When I hear this song, it reminds me of my grandparents. My grandfather was the son of Italian immigrants, who moved to an Irish neighborhood at 79th and Emerald Avenue in Chicago so their children would speak English. My grandmother came from an Irish family, also in the same Irish neighborhood. She was dark Irish, with black hair and brown eyes.
They met at a dance hall. My grandfather would weave the tale about the night he met her, how he saw her, thought she had a great pair of legs, asked her to dance, danced her by his friends – who all gave him the thumbs up – and so a love affair lasting over fifty years began. She was the prize for him. We always knew that my grandfather adored our grandmother. Oh, he would drive her crazy with his antics, fussed and fretted over him, but she loved him right back. They were the couple everyone always remembered with smiles on their faces.
My grandfather passed away in 2000, my grandmother in 2008. I was in Blarney, Ireland when I got the news that she died. Ironically, my reason for going to Blarney was because my grandparents had gone there 30 plus years before, and my grandfather would tell the tale about how they were going to kiss the Blarney stone but my grandmother couldn’t. She was too afraid of heights to manage it and told my grandfather she couldn’t do it. His reply was “That’s alright, you don’t need to.” – which always got a laugh, as my grandmother was quite the talker (what can I say? I come from a long line of chatty Irish women.)
We decided to keep our plans for the day and went to Blarney Castle. My grandmother would have wanted me to enjoy myself still, that I knew. And in Blarney Castle, as I went up the narrow, winding stone steps to the top, all I could think was “How in heaven’s name did Grandpa get Grandma up here?” Because while I’m not terrified of heights like she was, it was more than a bit scary. I also noticed something else though – in the stone walls of the castle, people carved their names, initials, dates. All over, everywhere you looked, where someone could reach it, there was letters carved into stone. And I wondered if I’d find my grandparents initials. I’d seen my grandfather carve their initials into trees, paint it on the walls as they repainted the bedroom of a new house – ERR + JAR – and I knew if he had a chance to, he would have carved their initials right there into Blarney Castle. Because she was his prize and he didn’t care who knew it.
I didn’t find their initials…but I like to think I just missed them and that somewhere in Blarney Castle, they are there…
Gaelic Storm – She was the Prize