Dillon
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by Ellen Neumann   -   October 2004
Oct 11, 2004
Mother is happy!  We are in Wales, have been for several days.  Today
we are out and about, just the two of us-----This Wlesh Llannelli street is
closed off to traffic-----people stroll along, popping in and out of
shops……..Mom is doing the same, happily chatting with cashiers,
waitresses and the like. She is doing very well with the BRIT money and
having no problem spending it!--------Gotta go, she is on the move and I
want to catch up with her.

Oct. 12, 2004
Here we are in Holyhead, Wales. Crossed Mt. Snowdon while venturing
north from Llannelli, tallest mountain in Wales----what a fantastic ride!
We missed the 3 PM ferry to Dublin and did not mind a bit----spent the
afternoon haunting the local thrift shops in Holyhead and visited our first
Welsh Pub---rested, had “a few” then dinner. Mom had pork chops,
Claire lasagna -- me soup -- good food, great relaxing place. In a few
moments we get on the ferry and head for Dublin. - Oh My! I can not
believe how very excited I am - Mom and I are setting foot on Ireland
together - such a special time. We have waited all of our lives for this
moment…

Nighttime
On the way to Dublin across the Irish Sea. Mom is excited and so am I.
She just walked over to the snack bar counter to get something. I am
sitting here queasy as hell and she is getting a little nosh! (and a coke for
me) The woman has an iron stomach, I swear! She is wonderful, my
mom, just grouchy sometimes. I am thinking of Geri right now and
wishing she were with me. She is the one who deserves this trip, she is
so in tune with Ireland.
OMG - I can see it! It is dark and the lights of Dublin are twinkling like
smiling Irish eyes welcoming us. I feel so happy. Mom is thrilled in spite
of all. She just said “ Take my hand - it’s a miracle!” She said softly. I
have sweet happy tears in my eyes. I can feel your love EllenRose! P.S.
My dear Claire is so sleepy. She drove so far.

Wednesday Morning 6:30 am… Sitting in the lobby of Hotel Issacs.
When we got off the ferry we were all pooped, a little disoriented and oh-
so-ready for a warm bed and friendly face. After looping around in the
bowels of Dublin for a little while, we finally got our bearings and stopped
to enquire about a room---------nothing available but the night manager,
Victor [a well dressed, handsome young Dubliner], attempted to call a
near-by hotel to secure us lodging. When this became an impossibility, he
locked the front door of his hotel, walked around the corner and found a
room for us. He then escorted me to our car, greeted mother and Claire
and wished us well--- We were so delighted that he had extended himself
to us in such a kind and friendly manner. We entered another hotel, Hotel
Isaacs, where we were greeted by another sweet boy, Livo, from
Romania. He secured a room for us quickly and without issue. Parking is
scarce in Dublin or “dear” as the Irish say. Livo gave us a parking space
that belonged to the manager. We entered the parking spot via an old iron
gate, tucked into some sort of ancient archway-----so cool!! With the car
tucked safely away we headed for our comfy room. All the restaurants
were closed and we were a bit hungry from our long journey. Livo went
into the kitchen and “spirited” some bread, cheese, jam and BUTTER for
us. Our first meal in Ireland, although simple, certainly hit the spot. We
felt so at home, so welcome…………………

Early morn’in Dublin ---- Day 1
It is raining this morning----hope Mom will be OK with that.  She is very
tired but driven by a need to go and do and not miss anything. I love my
Mom and do so want this trip to be all she wished for.…… I have a
distinct feeling that Ireland knows and loves us for sure!! Soon I will go
upstairs to our room--------- I got up so early I did not want to awaken
Mom and Claire------ I am sitting here in the lobby watching the vendors
carry fresh fruits & veggies, milk & cream to the restaurant-------- All
smile and nod at me. Can people really be this friendly??

Same Day
We are sitting high in the air on the double-decker bus waiting for a tour
of the city-------Cab driver was so pleasant--------Difficult to understand
his “brogue” though------Tour bus driver sang while driving through the
streets------It was sweet and haunting---I cried again----so much emotion
and happiness flying around inside me! We are driving past the fountain
where St Patrick really baptized people! ---O man!! -----------------Driver
singing again---Wild Rover---Irish drinking song------he has such a
sweet, hoarse voice------as if he were a wee bit sad--------As we passed
Croffy’s Ave, the place where the 1798 rebellion got off the ground in
Dublin, I wonder for the 10,000th time just how our people were involved
in that rebellion -------Grandpa John’s obit stated that both sides of his
family were prominently involved but where and how??--------Now we
pass a mass grave from Famine times-----could our people be in it?
Eerie!!!! The US Ambassadors mansion sits prominent inside a beautiful
park-------this was a gift from the Irish people to the US as a thank you
for all the relief that the US provided to the people of Ireland during the
Great Famine.

