When I woke up on Saturday morning, I instinctively reached for my phone. It was showing that I received two text messages which was fucked up, because only a handful of people have my number and those people never text me, They either call, e-mail or Instant Message. I saw the name was Paddy McGuire in my phone but these text messages were not actually from Pat, they were from his daughter informing me that Pat had passed away very suddenly at 3:14am due to complications stemming from his Chemo….
Pat McGuire a.k.a Paddy McGuire, Old Man McGuire or Walt (From Gran Torino but he hated that one) was one of my best friends. I first met him through work, we were on the same team when I worked in my first job in America. We didn’t hit it off, right away. We had the regular associated through work kind of relationship, for my first couple of weeks. Until he had a problem with an application one day and talked out loud about it. I went over, took a look and told him what I thought would fix it. He tried my suggestion and it worked. Jokingly, I told him not to worry about it, that he was the product of an inferior American education system. He gave a wry a smile and I could see the gleam of mischief in his eye.
This opened the flood gates of abuse my way. It started off with him, quite rightly correcting me on my pronunciation…I would mention a bar and he’d say, how do you go to a Bear? And why would you want to? He delighted in mocking me for my pronunciation of any word with an ‘ar’, the first time I said vitamin, I thought he was going to shit his pants with excitement at how much of a boob, I was. I would reply that I’m not pronouncing them wrong, all Americans are. He would review some of my documents and tear me apart for my poor grammar and spelling mistakes. I later found out, he was a state spelling bee champion as a kid. I may have picked on the wrong hombres!
All of our shit talking and put downs were in fun!. Good natured jabs at each other, which kept the days entertaining. He started to give me nicknames, sometimes girls names but usually ‘fuckhead’ or Zippy. I believe, my arrival was also the arrival of casual swearing amongst that row of cubicles. Something we got warned about on a couple of occasions. But something that was so much fun!
Pat also told me that he didn’t have much interest in Ireland. Which is very odd for an ‘Irish American’. Usually Irish people get pissed off when the ‘plastic Paddys’ play up to being Irish. I believe his disinterest and dislike was mainly due to the fact his father was Irish and the two never got a long. There was some really bad blood there. I won’t say more than that on that particular topic. But it was enough for Pat to be a little skeptical of the Irish. He also grew up in a time when many Irish immigrants in the country were not painting themselves in glory. I’d like to think I softened his skepticism about the Irish a little. At one point he even told me he watched a home buying show on tv with his wife and an episode was set in Cork and he was excited to tell me about how nice it looked there. I think I almost had him convinced to visit Ireland! Which unfortunately, will never happen now. Interestingly, Pat was also part Native American! Again, something he only told me in passing. His heritage really meant little to him, he was an individual, not defined by bloodline or genetics.
Pat had a reputation for being a little crass. He had that reputation but I honestly have no fuckin’ idea why…he never said anything bluntly in the office, he danced the Corporate American dance and wrapped everything he said with cotton wool. But his presence and speech made him seem a little brutish, I guess. I don’t know..I really don’t, I’m not sure why people perceived him that way. I think it might be, because in America everybody has to be 100% positive all of the time, or they are seen as a negative person, difficult or a drain…He was not a negative person, nor difficult, nor a drain.
He was genuinely a great person. And despite his huge presence (He was a giant), he was a big softie. He wouldn’t talk to me for weeks, once, because I started calling him Walt…as stated above. I explained that it was from Gran Torino. He said he had never watched it. I told him he had to and kept pushing him to watch the movie. After he watched it, he stopped talking to me. He was upset because he thought the character was an asshole. He later told me, it really upset him because other people had also compared him to the character. I tried to explain to him that, Walt was a great guy. He had a hard exterior but was a kind, caring guy that put others before himself. That was Pat!
Two years ago, around Thanksgiving, with me only being in the country for 10 months, Pat invited me to have dinner at his house. His kids and grandson would be coming over. He told me, he would be volunteering with the Salvation Army, serving food with his daughter but I could roll by in the evening. I declined, I knew his kids lived out of state and I felt my being there would take away from their visit. Just last year, I volunteered with the Salvation Army to serve food to the less fortunate on Christmas Day. This was inspired by Pat. I had given to charity before but hearing how active he has been in his life to volunteer, made me want to act. This kind of kindness, compassion and caring was a big part of the Pat that I knew that seemingly some others could not see.
Pat also showed me that older people in the US are very different to older people in Ireland! When I told him I was going to a gig in a certain venue. He said, he had been there to see Marilyn Manson!! Shortly after I started working with him, he had gone to see Radiohead. He told me once that he really liked GreenDay before they started with all of their political bullshit. He introduced me to a book called ‘Bored of The Rings’, which I bought on his say so. I laughed way too hard at MC Hawking because he told me to listen to him. I found out that he also loved the cartoon ‘I AM Weasel!’ He took an old white tank top at home, ripped the arms off and wrote I.R upside down on it. When I went home to Ireland for the first time. I bought little trinkets for my work colleagues, just some tacky shit that said Galway on it, but knowing Pat and his disinterest in Ireland. I decided to get him something different. I found an official I.R shirt online! When I gave it to him, he responded with “I already have one of these, ya dipshit”
Through months of working, giving each other shit, helping each other learn and forming a friendship, there was an ongoing and underlying problem in Pats work life. He was cruely and systematically being picked on by management. He was being asked to do work which was high risk by managers, when things wouldn’t go right he would get written up. There was a policy, three write ups and you’re fired. He told me, he got bad reviews the previous couple of years and a tiny raise and bonus. Much lower than the average. This was extra disgusting, considering from what I could tell, Pat was one of the few workhorses in our group. He carried a lot of the dead weight! In fact, I believe his weakness was having the strength of character to volunteer himself to do work..whilst others sat around twiddling their thumbs. Doing that work, was an extra opportunity to get written up.
