E or I: For My Grandfather, on St. Patrick’s Day.

Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? 

 Yes, I’m dropping Shakespeare on you right off the bat. 

 Pictured here is my grandfather on my Dad’s side, Joseph Patrick Mullen. His family immigrated here from Ireland before he was born, from a place called Galway, and that is where he kneels in the photo.

*the copy we have is printed on a board, and is a little worn, so don’t worry. The scratches are on the photo, not your computer* 

 On the shores of our familes’ home, in a place that holds so much history and a wealth of pride, he stands stoic in his black buckled boots. You can see the look in his eyes as he tastes the salty air, and breaths in the same atmosphere as our forefathers. 

But what is little known outside of the family is that when we trace back our ancestory, we Mullen’s have to do things a bit differently. If you look back through the records, there are plenty of Mullen’s around who came here from Ireland. Thousands, I’m sure. What’s different for us though, is that we were once “Mullin’s”. Spelled with an “i” instead of an “e”.

Things happen, we all have our sour moments in life. Differences come between father and son. But what drives a man, like my grandfather, to change the spelling of his name? I’ve wondered a while, but i’ve found it makes no difference, and the answer comes in our primary topic of discussion these days: parenting.

My grandfather was a wonderful man, despite his demons, with many skills and attributes to speak of. He and my grandmother built their house from scratch in a wooded area, now a small town just outside the city. During World War II, he was stationed in New Jersey, working to make sure we would be protected if the enemy ever came across the sea. He and my grandmother raised 4 boys, quite successfully, and they traveled often before and after their retirement. They lived what we would call, the American Dream of the time. 

 What is more important than where we came from, is where we are and where we are going. Our name will be attributed to the things that we do in this life, and not the other way around. You can still save the world if your name is Heywood Jablowme or something like that. Joe Mullen was his own man, and we remember the things he did for us and what we loved about him regardless of how he spelled it. He was an irishman who worked hard, loved much, drank alot, and feared little. He was in a sense, a Hobbit, if you get my meaning. He was very human. 

 The point is, though, as parents we all strive for one thing: that our children have a better life than we have had for ourselves. That they be smarter than us, tougher than us, stronger than us, and more successful than us. No matter our nationality, name, or lifestyle. We give them all the tools we possibly can, and they make their own life. 

 Thats it right there. 

 We make our own life. No matter what came before us, we do what we do and we make it our own. Hold your traditions close, but your family closer. 

Thank you Pop Pop. I miss you, and i’m inspired by your thick-headedness. The resiliancy in your blood towards others trying to plan out your life for you has been passed down. My daughter will not be me, she will be better than me. 

 And thats exactly how it should be. 

 -B.K. Mullen 

 @dadonthemic

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