Oct. 14, 2004
From Dublin we drove west then North to Portlick Castle. We wiggled
and forged through tiny roads that narrowed as we got closer to our
destination. Finally, we reached the open gates of the Castle we had come
so far to see. A sign was posted that stated “Private Residence”. We
stopped. Mom got out and walked up to one of the original 800 year old
absolutely-for-real magnificent lion statues that stood guard at the gate
-------She stroked the lion as if petting a cat. I took her photo. We started
down the tree covered drive----like a tunnel taking us back in time.  It
was a long , lovely drive -1km maybe. ………………..At the end of the
long, slightly winding drive stood the Portlick Castle--------this was the
home of the original Dillons who had come from France after the
Crusades. They had been followers of Richard the Lion Hearted.
……………………so warm, so real, so ready for us------quiet-------
pristine: Welcome Home Alice it whispered……………….. Moms eyes lit
up with wonder and tears. She slowly walked to the wall of the Castle and
lay her hands on the stone as if to embrace it. She was quiet, she was
smiling. She walked all through the yard touching the statuary, the grass,
the stone, the trees. She lingered by the door, wishing to enter but not
able because it was privately owned.

As we left, Mom said she felt as if she had been to this castle before. We
took a stone from an ancient stone wall--------she plans to have a
necklace made from it. A piece of stone that lives forever in the Dillon
imagination…………..oh the possibilities!!--------------I forgot to
say--------------When we first arrived at the castle , we pulled into the
drive and noticed the “Private Entrance” sign and started to back out. We
backed into one of the gates-------an angry “Crack“ was the response
from the gate----------the castle wanted us to come and we did not let us
back out.

I, THE EPITOMY OF A SKEPTIC, HAD HEARD ALL THE TALES OF
IRELAND BEING A PLACE WHERE MAGIC RULED, THE LAND OF
FAIRIES AND WONDEROUS WISHING WELLS……”.  

I now believe in the TRUE Magic of Ireland. It is here for sure-----I have
see it with my very own American--Irish eyes!!

When visiting the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, I was led to
believe that I would not find trace of my family in Co. Fermanagh. For
sure, the lovely woman in the Library advised me, if they were indeed
“traceable” it would be in Co. Cavan. I was thrilled to see the Dillon name
in Griffiths but totally bummed that this woman felt all my Fermanagh
research had been in vain. For a fleeting few moments, I thought about
not going to the North of Ireland at all.  Then something inside me said
“Stick with the program Ellen”---and so we did! North, North, North we
drove. So pleasant; a surprise at every turn. Buildings, so old, made of
stone. Some large barns still in use.  Some so tiny, open roofs where
thatch had once been. For sure they had stood for hundreds of years and
stand today-----weathered, yes many missing their old thatched roofs but
STRONG & PROUD ------yes, that too is a vital part of Ireland. OLD &
PROUD.

As we effortlessly and quickly headed north, we passed through small and
rather poor farming communities. Cows of every imaginable breed lazed
in the hedge-edged pastures. Small delicate looking sheep with black faces
dotted the countryside. Everywhere in Ireland there are animals grazing----
some free range.

It was raining as we entered the green fields of county Cavan and as we
passed through it I felt an easy and comfortable essence pass over me.
Did my people pass this way?? Are the bones of my family feeding this
land that is getting greener as we head north?? …….………..This is
Right, so so right, I think to myself. But where will I find them? I know I
am in the right place but where oh where do I go from here??  

