Not to paint with too broad a brush, but if your ethnic heritage is both Polish and Irish, insanity is in your genetic material. This is a consequence of the Polish side being brutally honest and the Irish “lace curtain” side obsessively being secretive. My Polish grandfather would comment on people’s weight like someone saying good morning. “You got fat.” “You’ve put a lot of weight on.” “How does anyone see around you?” I heard more about the sins of family, neighbors and community from my Polish grandmother than I ever did in hearing 36 years of confessions. Grandma never meant it a mean or gossipy way; it was just like reading the newspaper and ticking off the items of interest.
On the other hand, my Irish mother and her parents believed that no secret was too small not to be taken to the grave. So how does anyone find out about the secrets, which, if revealed, will cause family disgrace, censure from society, expatriation and hemorrhoids? You need a Polish father. If you got a few drinks into my dad you could live the Irish side history through his eyes; dad’s revelations of this debacle or that on the Irish side would be met with stone silence from my mother. My mom should have been a spy; if caught she would never give the torturers the time of day, let alone any family or state secrets.
At dad’s surprise retirement party many years ago, mom sneakily showed me a photo of her father, my grandfather. He looked old, sick and dying sitting wrapped up in a blanket in a wheelchair. He had died about a week after the photo was taken. Mom said, “Don’t tell anyone I have this and don’t tell anyone how sick he was.” First, this was the first, last and only time mom showed me anything clandestine. Second, I responded, “Mom, I think everyone here knows he’s cashed his chips in.” Naturally the picture disappeared as cleanly as Hilary’s emails.
The Irish side also had a list of people, mostly relatives, that we were not allowed to speak to or of. Why we couldn’t talk with them are lost in the mists of time, and besides, it was a secret. The Polish side could have an axe murderer cousin and the family would not only speak to him, they would take some pride; “Look, cousin Nate is on the front page of the paper again! I hope he gets a sympathetic jury.”
Families are not perfect but we love them anyway. The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity reminds us, among many things, that the love of God is eternal, without beginning or end, forever giving. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father in Communion with the Holy Spirit; three Persons, one God. It can be likened to a family, without the peccadillos and limitations, and more intimate than we could ever imagine.