The faces of my Irish family come a’callin

My brother, Jay, and I grew up a country field away and yet “here” was a constant destination—where my grandparents, Florence and Joe Drennan, lived on the farm.
We slept here at their house most Friday nights, waking up early Saturday mornings to help Grandpa with farm chores. My Grandma, meanwhile, cooked and baked the best of everything; and not for lack of trying have I duplicated any of those recipes in my kitchen.
My grandfather stood every morning at the kitchen sink, looking into a small mirror sitting on the window ledge, where he’d comb what hair he had left with a oval-shaped, soft-bristled brush and then adjust the silver arm bands on his work shirt before he headed outside to the chores in the barn.
He took such pride in the preparation before a day’s work.
Grandpa Drennan had a mighty soul stocked with discipline and work ethics that measured hands above any draft horse of his day.
And when I walk with intent today across the yard from the farmhouse to the barn, I remember watching Grandpa do the same thing—as if on a mission.
Yep, we are definitely related.
Family mattered at all turns and we were a part of everything—planting potatoes in the spring or walking on the cattle drive, harvesting hay bales in late summer, and cleaning cow poop out of the gutters in the barn.
Thank Heaven for all of it.
Grandpa and Grandma Drennan died in 1996 and 2006, respectively, and this old farm has changed a lot in the seven years since I purchased it. There are more trees planted and less farm machinery parts lying around, and the barn—old and shoddy as it is on the outside—has had its face lifted on the inside.
I wonder what Grandpa would have done if he’d have walked into the barn last week before the family reunion and caught me dusting and vacuuming the place as foot-stomping tunes belted out of two big stereo speakers hanging from the ceiling.
I think he’d smile at my disciplined nature, and nod in understanding of the passion and pride that was bouncing around in there. I miss you.
I worked hard on a summer’s mission to ready this old homestead for the “Drennan Reunion,” and for the spirited bunch of more than 80 relatives who hadn’t partied here together in two years and who would move in with their camper trailers and tents to take up the cause.
They came, they partied, they made memories.
“We put our glass to the sky and lift up
And live tonight ’cause you can’t take it with ’ya.
So raise a pint for the people that aren’t with us
And live tonight ’cause you can’t take it with ’ya.”
I stood in a sea of Drennan descendants in my neck of the woods on Saturday afternoon during a scavenger hunt, and soaked up laughter and camaraderie that funnelled through all of us.
I thought to myself, “We’re all here where we belong.”
When it got dark Saturday night, we lit and released 20 flying lanterns that pierced the sky above Frog Creek. There was a moment of silence that spoke volumes as we all watched the lights rise into the heavens.
Joe, John, James, Jack, and Harry, Margaret, Pat, Janet, and Tillie, we remember you.
We belong. We are Drennan.
“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun’s shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”