Although not an 'official' holiday here in Canada, it is personally recognized as one by me as it is a great excuse to put on my one and only green clothing item (a sweater purchased specifically for this annual event) and make the rounds to as many Irish pubs we have here in town to indulge in traditional Irish foods and of course, to see how many Irish whiskey's, green beer, Guinness and other miscellaneous alcoholic beverages that I can 'pound into myself' over the course of the entire day.
It is always looked upon by me and a few select friends as one of the more enjoyable days of the calendar year.
One other reason that I enjoy this time of year so much is that it usually signals my father to 'brush off' all of his Irish jokes and begin telling these to anyone within earshot. Unfortunately this list of people that are forced to listen to these endless jokes is my Mother, who really detests this annual tradition of Dads.
You see, although Mom was born in London, England, she is half Irish (on her fathers side) and my own father is from Aberdeen in Scotland.
My father does not have a prejudice bone in his entire body however he seems to take great pleasure in telling these jokes in her presence, either for his own personal entertainment or just to see how quickly he can enrage Mom.
I remember years ago when both Sis and myself were just kids, my Mother suggested that we all go over to Ireland for summer holidays in order to see the 'beautiful country and familiarize us with the culture'.
Dad responded to this suggestion rather harshly by saying "If you just want the kids to experience the culture of Ireland, I can save us a few bucks and just take them to the liquor store the next time I go. The result will be quite the same by my estimations."
Of course this sent my Mom into a rage and she accused Dad of perpetuating a false stereotype. She then told him that coming from a Scotsman it was 'the pot calling the kettle black', an argument that they have had repeated many, many times over the years.
So needless to say, I was expecting to hear an endless barrage of Irish jokes this past Sunday when I went over to my folks place for dinner. On this rare occasion for a Sunday, Dad was going to be barbequing this evening so Mom really had 'the night off', or so Dad put it. He had even invited his friend Pete over to share dinner with us as there is nothing better than to have an audience for your jokes as well as for your BBQ.
Although it is still a little too early in the year to eat outside, the afternoon was mild enough for us to enjoy a few cocktails on the patio while Dad began his work.
As we all sat there for quite a few minutes it occurred to me that Dad had not told even one Irish story or jokes, which is very unlike him. I thought that perhaps he had completely forgotten the date, so I figured a gentle reminder was in order.
"So Dad" I began. "This coming Tuesday is St. Patrick's Day. I can hardly wait to go to a few pubs and soak up the Irish atmosphere. It will be great."
I then sat back with a rather pleased look upon my face as I knew this statement would certainly get the 'ball rolling.'
"Is it this coming week already?" Dad asked, sounding somewhat surprised. "Well where has the year gone. Seems it was just yesterday we were all sitting around toasting New Year's Eve."
With that he then turned his back to us and started to wrap his potatoes in tin foil for the BBQ, without saying another word.
"Hmmm" I thought silently to myself. "Seems the old man needs a bit of prodding this year. Well I certainly have no problem in that department."
"Dad, I've got a joke for you." I laughed. "What do you call an Irishman in a suit?" "The defendant! HAHAHA!!!"
Pete suddenly began cackling aloud as I delivered the punch line however there was barely even a mild chuckle emanating from my father.
I gave a quick glance over at Mom who was staring at me with a rather nasty look.
Dad's reaction was odd and even more strange was that he continued with his BBQ preparations with neither a word nor a comeback. I was determined to try again.
"Dad, do you know What's the difference between an Irish wedding and a Irish wake?" I asked, trying not to burst out laughing as I spoke. "One less drinker! - HAHA"
Once again Pete roared with laughter and once again I received a cold stare from my Mother, who still remained silent. But I knew from her look she did not appreciate these jokes in the least.
Then Dad finally spoke, although it was a great deal less than what I had expected.
"One less drinker, eh" Dad responded, sounding serious. "I guess that would apply to most wakes and not just the Irish ones."
Mom then announced that she was going to make herself useful & walk over to the store to pick up some dessert. As she went back into the house I thought this may be the perfect opportunity to try one final joke on Dad before giving up.
"Dad, Dad! You'll love this one." I started. "Where does an Irish family go on vacation?" A different bar!" HAHAHA!!!"