Early one morning. With only myself, Pat and another colleague in the Office. Pat got up and came over to shake our hands. He said he was leaving. He got an e-mail chastising him, yet again for something stupid. He had enough, he wasn’t going to wait around for them to fire him, he was going to leave on his own accord. As he shook my hand, I told him it’s been a pleasure and that we could keep in touch via e-mail….his response…”FUCK OFF!” J Pat was the single most influential and helpful person in my life during my transition to America. He helped me so much. When looking to buy a car, he told me how to handle dealers, how to play their game. What places to avoid. That white or grey was the best color due to the sun. He explained taxes to me, credit scores. He also explained to me that I was a dumb fuck for buying an automatic that didn’t have an overdrive in it…I’m going to miss him a lot!
My motivation in that job fell flat after Pat left. I left shortly after for a different job. Despite his nice little off the cuff retort, we did keep in touch via e-mail after he left. Unfortunately, Pat never found another job after that. He initially tried for a few months and then decided to just give up looking and retire. He was either the victim of ageism in the IT sector or possibly sabotage by his previous employer or both. Luckily there was a silverlining. He got to see his grandchildren more and even became full time babysitter for his new baby grand daughter as her parents were at work. On reflection, I’m happy he had that time with his family before he died. Some people when unemployed become bitter, I received a prestigious award from Microsoft and rather than show jealousy, bitterness or apathy. Pat was a friend and even a father figure in a way. He gave me an old fashioned ‘atta boy!’
The last time I met up with Pat was late August. Just after he got diagnosed. Everything was off that day. Usually, I was the designated driver. I’d go to his house, pick him up and we’d head on out and meet up with our other former work colleague, Louie and go grab lunch. When I arrived, Pat was already out in the drive way waiting. He pointed for me to drive in. So I did, he told me to park out of the way. So, I did. He told me, he was driving and that I drive like an animal…
He pulled up his garage door and there was a 93 Jeep Rangler convertible in there. He explained to me that he sold his pick up truck (his pride and joy) and bought this. As we rode out passed Paradise Valley, he broke the news to me that he had cancer. I tried my best to not play it down but at the same time stay positive for him. Telling him, at least he’s in a country with great medical care and they got it early so he’ll be fine. He seemed positive at times but then was also quite cryptic. He had obviously been thinking about the worst case scenario….we met up with Louie for lunch and we just talked shit as we always did. Pat never told Louie…as we were leaving the restaurant. Louie said the usual, man we should do this again soon and not the 2 months we usually wait. Pat said “You ladies can meet up without me, I’m probably not going to be able to meet up until the new year”…As was the dynamic of our group, Louie started giving him shit about it, not realizing…Even after that day, I didn’t tell Louie that he had cancer because I felt like that was something Pat may not want everyone to know.
Usually after our lunch, I drive Pat back to his place, we say our farewells and I hit the road. This time, he handed me a can of soda from the fridge in his garage and we stood around talking. A lot of philosophical stuff, I was encouraging him to keep focused on what he was going to do after he beats his cancer, I told him he should travel with his wife. We moved onto talking about some things in the news and then just some random stuff for well over an hour. Then he walked me to my car and shook my hand. I told him I’d see him soon and to keep in touch and let me know if he needs anything. That was the last time I saw Pat.
Over the last few months, I’ve been travelling a lot. But I’ve made sure to e-mail Pat once every couple of weeks. I was e-mailing more regularly but his responses were getting slower as he started his treatments or maybe he was just staying away from his computer. My last e-mail from him was very positive. He told me his last treatment was going to be around Thanksgiving and we could meet up the week after or in early December. We were so close to that date, in fact. Pat died at 3:14am on Saturday. I e-mailed him at 10:30am on Friday. In my e-mail, I wanted to see how he was doing and wanted to know if he was up to going to lunch in the next few weeks. I don’t know if he ever saw that e-mail. Or the e-mail I sent him the week before.
Over the last couple of years, we met up once every other month or so. Sometimes less frequent if I had to travel or he couldn’t make it. We would usually frequent a Mexican restaurant called Los Glorias by our old workplace. They had $1 Margaritas and I was the designated driver. We use to go there every Thursday for their Taco day (Yes, it was a Thursday, not Tuesday). Sometimes we’d go somewhere else but that was usually the place we went for. In memory of Pat, on the day he died, I went to Los Glorias..I failed to even finish one Margarita…Tequila and I don’t mix but I did follow on with one of Pats traditions. I tipped 100%…he had a daughter who was a waitress and made it a point to tip generously to others. He was an amazing person, If I can be half the man (and I am height wise!) that Patrick McGuire was, I think I’ll have done pretty well on this earth. I count myself lucky to have known him.
I’m sorry now that I never got a picture with the fuckin’ guy but then, I think if I was the type of person to request to take a picture with him, we wouldn’t have been friends in the first place. I truly will never forget him. I will always associate him with my move to America and of course the old classic movie The Jerk which I bought purely because we’d quote it back and forth so often!