When I left the United States for the first time to travel to Ireland, I never could’ve expected how much my experiences abroad would mean to me. From looking out over the Cliffs of Moher, to dancing in a pub late into the night, I truly found myself… and three gregarious old Irish men who laughed and cajoled me as if I was one of their own.
Pat, Joe, and Michael were everything I never expected, yet everything I needed on my journey. Each of them had big personalities and stories to regale me with. It was a paternal connection I can’t even describe. I don’t know why they chose me as a friend, but I do know that they sang very well for all of the smoking and whiskey they’ve consumed over the past 60 years. They could make anything fun and life was a great cacophony of laughter and curse words with them.
Pat was a quiet type, but very vocal about how much he liked ham. Pat kept ham with him in a Ziploc baggie everywhere he went, but he always made sure to share with others. Sure, my other college friends were meeting young guys and going on hikes, but Pat’s knees gave out, so I naturally hung back to keep him company. Thanks for the laughs and the ham, Pat!
Joe was my tour guide, and he was as polite as he was funny. He would ask in his sing-songy accent, “Is that alright?” even after statements that needed no input from me. I found his manners so admirable that I adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. Sometimes my gal pals would invite me out pub crawling and ask me to stop “hanging with the old dudes” because the “day’s tours were over.” Little did they know, a tour is never over when you’re with Joe. Is that alright? Hahaha, oh Joe.
Michael, a local pubgoer in Klonmel, gave me an appreciation for some of the more dated swear words in life, and for that I am forever grateful. For example, when my roommates would tell me I’m weird, now I know to tell them they’re “off their nut” and to “fack away aff!” I didn’t understand half of what he was trying to say, but he always smiled and let out a warm smile and guffaw whenever I asked him to repeat what he said because I couldn’t understand him.
I never knew what life could be before I traveled abroad, and I certainly never knew how many gregarious, older Irish men I could immediately befriend. Although I may never be able to find them on Facebook, our friendship lives on in my heart forever.
Also, it was pretty cool that none of them tried to have sex with me.