Darragh Dunne had an impish Irish smile and mirthful Irish eyes. He had a fine Irish temper, too, but you couldn't see that on the wallet-sized memorial cards they handed out at the funeral. Alive or dead, the fact remained that nearly every memorable characteristic Darragh possessed – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – was attributed to his Irishness, and this despite the fact he was three generations removed from the Emerald Isle. In truth of fact, he was from Long Island and decidedly more molded by that heritage than his great-grandfather's. The only Irish that really remained was the name, but that didn't stop the Dunnes from sending him off with a shamrock pinned to his chest.
When Darragh's oldest son Darry Jr. eulogized him it went like this:
“Darragh – Dad – was a bullheaded, Irish son-of-a-bitch and don't you cross him. One time he had had about enough of the construction that had been ruining his commute for over a month, so he stopped his car in the middle of the road – everyone else be damned – and demanded to speak to the foreman. He wanted to know what the hell could be taking so long, and the foreman told him it was because they were running a new gas line through town. Well Dad couldn't accept that it should have taken a whole month to do that one little thing, and needed to know when the road would be finished. The foreman told him they'd be finished in a week's time, and Dad said he'd hold him to it.
“A week later, Dad was driving to work and about boiled over when he saw the construction still very much underway, and worse still, that he'd be detoured to avoid an open trench. He threw his car into park in the middle of the street and flipped off all the honking cars behind him. Then he found that foreman and said, like only dad could, 'Time's up'. If the poor guy didn't recognize Dad then, he did when Dad asked if he was stupid or just lousy at his job. The week was up, and Dad would be driving his normal route come hell or high water.
“What happened next was what always happened when dad got set in his stubborn Irish ways. He got what he wanted. It took them an hour and Dad was a hell of a lot later for work than if he'd just taken the detour, but the construction workers hauled some steel plates over that trench and Dad drove on through. That's just what he was like. He didn't like shirkers and he didn't like liars, and if someone said something, they should follow through. And if they didn't, well, Dad would make them.”
When Darragh's middle son Liam eulogized him it went like this:
“Some of my favorite times with Dad were skiing up at Bromley. Even when we were little, he was always pushing us to try the hardest trails. Even when we knew we weren't ready. Even when he knew we weren't ready. 'Nobody ever did anything worthwhile pussyfooting around', he'd always say. And we believed him. Because if we didn't, well, he'd make us believers.
“So between always trying to keep up with Darry and always trying to keep off Dad's shit list, that's how we ended up on The Plunge that day. And at first it was okay. It was a perfect, bluebird spring day. We were all in t-shirts and the snow was heavy and thick. But then the trees started coming faster and faster and my skis just wouldn't listen. Darry and Dad were already halfway down the run when I wrapped myself around the tree, and boy was dad pissed to have to hike all the way back up.
“When he finally got up to me, that Irish temper was in high gear. He told me to stop crying like a baby and wipe the snot off my face. And I did. When I told him I didn't think I could ski the rest of the way down, he told me to walk. And I did. By the time we got to the lodge I was shaking and white as my shirt. When they found out I'd broken my leg, Mom was furious with Dad for making me walk the whole way down. But Dad was unapologetic. He was raising men, and that was my coming of age.”
Darragh's youngest son Callum declined to eulogize him, but was made to recite in Latin. Darragh insisted that any good, Irish Catholic service required Latin. And so it was.
After the burial, family and close friends were invited to fete him at the patio of Darragh's favorite tea house. “If the English invented teatime, the Irish perfected it,” Darragh always said. The cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and Victoria sponge were served on Belleek china and the pergola was dressed in wild Irish roses punctuated with velvety moss and drooping clusters of shamrocks. Irish tea was served with milk and sugar and fiddles and mandolins clamored through the thick Florida air. Truly, it was an affair even Darragh couldn't find fault with, remarked his widow, Prudence.
The last of the tea drunk, the mourners had begun to noisily push back chairs and embrace when a bald eagle glided gracefully into the low limbs of a nearby pine tree.
“My God!” Prudence exclaimed, “It's Dad! And he's even an eagle, just like the family coat of arms!”
Exultant cries and stifled sobs tore through the crowd like a contagion. Prayers were said and hands fluttered to forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder in the sign of the cross. Darry clapped Liam and Callum on the back and drew them into a hug.
As the cameras came out to record the visitation, the eagle swooped down onto a heedless chipmunk, pierced its organs with overlong talons, and carried it back to its perch. As it unstrung the chipmunk's intestines like a length of streamer, pecking at the choicest bits, there could be no mistake. It was Darragh Dunne alright, that Irish son-of-a-bitch.