You do your chores. Mind your manners. Don’t mouth off. At fifteen years old, there is always more work to be done and you do it. It could be any day, anytime, say, a particular Tuesday afternoon in County Cork, Ireland.

Your mother is at the sink when they come knocking at the door.

“You, come with us,” they say. They have forgotten their manners but they can get away with that—of course they can. They are the British Merchant Marines and you, you are as good as enslaved.

You want to turn back, to look at your mother, but you know better. There is time to snatch your coat and then you are gone, across the warped decking, through the field, over the fence.

Your mother’s eyes follow you, peering from the window in the kitchen. She watches you bend down to untie your laces and remove your shoes and socks before crossing the creek. This is the last time she will ever see you, and she knows it but buries this thought deep, deep in herself beneath the bed of coals that is her heart. She cannot afford to fan the flames; there are children still yet to be raised. “Daniel Frances Nyhan.” She says your name.

At the shipyard you discover you are not the only boy. There are hundreds of them boarding the decks and put to work at once. The last colors of Ireland are pale green; early winter. The smell you cannot recall, for it mixed with resentment and uncertainty and stole your last fond memories. Fog rolls in as you set sail and it is best that way, as if your country dissipated in a dream, your birthplace nothing but a mirage.

Before the year is out, you will travel to distant lands. How long does this go on? A year? Several? In Boston, you jump ship. Your first time in America and the last time the British Merchant Marines will lay their hands on you.

Somehow, you find your way up north. In New Hampshire there are Nyhan kin. Before the age of twenty you have married an Irish lassie, Katherine Mary Markley and she takes your name, writes home (also County Cork). Although the circumstances of her arrival were different—she, after all, came by choice and into the welcome arms of a cousin—you know now that you cannot go back. There is no money there, no work. Little food.

You begin your life again by making new life. Nine children in ten years, three of them lost.

The fourth among the living is Peggy Nyhan who will live abroad with her Air Force husband, take the last name Buss, and raise three healthy children (Catholic, of course). The first is a daughter born on base in Texas, who will grow up in Japan and Germany and eventually return to New Hampshire and meet the love of her life—an American of primarily Sicilian descent, though bearing a German last name: Schultz.

They will have a daughter and name her for the maternal great grandmother whom she never met, but could never have existed without: Katherine Markley Schultz.

  • mjbussva

    Nice Katey, kinda glad myself my roots like yours are spread a little everywhere, now my kids have roots that extend even further than mine did from “home base.” Eventually, this should help our planet’s inhabitants to get allong better… I hope so! Merry Xmas from uncle marky!

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