We slept in this morning, made some friends in the dining room at breakfast and hopped in the car for the three hour drive to Dublin. The idea was to meet at Trinity College at 2:00 or (if you missed the 2:00 meeting time) at a pub called the Brazen Head at 5:00.
Mary and dad and I left Limerick at about 11:00. We played a couple of rounds of “My sheep” which is a game my sister taught me (or made up, I’m not sure which) last time we came to Ireland. It goes like this: someone sees a flock of sheep and they shout “my sheep!” Then if someone sees a body of water they can shout “drown your sheep” and everyone loses all the sheep they claimed up until that point. The problem is there’s no way to know how many sheep you’ve claimed in any given flock, and there’s no end to the game…so nobody ever wins or loses, its just an endless game of claiming and drowning sheep. It’s a stupid, brutal game. No sheep are ever actually harmed.
The game got old REALLY fast (after about two flocks and one bubbling brook later) and the game for the rest of the trip was called “keep dad awake because he has jetlag and he’s the only one who can drive the car.” This too is a stupid game and it requires three players: One father who refuses to admit that he’s tired because he wants to meet up with his family at 2:00; one daughter to spot the drooping of the father’s eyes and turn up the air conditioning and loud music; and another daughter to pray in the back seat.
We made it to Dublin at about 2:30, but we got lost on the way to Trinity, so we decided to try to find our hotel instead. At about 4:00 we got there, checked in and took a cab to the Brazen Head. We got there just in time. As we walked in, we found everyone in a small back room posing for a picture. It is my Aunt Shirley’s birthday today and someone took several different pictures of her head (cut out from old pictures as she was growing up to present day) blew them up to life size and stuck them on popsicle sticks. There were enough “Shirley masks” for everyone except for Shirley so we could all pose for a group picture with nineteen Shirleys. This idea was a re-creation of a joke Shirley played on my dad for his fiftieth birthday party. She did the same thing with pictures and popsicle sticks and everyone was in on the joke except for my dad, so he was surprised when they all posed for a group picture and everyone pulled out their “Bob masks.” There was some practical joker at that party who took all of the masks and hid them around our house so that even now, years later, we will be surprised to see my dad’s face fall out of a closet or from behind some piece of furniture. The worst time was when my friend Brandy went to take a shower in the guest bathroom in the basement and after she turned the water on, she looked up to see my dad’s face staring down at her from the shower head. Moral of the story: Jokes can be dangerous, people…
Anyway, back to the Brazen Head. The family spent the rest of the evening at the pub (I think six hours total) drinking and telling stories and meeting new friends.
I met a group of guys from Switzerland who take a trip every year to play cards together. Somehow we started drinking with them even though we didn’t speak the same languages, but when they learned I knew some German, suddenly I became a translator. I probably I made up half of the things I translated between my family and the new Swiss cardplaying drinkers, but we all had fun in the end and Chrissy made sure to pinch a few of them on the butts before they left the bar.
If you all have time, please pray for one more new friend of mine. Her name is Carol and she lives here in Dublin. I met Carol in the bathroom at one point and she said she had somewhere to be in about an hour’s time, but wondered if she could sit and have a drink with me and my family. After talking to her for about twenty minutes, it was clear that Carol just needed someone to talk to. She let me know that she was 21 years old, has never known her father and has been on the streets for nine years since her mother died. She was heavily into drugs for seven of those years but has been clean for two. Right now she lives in a shelter or a halfway house…it wasn’t clear which. She finally let me know that she is two and a half months pregnant and that the father is in jail... all of this after she was half way through a glass of beer.
I don’t know how much of what Carol told me was true but it is clear that she has had a very difficult life. She shared with me that after her mother died she “became very holy” and showed me the different medals she wore with various saints embossed on them. I wanted to talk to her more about her faith, but she suddenly became very interested in finding out how long we were going to be in town, and specifically which hotel we were staying at. Not long after that, Carol disappeared into the crowd and I regretted that my fear of getting too close to a scary situation prevented me from being more open with her.