Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Ran Into My Culture On TV

First of all, I want to make it clear that I love the different cultures of the world. I love the different cultures of the United States. I love our diversity. Our differences enrich us all.

But sometimes, when you least expect it, your culture appears out of nowhere. It calls to you. It's as if you are among people who speak a different language and all of a sudden, familiar words make their way through the many conversations in the air, to your ears. At once, you recognize the words and you are at home.

Last week, I saw many memorials and tributes to Tim Russert. I knew he was an excellent journalist, commentator, and interviewer. His peers remembered him fondly and with reverence. These tributes were heartfelt and allowed me to see sides of Tim Russert that I didn't know. His friends and colleagues wore the pain of his loss on their faces.

Friday evening, I turned the channel to MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews -- one of the political programs I watch regularly. Chris Matthews and his two guests, Mike Barnicle and Pat Buchanan reminisced about Tim Russert. Their tributes and memories were no less heartfelt than those of their fellow journalists. However, their manner of expressing their grief was different. They smiled and laughed. They even argued a bit. All good natured and every bit of it imbued with humor. I learned more about Tim Russert through their conversation and memories. They talked about Russert's roots, his upbringing in a Irish Catholic working class family and how that upbringing and those values shaped him. I understood more about Tim Russert. Matthews ended the segment, laughing as were Barnicle and Buchanan, stating words to the effect, "Well, there it is - three Irish Catholic guys paying tribute to another Irish Catholic guy."

That he meant Irish American Catholic is understood. I'm not a guy and my politics are not always in agreement with Matthews and Barnicle, and seldom in agreement with Buchanan. But I felt at home watching this tribute to Tim Russert. It was warm, loving, reverent and filled with humor and laughter. I understood it because it was the culture I was brought up in. I felt that comfort of recognition, of connection with my culture, history and a sense of belonging. I have been there. Laughter laced with tears expressed how deeply I felt the loss of my Aunt Eileen, my best friend. I vividly remember shaking with laughter as tears of grief streamed down my face when my cousin recounted a funny experience my aunt and I shared at the service. I knew my aunt was laughing, too.

Who would think that a political program with "three Irish Catholic guys paying tribute to another Irish Catholic guy" would immerse me in my culture? It did and I smiled.

Image Courtesy of Tangled Spider


Mike Golch said...

Great posting.i'm glad to know where my roots come from as well. we have German,Irish,Polish,Welsh in our family.
I feel blessed that my ancesters came here to find a better life for themselves. That's my story and i'm sticking to it.
many Hugs and God's blessings headed your way.

Tina Coruth said...


Thank you! I feel blessed that my ancestors made their way here. I admire them. They were courageous. My grandmother was only 15 years old when she came here by herself on a ship in steerage. She was a gutsy kid!


Mary said...


An awesome post. I am glad that I know where my ancestors came from. England, Ireland and Dutch. The English and Irish is more prevelant, but there is some Dutch in there as well.

I enjoyed your post, as always. Blessings,

Renie Burghardt said...


When I came to America, I just wanted to be an American. Still too many bad memories associated with my country of birth, Hungary. But now, years later I am proud of my Hungarian heritage as well.

It's good to remember the departed's life, at the end; death
can not wipe out all the good memories that he/she leaves behind.

Great post!

Have a wonderful week.



Tina Coruth said...


Thank you! We are still working on tracing our roots. Definitely all Irish on my mother's side. We thought it was English on my father's side. But that is turning out to be Irish, too.

That is becoming more diverse for the next generation. Dave's ancestors were from Scotland, France and Canada!


Linda said...

An awesome post. I too am very proud of my roots. I carried the Germany name, but my grandmother was from Ireland. When Daddy was still alive I checked into obtaining a duel citizenship with Ireland.

Have a great week.

Tina Coruth said...


I can understand that so many bad memories associated with Hungary left you not wanting to focus on your heritage. I'm glad that you can embrace your heritage now. And I'm very glad that you are a fellow American! :-)

Thank you, my friend!

Tina Coruth said...

Hi Linda,

I thought about obtaining the dual citizenship, too. But I never got around to it. That was a long time ago. I don't know if the requirements have changed. At that time, a grandparent born in Ireland was the one requirement. Like you, my grandmother was born there.

Thank you! I hope you have a great week, too!


Obe's said...


I enjoyed visiting your blog today and I will be back, thanks for coming by mine today.
Take care,
Diane of Crafty Passions

Tina Coruth said...

Thank you, Diane! :-)

Kari & Kijsa said...

Great post!

kari & kijsa

smilnsigh said...

Hello Tina, and thank you for stopping by my blog. And especially thank you, for the sweet words you said. :-)

And in regard to this lovely entry of yours today... You will know that I understand the way the Irish waked their dead, when I tell you a little story.