As we crossed the Co line from Cavan to Fermanagh, the HUGE arc of an
Irish rainbow appeared beside us. On the Co. Fermanagh side we could
see the actual end of the rainbow, I am so serious, sitting gently in a
pasture and touching the ground.. I have never seen the end of a rainbow
before, did not even know that it was possible to do so and yet there is
was !!! I was speechless. So were Mom and Claire. “A SIGN !” said
Mom and I believe she was right. That wonderful Irish rainbow was
showing us the way home. I reached into my backpack and grasped the
bag that held the soil I had brought with me from old John Dillon’s grave.
I held it tightly to my heart and heard it sing!! This was just right. Old
John was almost home………….
ENNISKILLEN ---- THE ISLE BETWEEN THE LAKES
The “link” between Loch Erne and Lower Loch Erne------will you link us
to our past??

Driving into this town was different---rather familiar. I had visited here in
cyber-space often during the past four months. Dueling spires loomed on
the high point overlooking the town--------one the Catholic church, one
the Church of Ireland. I knew from previous research that the C of I
church had been built first with the stately spire. Years later the RC’s had
added a spire to their church, making sure it reached a wee bit higher
toward the heavens by just inches, besting it’s “rival”, perpetuating what
today still separates a people…
Claire, Mom and I gracefully checked into the Railway hotel, an old
landmark hotel on the lower end of one of the three main streets. After
walking up two flights of stairs [charming yet not updated hotel with no
elevator], we refreshed ourselves for a few moments and settled into our
sweet but rather “shabby-chic” room. Shortly there after, we headed to
the lovely dining facility in the downstairs of our hotel. We passed large
windows covered with vintage Irish lace curtains, staircases with fine old
oak railings while treading on a custom carpet bearing little trains and the
hotel hallmark. Arriving finally in the tiny lobby, we found the charming
restaurant to our right and a friendly Pub to our left. Ravenous from our
long drive, we headed for the restaurant; the Pub would wait. Oh the
food!! Mom decided on a well done steak, Claire a creamy Chicken dish
and I, well to sure “pooty”, The Catch of the Day, fresh from Loch Erne
would be just right for me. Pan-fried in luscious creamy Irish butter,
served with a side of garlic mushrooms and a chopped cabbage dish that
made my mouth water. Freshly baked bread was served with farm fresh
creamy butter. We SO enjoyed the dinner. Afterwards,  we strolled up
and down the street for a few blocks, talking of what tomorrow would
bring and hashing over the events of the day.   Upon returning to our
hotel, we headed directly to the friendly Pub which was part of our hotel.
We nestled into a cozy corner booth near the front corner of the Pub. A
few women sat at the bar chatting, a man or two wandered in and sat
alone.  Claire decided on a “pint” of Guinness, I, Bushmills Irish Whiskey
on ice, and mom a diet coke. Yum!! The Irish whiskey tastes
lovely………No Blackberry Brandy for this girl while in Ireland!
…………………Familiar sounds are reaching my ears--------Could it
be?? OH NO !!! -----------AMERICAN COUNTRY MUSIC!! “I fell into a
burning ring of fire………….it went down, down, down…………”
----------------JOHNNY CASH !! No wait !! it’s not Johnny ------It’s an
Irishman singing a Johnny Cash song.  Where was the traditional Irish
music I had been longing to hear?? I laughed out loud …………..I had
come all this way to only to hear songs such as “The Gambler” and “Take
Me Home Country Roads”-----[how appropriate is that one?? !! ].

We were tired from our long days journey and retired to our room early [9:
30 PM]. Mom and Claire immediately drifted off to sleep. I, on the other
hand, could not sleep--------too many things dancing in my mind. I got up
quietly, dressed again and headed back to the club [opps!] Pub, and tried
to call Barbi. Damn! A Busy signal. ……….Thought to myself  “Well, I
will just have myself another “touch” of Irish whiskey”….. and I did.
Along came an Irishman from the south------50 miles south of Dublin , he
said.  We chatted about his chain of Fish-N-Chips shops----he had come
to Enniskillen to attend some sort of machinery auction. We talked on and
on about a variety of topics------the internet, the war, the president--------
just so many things. We exchanged email addresses and bid each other a
fond Good-bye. Tom was his name-----Tom from Kilarney ………

Friday morning
Got up early, headed for the Fermanagh Town Hall in a taxi. Asked the
receptionist for Frank Roofe------waited a few moments. Out popped a
man with dark red hair, a neatly trimmed beard, rather short [5’ 6”--8“]
with a friendly smile and tiny twinkling eyes. “Hello there!! I’d be Frankie
Roofe “ he said to me with a smile. I told him of my quest, showed him
my documents and photographs. He loved my Photo of the 4 generations
of Dillons. He listened to my tale of lost ancestors. He said he would call
my hotel in the evening to let me know what he was able to find. He was
sure that the lady in the National Library in Dublin had been mistaken…….
We will find old John’s family he said…………And I wanted to believe
him !!

