I’ve been trying to put together thoughts for a full post about the final days of my initial stint in Ireland, but that’s going to take some more time. (After August 23rd I headed to Scotland, then England, and am currently back in Ireland until September 17th when I’ll head back to the states)
So in the meantime, I want to share specifically about meeting Pauline Loftus, the cousin of my Grandpa Chuck. (see the previous post for the back story on how we got in touch and how we’re related)
I arrived to our meeting spot – The McWilliam Hotel in Claremorris, County Mayo on August 22 (about 30 minutes from Newport) – a bit before our 5:15pm meeting time and fairly nervous. Would meeting Pauline mean anything? Everything? Whatever I make of it? Had she even known of Grandpa Chuck’s existence? How strange is it that her parents stayed in Ireland, Grandpa Chuck’s parents went to the states, and now we’re meeting right back near where both their parents were born in the late 19th century.
Well I put one foot in front of the other into the hotel and eyed an elderly couple sitting in the lobby – quickly sharing gestures and confirming that we were indeed the ones we were there to meet.
She was joined by her husband Frank, her energy soothing and her eyes inquisitive. We shook hands – her warning not to squeeze too hard – and walked to a booth in the back.
I explained why I was in Ireland, what I’d been up to so far, and she shared a bit about her life in Ireland. About family members who had lived and passed away in Ireland, moved to Scotland, moved to the states, and so on. She spoke a bit about living through various “troubles” and how one of their neighbors was one of the hunger strikers who died fighting for the Irish Republic. I’m still wrapping my head around all this history and just made plans to visit with Pauline again to spend some more time learning about her life and the broader history here.
Feeling very fortunate, welcomed, held, nourished, raw, uncertain, in process, light, heavy, somber, happy, and eager/nervous to learn more…