This time Dad responded with a huge laugh which of course then had the 'hyena' Pete joining in.
"That's a good one boy" Dad responded after a few more seconds of laughter. "It was everything I could do to keep a straight face earlier when your mother was sitting here and you told the joke about the Irishman in a suit. HAHA!! Good one!"
I was somewhat confused at Dad's response and to why he was acting so odd today and not telling his usual St. Patrick's Day stories.
"Well, it's a little silly." Dad began. "Your mother has been very tolerant with me over the years with my joking around and this year she pleaded with me to stop telling my Irish jokes and stories since it upsets her so much and also we now have the grandchildren around who seem to mimic everything. She also threatened me with sleeping on the downstairs couch if I failed to comply. So I gave her my word I would stop."
"So you folded like a cheap suit to her demands." I asked laughingly, just trying to give Dad a hard time over his decision.
"Well I'm not a young man anymore" Dad snapped back. "I'm too old to be sleeping on an ancient sofa as well as be arguing with your mother over these little unimportant things. After 50+ years of marriage I think it is a good trade off for just a wee bit of peace and quiet. Anyway, the nasty looks she was shooting at you over your jokes will somehow get attributed to me, I'll wager."
"HAHA, OK Dad" I responded. "It is just we will all miss your jokes and stories is all. But I completely understand. But tell Pete and me just one more joke and we will never mention it again. I need some material for when I go out this Tuesday to tell to the guys."
"OK, one last one only." Dad responded, an evil grin appearing on his face. "But only because your Mother has gone off to the store otherwise there would be Hell to pay for me."
He then threw a few steaks on the grill and began his story.
"This story is about your late Grandfather." Dad began. "The Irish one on your mothers side, of course. Old Patrick from Dublin."
"So old Patrick staggers into a Catholic Church after a heavy afternoon of drinking, enters the confessional booth, sits down, but says nothing.
The Priest coughs a few times to get his attention, but Patrick continues to sit there in silence. Finally, the Priest pounds three times loudly on the wall to get his attention.
Old Patrick mumbles, 'Ain't no use knockin Father, there's no paper on this side either.'"
With that both my Dad and Pete both roared with laughter, tears streaming down both their faces. I had also found the story quite hilarious although I was facing towards the back door and noticed that my mother had just stepped out onto the patio, looking for her sweater. Realizing she had heard the entire story, I immediately put on a straight face.
"Simon" My mother yelled, causing my Dad to reel around and jump about a foot in the air. He had the look of a guilty schoolboy on his face.
"Simon" Mom continued harshly. "It would seem your word to me is not worth too much. I can now see where your son has picked up his so-called humour from. It's bad enough you continue to tell your off-colour, juvenile jokes about the Irish people but now you add 'insult to injury' by using my dear deceased father as the punch line for one these jokes."
"Well I see you've made your choice, I certainly hope you will enjoy the sofa over the next few weeks until you have gotten some sense into that foolish elderly head of yours."
With that outburst, my Mother grabbed her sweater from the patio chair and turned on her heel and marched back into the house.
My father just stood there, mouth hanging open & barbeque tongs in hand, still looking shocked at my Mothers sudden appearance and angry flare-up. Finally he spoke.
"It was the boy." Dad muttered toward the back door, although Mom was no longer even there to hear his feeble response. "The boy, he goaded me into it. Asking for one last story and all. I thought you'd gone to store...."
Realizing his explanation was for not and Mom was long gone to the store, Dad turned his attention to me, and it wasn't pleasant.
"OK, boy" Dad growled in my direction. "You got me into this and I am expecting you to get me out. I have no intention of sleeping on that bloody hard old sofa in the cold basement so either you fix things or I'll be staying over at your apartment until your Mother gets over all this and forgives me."
I realized that Dad was not joking, so later on I cleared everything up with Mom and after more than a few repeated apologies from both my father and me - all was well once again.
"Damn" I thought to myself as I drove home later that night. "I remember the good old days when St. Patrick's Day was so much fun and filled with great politically incorrect & off colored jokes and lots of liquor.
Oh well, thankfully I still have my boozing."