Submitted by Patricia Bubash
Today when everyone is choosing to be Irish as an excuse to skip work to watch a parade, drink too much beer, eat green eggs, and hang out with friends, our family, simply, quietly, celebrates our dad, Patrick Eugene McFarland. Truly, to his family, he is a legend, an amazing person. My dad was born April 27, 1923 to an alcoholic father and a very young mother. His dad had, already, buried one wife when my dad was born. The death of his first wife left him a widower with a handful of children, and a plea from his neighbors to take a young woman off their hands. The woman was only a child, in her mid-teens. The family had taken her in to help out her parents. They were struggling to feed their own brood without adding another mouth. It was tough times in the Arkansas hills. Lily became the second wife of Robert McFarland and the mother of another six children. My dad was the third boy born to this union. By the time he was 11 years old, both parents had died. The older son, and, his dad’s name sake, did his best to keep this hard scrabble family together. It was to my dad’s good fortune that the owner of a general store and farm had noticed the living arrangements of this fatherless/motherless home- no real direction, no one taking care of them or providing for basic needs. My dad often begged meals off other families.
One day, having watched this scenario for several months, Harry Collins, offered my dad a place in his house with his wife and two sons. It was not St. Patrick’s Day, but it was my dad’s lucky day. He lived with this kind, generous, loving couple until he joined the Navy at the age of 18. Although there was never a formal adoption, he was a member of their family, introduced as their son, and when he became a dad, we were their grandchildren. Our family was blessed when my dad said, “yes”, to going home to live with Harry and Mae Collins.
Why do I say my dad is our Irish legend? My dad did not go beyond fourth grade, but he is a voracious reader, can do basic math better than his grandchildren, and has managed to provide a comfortable living for his family, working even into his 80’s. He is the poster child for what the term “work ethic” means. He is not a quitter, he is not a whiner. Even today as he approaches his 91st birthday he views life with an attitude of the “cup is half full”. He is our living legend. He has outlived all but one sibling, survived major heart surgery and other serious health crises, he is very Irish, and he is ours.
Several years ago as I was contemplating a buy out from my school district which would mean retirement (I hate that word, prefer reinventing!) I told my dad how I was so conflicted on what to do. His reply has been something I have revisited often when I start to regret my decision. “Whenever I make a decision, I go with it, and I don’t look back. I live with whatever it is I chose to do.”
As a child growing up I did not have the close relationship with my dad that my sisters enjoyed. He and my mother had only a brief couple of months as a married couple before he was shipped out. When he came returned to the states, he had a family of two: my mom and me. He didn’t have time to learn about being a husband when the role of father was foisted upon him.
I am so grateful for the past twenty some years as my dad and I have gotten to know each other better, listened to each other more, shared more together time, and learned to appreciate each other’s idiosyncrasies. What is really beautiful to see is how much his grandchildren, great-grandchildren cherish him. My dad is not a “mushy” person but his love shines through in his examples of hard work, honesty, loyalty, commitment to family values. He and my mother celebrated 71 years of marriage February 2014. Our family wonders, “How have we been so lucky to have them for so long, and how will we get by without them when that time comes”?