(Get it, Ginger Male…Ginger Ale…nevermind…keep reading)
Approaching the 2nd anniversary since my father’s passing, I think about him. A whole lot. Things he taught me. Stunts he pulled. Funny times. Trying times. Life lessons. And then I got to thinking about one of his biases. His inexplicable love and weakness for a particular species on this earth. No, not puppies. Nope, not kittens. Not even babies. I am talking about RED HEADS.
Frank – a lifelong ginger himself (until the Grays won the final war against the Reds in a Battle of Hair-trition) always believed Carrot Tops were a very special, select and elitist club roaming this earth.
Data tells us that only 1-2% of humans on the planet are red heads so maybe Big Frank had a point? As a younger and, uh hem, heavier man, he was dubbed “Fat Red” so I guess he had to embrace those auburn locks on that giant sun damaged skull of his. I mean, not a terrible club to be in with Lucille Ball, Conan O’Brien, Ed Sheeran, Nicole Kidman and Prince Harry to name a few.
But, this is not a study of the good and fine red-coiffed roamers of the world; this is about people and it’s time a couple of the great gingers get their due and proper; at least from this had-red-hair-as-a-baby-but-outgrew-it guy’s perspective.
And while I have a lot of great gingers in my life, I wanted to recognize two Real Men Reds; Sean Rourke and Brian Hoey.
My Dad’s Godson and like blood to our family, is the definition of the fiery red head, much like Pops. Sean, now 50 years old, has been around my family since the day he was born. Our parents were the best of high school friends and we grew up with their brood in Lowell our whole lives. The eldest of the 4 Rourkes, Sean had a very special bond with Big Frank. Taken under his wing as a teenager, he became my Dad’s protégé at the funeral home as a wee teenager. Sean learned about all of the dark and difficult ins-and-outs of the death trade and, if I may say so myself, became a Jedi at managing a terribly emotional and eerie world. Following in Frank’s footsteps, Sean, once the Student became the Master when he took control of the Fay McCabe Funeral Home several years back. Consummate professional and kind hearted soul with each and every family he serves during their saddest of hours, Sean is a credit to this trying and misunderstood business. On occasion I volunteer my services to Sean when a loved one of mine passes. Always so very proud to still see my family name on the door (and Sean could have easily and understandably modified that at his discretion), funeral attendees presume Sean is Frank’s son. I can’t imagine why anyone could think such?
Father to 5 beautiful kids and husband to non-red head, Erin, Sean is the best. And while always very capable of a raging “Ginger Snap” when things aren’t exactly going his way, this red has a heart of gold and I consider him a brother.
And now to Mr. Hoey.
Another red-head-pledge to the society of Real Men, Brian possesses the quality that neither Sean nor Frank did; patience. Brian, another son of Lowell, is the polar opposite of the atypical fiery ginger. Brian is cool, calm and collected (at least has always been from my vantage point).
Brian is the red-headed-rock-of-sense-type of guy you need around you when you are about to make a bad decision.
Brian is the guy on the other end of the phone when you are stranded in an Arkansas lock up and you need bail and a ride.
Brian is the one of the most reliable of the reds and you want him in your (Redd) Foxxhole (whew that was a tricky simile).
Akin to all the men I have scribbled about in this series of tales, I don’t remember a time when Brian was not around my world. Like Sean, Brian and his “older brother” Fat Red Frank Senior always had something happening together. Frank was constantly looking for a set of hands to help out in some capacity. Brian runs a successful landscaping business and was on speed dial with Dad whenever he needed everything looking just right around the grounds of the Moore Street funeral parlor and beyond. But, Brian did a whole lot more than that.
(Brian also served under another Real Man, Mr. David Nangle, for many years and I am confident Dave would tell you Brian was probably his greatest asset as well.)
An almost extinct quality in today’s day and age, NO ONE could say a foul word about Brian. (I can think about 9 horrid things about myself right now off the top of my head) Father to 2 great, young men and married to arguably the only person nicer than him, his longtime spouse, Denise, Brian has done it all right.
(By the way- Brian has a red head brother dubbed Duffa, that is equally awesome but just slightly – and by slightly, I mean wildly more – crazy than he is.)
And so, here is to you magnificent Irish Reds, I salute you.