In the afternoon, Claire, mom and I decided to take a drive. Following a
route that was recommended to us by Frank, we drove up a mountain to
discover at the top the loveliest view imaginable! Rolling hills, pastures full
of dairy cattle, forests and the Loch Erne itself were spread before us. In
the distance we could see the eastern tip of Donagal Bay. We spent a long
time soaking in the silent beauty of Northern Ireland. We had to
practically drag ourselves away from the magnificence. Down the
mountain we drove, passing logging in progress and at the foot of the
mountain we came to the Loch. The finest trout fishing in all of the
world, say the proud Irishmen.  We pass the famous silver birch trees.
Small they are-----the tallest being all of 12’. Leaves the size of those on
the white birch we are used to seeing in our Sullivan Co. Yet these leaves
appear to have been sprayed [probably by the Irish Fairies] with a brilliant,
soft shell of silver. Shimmering, quivering, dancing! So beautiful, growing
along the sides of the narrow roads, backed by pastures of the softest and
greenest grass this side of heaven. The soft green grass of Northern
Ireland is truly the emerald color I had imagined it to be.  

As we passed the Loch we decided to continue driving west. We passed
more farms, more old stone structures that all had a story to tell if only
they could speak to us. We spotted the ruins of several Castles high on
hills. On and on we drove till before us lay the Atlantic Ocean at the
mouth of the Donagal Bay. Oh what a sight!! Angry waves breaking on
jagged black rocks protruding from the ocean floor so very close to the
shore. I thought about the sailors who must have lost their lives trying to
reach shore past these mighty “sentinels”. Dark cliffs rose hundreds of
feet directly from the beach to the sky, or so it seemed. This was the
Coast of Donegal, the only county in the North of Ireland to be part of the
Republic, not under British rule. The lonely one, Co. Donegal, isolated and
so very beautiful………………….

We returned to Enniskillen. The dinner at our hotel was again wonderful. I
chose several appetizers instead of a main course-------pate surrounded
by a salad of tiny chopped veggies with vinaigrette dressing [presented
beautifully]. A deep fried Brie served with 3 sauces [YUM!] and a portion
of delicately sautéed in garlic mushrooms. Mom had lamb chops, Claire,
salmon. The fare at this hotel is definitely the finest we have found in
Ireland and all of Irelands food has been superb !

After enjoying our lovely dinner we headed across the quaint little lobby
and settled into the Pub for another relaxing and fun evening. On the
previous evening I had been introduced to a fine cocktail by the talkative
Tom from Kilarney called “Hot Irish Whiskey”. This was it!! What an
ever-so-fine drink this was!
2 oz. Irish Whiskey,
2 oz. Boiling water,
1 tbs white sugar,
round lemon slice,
whole cloves.
Liquid Irish Gold!!

Mom tasted it and even she, the All American Tea Totaler enjoyed it.
The Pub was lively this evening. Primarily locals, the crowd swelled to a
respectable number. The sound or “lilt” of Irish laughter melded with the
American Country music and this night, some live Irish traditional music
sung by a lone man on a piano.

I was waiting for a call from Frankie Roofe that did not come…………”
Oh Well,” I said to myself, “He must not have been able to find any info
that would be helpful to me”. I raised my glass and called to Mom and
Claire to toast our ancestor, “Here’s to Himself” I said, referring to Old
John, our ancestor and using an Irish term of endearment [why not I
thought? When will I ever have the chance to use this term again?] “I
know that we have pleased him”. Inside my pocket was the little bag of
soil from his grave. I gave it a wee pat. …………Just then, in walked
Frankie with a hurried pace. His face was full of purpose-------he spotted
us and a big smile broke across his face.
And I knew he had found them. ………………………..

Frankie informed us that indeed he had found two Dillons in Enneskillen in
1842 [2 Dillon families I trust----he will be sending all the particulars to
Geri]. One was John, possibly the father of our John. It appeared that he
had a new wife---Judith. I welled with tears AGAIN when he told me. He
was in a big hurry. He said even though the next day was Saturday, he
would proceed with a more in depth search. He would get together with
us in the afternoon of the next day. This was it!! I could feel the huge
anticipation growing inside of me. I must call Geri and I did. I told her I
would find them, the last thing I said to her before leaving………….
Please, Please, Please let this be the link.

