My grandmother came from County Mayo. Her last name was Walsh. Nana sailed to Boston at the age of fourteen. That ocean voyage was so traumatic that she never returned to Ireland. My mother and her sisters often offered to fly Nana to Shannon.
"I don't want to see that sea again. Once is fine. Twice is for dying."
She had a way with words and thanks to her blood I was granted Irish citizenship under the 'born abroad' program. My cousin Oil Can also has his passport.
Members of my family have traveled to the Republic.
In 1995 I stayed in Ballyconneeley for over four months.
Those four months were was the coldest autumn of my life.
In 2011 I had been living as unofficial writer in residence at a diplomatic posting smack in the center of Europe. Madame l'Ambassador introduced me to the visiting dignitaries as her Irish artist. One British minister was suspicious of my origins and asked, "In what part of Ireland do they speak with that accent?"
"The Far West of Eire." My Irish passport in my pocket was proof of my claim.
"Which is?" He wanted the name of the town.
"That's in America."
"Only for those that aren't Irish. For the rest of us there it's the Fada An tIarthar."
"He's only Half-Irish, but his accent in 100% Far West." Madame l"Ambassador stood up for me. We are longtime friends. She had been to Boston with me. It's a lovely town on the water.
And a true city of Ireland.