Rathlin Patrick Penny – my Grandad – was Catholic Irish.
Went to Church only a few times in his life.
He’d thrash anyone who scorned or doubted his belief.
Certain aspects of the religion was imprinted on him at birth.
Took advantage of those rules or rituals which aided him, ignored them that din’t.
Old Da was a proud con man by professional inclination.
Under the protection of St. Dismas – patron of criminals and undertakers.
The feast day of this saint is March 25.
‘Lucky’- as my grandfather was known – celebrated it as though it were his birthday.
Wishing everyone a Merry Dismas – handing out Dismas cards.
The local priest was a drinking buddy.
Granma Pen said that this fellow had a hollow leg.
(A description I came to understand viscerally when I took up the glass myself.)
He and Lucky closed down many a bar with a knock down drag out brawl.
After which the priest absolved them both.
Old Da loved Absolution.
Granma Pen was a rigorous believer.
She condemned anyone who wasn’t Catholic as Hell bound.
The Hades of her imagination was only slightly worse than the life her Almighty had in store for her.
Existence was a revolve of retribution, punishment, confession then penance.
Ring around the rosary.
The Pennys had three daughters.
(Granma Pen proclaimed the absence of boys a sign that Lucky sperm was tainted – producing Satan’s tool on Earth.)
To atone for this – she abjured all pleasure in living.
But as her duty was to serve her husband – submitted unflinchingly to his conjugal demand.
Progeny of such convoluted mixed message end up running wildly in opposing directions.
Rosaleen – their first issue – was early disillusioned.
Became a strident, impassioned suffragette.
Atheist, labour organizer and lesbian.
Changed her name to Scott.
Enjoyed a life long relationship with a Emma Goldman lookalike –
Who spent more time in prison than out due to Wobbly tendencies.
Rosaleen was my hero.
Granma Pen disowned her.
Next forth from the fruited womb was Doily.
That weren’t her real name.
In those days a basket case meant having no fit use except to make baskets.
In her case, it was doilies.
They sent her away to make doilies.
She made a doily big enough to cover a state capital building once!
Her affliction was a sign to Granma Pen Our Lord held the whole Penny tribe in very low regard.
By way of penance, most of Pen’s hair fell out.
Causing her public embarassment, which it was meant to.
Doily doiled her limp bonnets to cover her shame.
Pen reasoned that God gave her this hopeless person for just such purpose.
Pen wore those headcloths to the end of her days.
My Mama was born sixteen years after Doily.
An accident by anyone’s estimation.
The surprised parents named her Orla Marie.
They hoped she would be able to take care of them in their dotage.
Such was not to be.
Orla Marie was a rapscallion from the get go.
Still a teenager she became unwed pregnant with yours truly who she quickly abandoned.
Ended up a lush – ten penny a dance girl – dead before forty.
The lady I live with made that picture above from my memory.
Granma Pen looks nicer that she actually was.
Then Doily – out on a visit.
Me – LuRain.
Don’t it look like I in my own World?
They always used to say that.
Can you blame me?
artwork by codifyer