Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish as Paddy's Pig

Because this is mainly a food blog and my Dad only ever cooked frozen peas, scrambled eggs and gin-and-tonics for me, he doesn't show up here as often as my mother does. But, he was "Irish as Paddy's pig" so it seems appropriate to talk about him on St. Patrick's Day.

Dad came from a Navy family, the first son of a battleship captain whose parents had emigrated during the famine from different places in Ireland, met in Holyoke, Massachusetts and married there. Grandfather Hyland went to the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1900 and Dad and his brother Bill followed in those footsteps in the classes of 1934 and 1935. Their sister, Virginia, joined the Navy during the Second World War, too - she was in the first class of WAVES.

My mother's somewhat patrician New York Social Register family was not thrilled to hear she wanted to marry an Irish Catholic Naval aviator that she met a friend's wedding but she was nuts about the guy and she prevailed. When she would talk about her illustrious ancestors (she was descended from President John Adams), we'd ask Dad about his and he always said, with a twinkle, "After they hung all the horse thieves and murderers, we've been a very pure line since then."

A dear friend, Beth Jussel, coined the term "Admiral Honey" and it fit him so well that his close friends adopted it immediately. He was the sweetest, funniest man ever to wear a uniform, and a darn good flyer, too. When he won a prestigious medal for combat flying during the war, his mother in law wrote him a letter of praise, saying how proud she was of his service record and how honored they were to have him as a member of their family. Since she was a major force in trying to dissuade Mom from marrying him five years earlier, the letter meant a lot to him; I found it still among his papers after he died, 50 years later.

He loved my mother, us kids, the Navy, tennis and a good joke, more or less in that order. His highest praise was, "He did his duty." He was, as you would expect, politically conservative and he was always baffled as to how he could have produced such a left-wing tree-hugging daughter as me - we had great fun arguing politics on the lanai, both of us with a skinful of gin and absolutely certain that we were right. He holds the family record for having learned computers at a late age - he was 83 when he got his first one.

There are better pictures of him at this website and a rather sweet little story written by a man under his command: - Dad's is the middle picture in the first row you come to as you scroll down. The picture at the top of this post is the only one I could find to steal from a website - he's shaking hands with some Australian naval officers. Dad had a great career and retired as a four-star admiral, his last duty station was Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.

He loved to quote W.B. Yeats about the Irish, "When God made the Irish,
He must have been mad.
All their wars are merry,
All their music sad."

One of my favorite memories is of him on St. Patrick's Day a year or two before he died, wearing a green plastic derby, head thrown back and lustily singing, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure they'll steal your heart a-waaaaaaaaay!"

I miss him still. Happy St. Patrick's Day.


Blogger Moonbear said...

Zoomie, I will drink a gin & tonic in honor of your Dad. I like him alot, just from reading your post. Keep hugging those trees. Chances are he would be proud as hell today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008  
Blogger Moonbear said...

I grew up on Beverly Drive in San Carlos.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Moonbear, actually, he always was proud, at least of my ability to argue my side! :-) Beverly Drive - small world! My first husband's parents lived on Brittan Avenue.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008  

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