Today is a Great Day!
On this grand day 100 years ago in the little City of New York was born Edmund John Joseph Ignatius Francis Xavier Aloysius Augustinian Vandelerian O’Gilligan Gallaher; whose like had not been seen on the face of the green earth before and whose absence these long years since he was taken to Heaven’s Green Fields to sing with the angels and charm God Himself is still lamented on the right occasions, whose soft brown eyes, flaming red hair, lovely baritone voice, quick wittedness and charm won him friends among all kinds of men, attracted women young and old, calmed and entranced young children and babes, soothed aching hearts and made cows give richer milk and wild dogs settle down.
He loved everyone but the British, dislike for whom he drank with his mother’s milk and heard in his father’s every song.
He sang us all to sleep at night, danced with our mother Nell, the most beautiful woman ever seen, in our kitchen and up and down the halls of the house and knew more than any man before or since including his own phone number: “Fordham 281 Apple”.
He was my father, and without him I am nothing. I loved him then and love him still and can’t wait until I see him again.
To Jeanne Gilman and Carolyn Gallaher, Joseph Howard, Mary Catherine Howard and Julia Howard, take a moment out of the day and remember your grandfather and great-grandfather whom we all called The Big Pinto!
The parade starts from in front of The Kingsbridge Tavern at the corner of the block, speeches follow and beer enough for all. Thanks be to God!
Here is the song he often sang to us when we were kids. I was his Sunshine. He was my world:
I was about ten when I noticed a change. There came over him a sadness and a sense of hurt that increased as time went on. He was a broken man for some reason, and became even more broken. He drank. God , how he did! and that was what killed him when he was still a young man, only 20 days past his 56th birthday on April 26 in 1969. It was a year to the day after he had retired from the Post Office, a dying man then and for years before.
I have two memories of the last days of my father’s life that stand out.
During the summer of 1968 we visited Mom and Dad. Our daughter, Jeanne, was a little toddler. I though a baby would bring some life to him. But, he was drunk, nearly comatose on the couch in the living room. I can still smell the stale tobacco and stale beer smell of the place. I was more sad than angery, wondering what had happened that he wanted to do this instead of play with his first grand child.
On April 25th, 1969, the day before he died, I visited him again. He had been diagnosed and given not much more time to live only a couple of months before. He was awaiting that event in a hospice run by the Hawthorne Dominicans whose work it was to care for terminally ill cancer patients. I stood by his bed in a brilliant white room looking out the window at the East River and Brooklyn on the other side. He seemed asleep, unresponsive, much as he had been when I visited him at home in the summer. He was on his side with his back to me. He was strapped into his bed.
Dad,” I called. Once, then again. “Dad,” I called a third time. Then I said, “I love you, Dad.” He stirred and turned, smiled like daybreak in the bright room, and said, “I love you too.”
They were our last words.