Saturday dawned bright and crisp.
After another superb Irish breakfast at the Railway we set off for
Lisbellaw, where it is possible that our ancestor was born. We just
wanted to set foot there, to check it out. Lisbellaw turned out to be rather
unsettling. Off the main road approximately 7 miles from Enniskillen we
found this tiny gloomy little town. We searched for a RC cemetery------
none to be found. Lisbellaw did not contain much of anything besides a
frightening sight. At the foot of the hill, on a bend at the bottom of the
main street stood the local police station. Twenty foot high walls of steel
were topped by row upon row of razor wire------rolls and rolls of jagged
hateful razor wire, big steel sliding gate; threatening frightening. Can a
people hate it’s “organs” this much? I can feel the hate in this town-------
Saturday morning and yet the streets are empty barring a stray Irish calico
cat. Are these people less friendly to the random stranger than all the
others we have met since setting foot on Irish soil? I will tell you they are
not! For when I entered a beauty salon, asking for directions to Co.
Cavan the lady “barber” who was in the middle of cutting the hair of a
young man, left him sitting in the chair and walked to the street with me
to point out the correct route. So kind, the Irish people go the extra mile
for a stranger------so long as the stranger never mentions “The Problem “.

The few Irish folks that I did get to talk about “ IT “ [generally after a
few pints] spoke in whispers. One man referred to a “Mafia”. One said
things had gotten so much better. Most said, in their hushed whispers
“better to leave it alone”. And so I did………….

After leaving Lisbellaw we headed to the nearby town of Maguiresbridge.
The lovely old RC church in this town was surrounded by a graveyard.
Celtic crosses rose above the uneven, well kept grounds. Grave stones
displayed the names and epitaphs of those who had passed through
heavens gate, all lamenting the love that went to the grave with these
people. Large stones, small stones, stones with names that had obviously
been crudely chiseled into the stone by a family member. Placed with
love, placed to last.  
A pleasant surprise I have found here in Ireland-------People not only
respect older folks, they revere them. Mom, for example, has enjoyed the
smiles, the kind touch, the simple joy and sweetness that the Irish have
wholeheartedly extended to her with pleasure.  The Irish seem to view
older people as an asset not a burden as so many people do in the USA. I
loved this !
As promised, Frankie Roofe phoned me on my cell and arranged to meet
with us at the Pub in our hotel after lunch. We had just passed the border
into Co. Cavan. We drove at a leisurely pace, wandering along the narrow
roads, past farms both working and abandoned. I felt that we were close,
so very close to our family “ground”. I was still carrying the sod in my
pocket from the grave of old John. Together with Mom and I, he had
taken the “Long Journey Home” and was ready to rest. I felt as we turned
and headed back toward Co. Fermanagh the feeling I had been waiting
for. I knew this was as right a place as there would be on this long trek to
Erin. I asked Claire to slow the car as we approached the line that joined
the counties, joined the Republic of Ireland with its brother, part of
another country. I would take half of the sod in my pocket and give it to
the Irish wind as we crossed that invisible line.  John would be home and
at rest at last. I opened the window and thrust my hand out of it, the soil
from his grave held tightly in my fist.  I let go and watched as Old John
became one with the earth ------the beautiful, green, intoxicating Irish
earth. I could see the dust fly far over a meadow where dairy cows
grazed. I choked back an enormous swell of emotion---------I saw my
children in my mind and knew that somehow they were sharing this long
overdue moment with me. I looked back at my Mom and shared a silent
moment of understanding. This is what I had come to Ireland for, this
tiny moment in time could never be repeated and it was ours and Old
John’s and all that were yet to come. ……. It was magical, not like a
rabbit from a top hat ------------------The magic of Ireland is invisible and
real and embedded deeply in our Dillon hearts.

