWomen.com