A Narratively contributor learns a little about his family's drinking history and his homeland's traditions.
Patriarchs have a keen understanding of the traditions their families' are charged with upholding. When exploring my family's personal experience with Irish wakes, I decided to start with my grandfather. In my parents' backyard, I sat next to him at the outdoor table on the patio a few weeks ago.
"Grandpa, what is your experience with Irish wakes?" I asked.
"Irish. Wakes." I yelled into his ear.
"Do you know about American wakes?" my grandfather deferred.
Phil Senior is a 93-year Bronx resident - he recently moved to Yonkers - and a World War II veteran of the African and European campaigns. He is bald - he has been for the past 24 years - and has large ears.
"No, what's that?" I told him.
"Back home, in Ireland, you would have a great party, you see. For the person leaving to go to America. You would have a wake because the person leaving would never come back."
The wake was necessary because immigrants, especially those from poorer regions, were illiter…
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