When I was growing up {and after I was grown too, actually}, my family lived in the biggest house. Not that it was big, by today's standards! But it was two stories and downstairs, it had a kitchen, dining room, living room annnnnnnd a parlor at the front of the house. And there, all local members of the extended family, were 'laid out.' Do you remember that phrase? Perhaps, not. You must be much younger than I. *Everyone* is. -giggles-}

Some furniture was moved and the casket was put in the same place, every time. The house began to smell of those funeral flowers, and to this day, I can't stand them. But that was about the only "bad" thing I remember. I guess, if this is "the way it is," a child simply feels it's ... "the way it is." :-)

And in those days, all neighbors/friends would make all sorts of food and bring it to the kitchen door. This also, was "the way things were" done. :-) And all the people who came by, during the 2-3 nights of the wake, paid their respects to the departed, in the parlor. And then meandered back into the rest of the house. Where there was eating and drink and general talking and reminiscing. And this happened after the funeral, too.

A gathering. Would you call it an Irish wake gathering, maybe? Although I don't think only the Irish did it this way. I think it was probably simply "the way death was handled," in earlier time.

I have nice memories of listening to conversations around the kitchen table, at such times. I learned things, which I'd not necessarily have learned, without these happenings. Without these gatherings.

At first blush, most people would think ~ what a terrible thing for a child to grow up with! But it wasn't so terrible. Perhaps it was even easier to handle death, that way. Maybe? Who knows? No expensive study will ever be done, on the issue. ,-)

One thing is for sure, those times will never return again... I'm glad I lived them.

Smilnsigh blog

Alice said...

I've certainly had a grand taste of the Irish and the Scottish this week. I've been watching coverage of a big football tournament and all the announcers are either Irish or Scottish. It is such fun to hear their beautiful accents. I told my husband that I wanted to move to a place where people spoke that way.

Nonna said...

Thats a great post!!

I hope you have a nice weekend!!

PEA said...

Hi Tina:-)

Thank you so much for coming by my blog and leaving such a delightful comment! I am indeed looking forward to becoming a Nana:-)

I truly enjoyed your certainly is wonderful knowing where your roots are and it's just in the last few years that I've learned that I have some Irish in me as well. I will have to go through the family tree to find out who I have to thank for that:-) My main ancestors were from France and to this day, my main language is French:-) xoxo

Tina Coruth said...

Thank you, kari & kijsa! :-)

Tina Coruth said...

Hello Mari-Nanci,

I am familiar with the term "laid out". I'm 58 years old so I have never been to a wake in a home. My grandmother told me about home wakes just as you described. The only part that seems still in effect today is the neighbors bringing food, then go to the funeral home to pay their respects.

I agree with you about having wakes at home. It may seem to many that it is too much for a child. But children hear about death, so it seems to me that it is better to deal with the death of a loved one in the secure setting of a home surrounded by other loved ones and listening to them reminiscing.

I imagine many cultures have handled death the same way. I'm not sure about the laughter part, though. Some people seem a bit shocked by that.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your memories of an Irish Wake. I've enjoyed reading your post!


Tina Coruth said...


I know what you mean! PBS used to run two programs - Monarch of the Glen that was based in Scotland and Ballykissangel that was based in Ireland. I used to love watching them, especially Ballykissangel for the scenery and to listen to those lovely accents!


Tina Coruth said...

Thank you, Nonna! I hope you are having a great weekend, too! :-)

Tina Coruth said...


How wonderful that you speak the language of your ancestors! French is such a beautiful language. My best childhood friend was of French heritage and she was perfectly happy speaking either French or English. I admired and envied her!

I wish Irish had been passed down in my family. Unfortunately, it was banned under British rule. My great grandparents spoke Irish, but my grandmother did not. My grandfather knew some Irish - but all he could do was swear in Irish and throw out a few insults. There was one word he used that everyone thought he made up. Only a few years ago I investigated and found out that it was, as I suspected, an Irish word he used when he wanted to call someone a fool! LOL

Thank you for stopping by!!

storyteller said...

What a lovely posting … (I’m of Dutch heritage)… reminding us all of some of the amazing things about the inclusiveness of ‘American’ culture as well! We’ll all miss Tim won’t we … Thank you!
Hugs and blessings,

deborah wilson said...


I wanted to wait a few days about commenting on this post because to be honest, I really don't have a solid personal opinion of Tim Russert because I didn't watch Meet the Press that often.

As usual, there were many who wanted to whine because he got so much attention in the Media.

That aside, from everything I've read, he was a genuine journalist. Many are saying that he was the last of the great ones.

I'm sorry that I didn't watch/listen/observe him more often.