On the way back to Enniskillen the rain came----soft and silky, slow and
steady. The Irish rains that come so often are not rains as we know
them------they come on so slowly and quietly, similar to a mist ----soft,
soft, soft…………
Upon our return to Enniskillen we headed straight to the Railway Inn Pub
where Frankie Roofe was waiting for us. A broad smile on his face
welcomed us. He kissed Mom and I in turn on the cheek. In his hands he
held several books, rare volumes of great importance historically
pertaining to the local area. Frank first told us that indeed a John Dillon
had lived in Enniskillen in 1842 with his wife Judith, a second wife. He
had also found a woman, a Dillon, who was a nun in a local convent. The
dates escape me at this moment but they were in line with the family we
were desperately searching for. Then, after much excited chatter between
us, Frankie started to read to us from one of the books. These are his
treasures, his prized possessions. From the book he reads that many years
ago, and again shamefully, the date is escaping me---I will deal with all the
documentation later-----let me get to the story.

It seems that in the 17th century a British Lord by the name of Selsbury
acquired a sizable tract of land in co. Cavan but bordering on Co.
Fermanagh. He move his family from England to start a life in Ireland. He
brought 10 families with him to help him develop the land. The Dillons
were one of these families. As a reward for their help Lord Selsbury gave
parcels of land to each of these families, Dillons included. Because
Catholics were not able to own land outright during this period, the title to
the land remained in the name of the Lord. This is most likely why it has
been so difficult to trace these people. When the great famine came, the
lands were sold off and the Dillons moved into the towns of EnnisKillen ,
we believe. Frankie thinks that the Dillons may have gone into trade at this
time. He points out that Old John purchased quite a sizable amount of land
almost immediately after he arrived in the USA. Famine poor people in
Ireland were generally lucky to arrive in America alive with the shirt on
their backs. John Dillon definitely arrived with money it seems and must
have acquired it before leaving Ireland, possibly from the sale of property.

I asked Frank where this property had been. He pointed it out to me on
the map and I let out a gasp !!! I felt as if my heart was racing and for a
moment I was at a loss for words. Tears of joy and absolute wonder
welled in my eyes. ……………For the spot Frankie was pointing to on
the map , that spot on the Cavan - Fermanagh border,  was the exact spot
where I had scattered the “remains” of old John ! “A MIRACLE !”
shouted Frank! “A sign, just like the rainbow”------Honestly, I do not
know what to say about this----------------I, the eternal skeptic, I, the
faithless one, I had been brought to my knees, so to speak, by the earth
and the mist and the improbability of it all. Irish eyes that had been closed
for eternity were somehow miraculously shining on me ! How on earth
had I decided to put the soil from Old John’s grave on the exact spot
where Dillons once walked and farmed and lived; were married and
probably died?? A needle in a haystack. How, How How could this be
possible? What had guided us to that certain bend in the road. I believe
that the energy within me somehow connected with the essence of my
long dead family. I felt it since I first set foot on Irish soil. A whisper
pulling me------- A comforting, wordless whisper soothing me, a familiar
and vague but warm and wonderful whisper. I can only compare it to the
feeling I get when I hold one of my babies-----a feeling of secure warmth,
a feeling of untainted trust, a feeling of unconditional love. How odd that a
place could instill such incredible emotion within me. And how very
precious………..

Oh, but back to the future .
We spent hours [maybe three] of sitting and chatting and laughing and
chatting with Frankie [he totally fell in love with Mom, even called her
“Mither”], . She just adored his charm, sincerity and total “Irishness”
-------so did I. Finally and regretfully, Frankie bid us a prolonged goodbye
with kisses and hugs, promises of future communication, and a vow of
forever friendship.  Frankie is totally looking forward to communicating
with Geri-----He was so impressed with the family tree she had provided
along with the 8” x 10” photo of the Dillon Family. I bet Geri is home
searching and figuring and finding new details right now------solving the
puzzles that make it possible for a day like today to happen. Possible for
her mothers and grandmothers dreams to come true……………

After Frankie’s departure it was time to say goodbye to the “Siamese-
Twin” counties of Cavan - Fermanagh. We hastened to the car, already
packed, and headed toward Belfast. As we headed east, the heavens broke
open and a hard, heavy, dark rain fell on us. “Did the angles cry like this
when old John left” I silently wondered and then I laughed at myself
“Better get a grip on yourself Ellen” I said to ME !

