I’m typing this up as I sit on a bus from Galway to Dublin. The start of a 24 hour travel day. A week ago, I was much, much more stress out than I am right now. A week ago I had a plane ticket to fly back to Ireland. I was set to fly home on a Wednesday and arrive on a Thursday. Against my parents wishes, on hearing that my grandfather was on deaths door, I decided to book a flight home. Hoping to get home before he died or at least to make the funeral. Well, less than 12 hours after I booked my flight. He died. Shortly after this, I was informed that the family would delay the funeral until I got there. Not long after that, my brother informed me that the family wanted to get the funeral over with and to change my flight to come home sooner. I asked when they wanted to have the funeral… in a days time was the answer. It was 9pm in Arizona, Aer Lingus American support number was closed. I would have to wait until 1am to call the Irish number.
When I attempted to call the free phone number from the US, it wouldn’t work. I asked my brother to call them on my behalf. Long story short, I ended up paying for 2 bookings as they couldn’t change my original booking. Both were much more expensive than a usual trip due to being so short notice. I decided to eat the cost. I went to sleep, woke up the next morning for 2 work meetings, I packed my bags and headed out for the airport. When I got there, I discovered that my first flight was delayed by about an hour and forty minutes.
This wasn’t very good for me, as I only had a two hour lay over before my connecting flight. I decided to call Aer Lingus and ask them if they could arrange for somebody to bring me from my first flight to my connecting flight and was told that they couldn’t do anything for me. They said, If I missed my flight, I would need to speak with United Airlines as it would be their fault. A little odd since it was an Aer Lingus rep that booked me on a flight with such a short layover… So, I went and explained my situation to a United employee. She decided to look for alternatives, just in case I miss my flight in San Francisco, which seemed like a certainty.
Wouldn’t ya know it. The only real alternative would see me take a different route and get home just in time to miss the burial. It wasn’t an option for me. She apologized and said she would change my seat for me and put me closer to the front to ensure I got off the plane quicker. So, we board the flight. I get on in one of the middle boarding groups and realize there’s no overhead space anywhere near me. It looked like those in first class used every inch of space in the first few rows. The people by the exits, used everything in the middle. The only space left was right at the back. Not only this but as I was in the first row of economy, there was no space to put my carry on in front tot me. So, like a sulky little brat I kept it right in front of me. Inevitably, a flight attendant came by and said I’d have to store it. I said that I can’t and explained my situation. He told me I had to and I was delaying take off. Like an even bigger brat, I flung my seatbelt off, opened my carry on, took a goody out and two letters that my sister who couldn’t fly over for the funeral had given me to bring home. Put them on my seat, zipped up the bag and walked off the plane and threw it down outside.
I now only had the clothes on my back and had a tight connection. Everybody on the plane saw my little tantrum. When I see somebody behave like that, I think the worst of them. The people around me, asked me if I was ok. I told them my situation. How, I had to make my flight, that I was going home for a funeral and my suit was in the bag. The two ladies beside me commiserate with me and even tried to help me figure out the best way to get from my arrival gate to my departure for the flight to Dublin. They were so nice. When we were in flight, the gentlemen across from me asked the flight attendant for 3 small bottles of whiskey and to hand me one. He said, it looked like I could use it. I turned him down on his offer but I thought it was incredibly nice. For all of the crap that people talk about Americans, the majority of them are incredibly nice people!
Anyways, as the wheels touched down, I turned my phone on to see how much time I had to make my connection. We hadn’t even started to taxi and it was 4:53pm. My flight was due to depart at 5:20 from a different Terminal. Once the fasten seatbelt light turned off, I marched quickly to the front. I was right there waiting for the door to open. Some of the people who heard me explain my situation wished me good luck. The door open and I sprinted… shouting to an employee while running to ask where the terminal was.
I should explain at this point that I put on about 2 stone since I moved to the US. Which is about 28 pounds. I lost most of it again but I’m still very, very unfit. I got to the gate and people were still boarding. It was 5:17pm, I was one of the last to board. They needed to reprint my boarding pass at the gate, for some reason I’ll never understand! While they printed it, I asked if my bags made it onto the plane. I was told yes, they will be in Dublin. I said, Are you sure? My last flight just landed about 10 minutes ago. I was told yes, they are here. I couldn’t catch my breath and felt like throwing up. When I got on the plane, I looked like death and asked a stewardess for some water. She asked me I needed to get sick. I nodded and she lead me to a restroom. I puked my guts up… she knocked on the door and handed me the water. She asked me if I was ok…she then looked me in the eyes and said I need to know if you’re ok. If you’re not we’ll have to let you off the flight. I explained what happened and she seemed ok with my answer, though she did come by and check on me every so often.
When I landed. I had about 30 minutes to make the next bus to Galway. Hopefully my bags would come out quick. 40 minutes later, still no bags and the sign shows there’s no more to come out. An hour later, I finally get to the front of the customer assistance line and sure enough, they can’t locate my bags. I now have no clothes, I had to rush to make the next bus. I ended up arriving home 30 minutes after the Wake started. Stressed out by relieved to make it home.
On October 24th, 2014 my grandfather, Tom Monaghan passed away. It wasn’t hugely shocking to me. He lived to the ripe old age of 87, unfortunately the final 8 years or so of his life were spent in his own personal prison. He had Alzheimers, which to me is one of the worst illnesses that can befall a human being. The illness can often times make a person aggressive and scared. Contrary to the very kind words spoken at the funeral service, My grandfather wasn’t a soft, quiet man. He was a cranky fucker, much like my father and I, myself don’t fall to far from that tree. With Alzheimers, his personality completely changed, he seemed happy pretty much all the time. In his final couple of years, he would even whistle all the time. His moments of serenity came from listening to Irish music, it seemed to bring him back to a familiar place.
As corny as it sounds. I may have learned my most valuable life lesson from my grandfather on this trip. He built, what today is a very, very large automotive business, the family has expanded it into multiple locations and it has become hugely successful. All off the back of my grandfathers hard work and vision. BUT, this is not what he’s remembered for.
He was a cranky motherfucker! One of my memories of him was from the morning that our first pet, Kelly had to be put down after 12 years. My brother and I were at my grandparents house that morning, crying our eyes out. My grandfather told us we were mad for crying over a feckin’ dog and to “Get Outttttta ere”. Like, I said, he wasn’t a soft man. There’s a story about somebody coming into the garage one day to complain that there was no liquid soap left in the restroom, he “ran them out of it”, he wasn’t a soft man! He’s not really remembered for that either though… people just spoke pleasantly about him because of his death. BUT, there were plenty of people who did genuinely have a lot of positive memories.
Decades ago, before I was even born. The world had an oil shortage. My grandparents owned the only ‘gas’ station (petrol station) in a small village. It was the only place to fill up for miles. As many of us today would expect. When there was such a shortage of a valuable commodity, the people with money and power often got as much as they wanted, whilst those less fortunate didn’t get enough. According to everybody old enough to have lived through that time in the small village, my grandfather was amazing. He helped out everybody who needed it, he also didn’t play favorites or politics. He didn’t even take more for himself! If somebody needed more that their fair ration due to a personal issue. My grandfather duly obliged.
One gentlemen also told a story about buying his first brand new car from my grandfather. He was showing it off and driving around the town, when he saw a group of young ladies. While he was looking at them to see if they would notice him, he crashed his brand new car on the very first day that he had it. He had traded in his previous car and spent every penny he had. He told my grandfather what happened, my grandfather gave him his money back and returned the car he traded in.
The lesson I learned is that a legacy built on commercial or career success is a pretty hollow type of a legacy. My grandfather is remembered for a few acts of kindness and selflessness that have defined him as a person and has defined his legacy. I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve been less than perfect but for the most part, I have tried to be selfless and giving. I don’t tend to shout about it from the rooftops and in some cases, the people I have helped, likely don’t even realize that I have. It makes me question if my sacrifices for others are worthwhile. Some people in my life have gone as far as calling me a doormat and have encouraged me to be more ruthless and to stand up for myself. Hearing about my grandfathers defining moments will fuel me to continue to try and be a decent and giving person