On to Belfast we forged. We arrive at dusk and found the atmosphere on
the streets both threatening and intimidating. Bands of men in black
clothing roamed the streets, each wearing a string on their upper arm with
some sort of patch attached to it. They were near the gas station, they
were near our hotel, DAMN, they were in front of the National Opera
House, the grandest theater in all of Ireland-------wearing black tuxedos
and sporting the string with the patch. Frightening, Bold, REAL!!
Enormous signs painted on the side of buildings spoke of Loyalist sections
of the town. Others spoke of a free Ireland. We would leave this city to
its aura of violence. In the morning we would head back to the friendly
welcoming arms of Dublin. And so in the morning we headed south---
drove till we arrived back in familiar territory------Dublin-------the
Isaacs-----one more afternoon of pleasant shopping, another fine meal,
another night in a friendly happy Pub.

We awoke fairly early and indulged in our last full Irish breakfast. We
packed a lunch from the buffet table [really not done in Ireland or in the
UK either but I have too much of Ethel Mayblooms teachings in my soul
to pass up an opportunity such as this]. I had taken a tote lined with one
of my large zip-lock plastic bags the I brought from home-------BING !
----------in went the croissants and big fat sweet rolls---------BANG!
--------In went the butter [oh my, the Irish butter is delicious!] and
creamed cheese and large portions of Irish hard cheese------Boom!--------
In went a few pieces of fresh fruit [beautiful oranges from Italy, Bananas
from N. Africa------[I asked the hotel steward where the fruit was
imported from]. We left the restaurant to bid our goodbyes to the hotel
staff who had made our stay so pleasant. Claire had to walk quite a little
distance to retrieve the car from a parking garage. We loaded it up [man,
it’s getting tighter in here with all the packages full of Irish goodies]. We
drove to the Docks on the shore of the Liffy River and boarded the
Johnathan Swift, the Irish Ferry that would carry us back to Wales.

Deep inside my pocket was the remainder of the soil from old John’s
grave. I had saved it for the Irish Sea………The brave and violent, rolling
Irish Sea. Mom and I found our way to the upper deck of the ferry, open
to the elements. From here we watched Dublin roll by. As we headed
toward the mouth of the Liffey [where it meets the Irish Sea] I reached
into my pocket and held onto the little bag of soil. …………Just a wee bit
longer ………I had carried it so far, across the ocean and land and sea. I
and left some of the sod in the North and now I was ready to plunge the
last of it into the Irish Sea, a sea the Dillons had crossed to come to
America and create the beginnings of the life me and mine are living
today; the Sea that has a life of it’s own, a private volatile life that is
visible to me on this breezy sunny day.
Did the women cry as they sailed out of this harbor, saying goodbye to
their home, their lives, their loved ones forever? Did some take with them
a handful of dirt to help them remember forever the smell of the Irish
sod? I clutched the little bag in my pocket and was surprised to find it
warm, very warm in my hand. This too was right…………..
I pulled out the little bag and emptied the contents into my mothers hands.
I asked her to hold it till we cleared the harbor, till we were free of the
pull of Dublin and fully on the Irish Sea. We waited patiently, silently as
the wind blew our hair, the chill stung our faces. Land was slipping
away-------Finally I said to Mom “OK , NOW!” And she let the soil fly
and fly it did!  High in the air, riding on a current, a moment or two
before diving gracefully into the Irish Sea. I had at that moment a feeling
of total and utter peace, Mom too, I think, although I was not sure until
after a few moments she turned to me and said “I already talked to Pop
you know…….” and that is all she said. I took it to mean that she too felt
the power of this moment and felt her Dad with her somehow. Oh what a
“Dillon”, a proud one,  my Pop was!……

We watched the shore till it completely disappeared, Mom went inside and
down to the gift shop. I stayed behind and slipped from the area where
we had been allowed to stand. I walked to the very back of the ferry
where I was not supposed to be. Alone in the sun and wind I looked back
toward Ireland and held my head to the wind and felt --- how can I tell it
-------- I felt Glory!! I remained there for only a moment, letting the
feeling pass as slowly as possible. I blew a kiss to the bones that for sure
rest in Ireland, the bones that belong to me and mine, patiently waiting for
my girls to find them one day. I turned and walked back to the
unrestricted area of the deck, opened the door and walked into the lounge
where mother and Claire were waiting for me.  I pondered the fact that no
one had chased me from the back of that boat, no one had interfered with
my goodbye…………..But then I remembered: The crew were all Irish
and aren’t the Irish the nicest people I the world, after all!!


The Long Way Home