‘… a time when every summer will have something of autumn in it’

If you recognize the quote in the headline, you’re a fan of baseball and great writing.

Those words sum up the urgency that accompanies growing older, the passion with which we can live our lives — and for me, how I want to be remembered by those I love. The quote came to mind again Sunday, and baseball had nothing to do with it.

The Elders perform "Men of Erin" with the Holy Cross Academy chorus at the Great American Irish Festival, July 27, 2014. Photo by Mary McKeever.

The Elders perform “Men of Erin” with the Holy Cross Academy chorus at the Great American Irish Festival, July 27, 2014. Photo by Mary McKeever.

My sister and I attended the Great American Irish Festival in Frankfort, NY, outside Utica. This is the third or fourth year I’ve gone, but a first for my sister.

We went to hear the Elders, a ridiculously talented band from Kansas City led by native Irishman Ian Byrne. As such, he would understand why I have already chosen songs for my memorial service later this century.

He also would appreciate that I have put my three sons in charge of that event, including buying the beer.  (For the record, I plan to surround myself with great people, craft beer, strong coffee and excellent music for a long time.)

My sister has also chosen some songs she’d like sung or played at her service some decade hence. The Elders will be well-represented at each. For me, “Men of Erin” is a must. My sister decided, after Sunday’s Elders show, to add “Appalachian Paddy” to her wish list.

“Men of Erin” was written by Byrne after the death of his father, and it is sheer poetry, a beautiful gift from an Irish father to his son. It’s sung a cappella, ideally with the help of a high school chorus. “Appalachian Paddy” celebrates the story of how Irish music came to America, and its messages are classic Irish — sing to the angels, shake your fist at the devil and kiss whoever happens to be next to you.

Listen to these and other Elders songs, and it’s impossible not to feel alive — every emotion, pleasant or unpleasant, rises to the surface to be embraced or wrestled to the ground. Irish or not, if you’re at an Elders show and don’t smile like a child, shed a tear and have the urge to get up and dance, you may already be dead.

My sister is a few years older than I, and therefore her summer has a bit more of autumn about it than does mine. But we are of hardy Irish stock, and our parents lived to be 90 and 91 — and that was without taking good care of their health.

So we both have plenty of time. What the hell, sister, let’s shoot for 100. You go first. That gives us plenty of time to plan two rowdy send-offs for our loved ones to remember us by. To the Elders … you guys are invited. My sons will spring for the beer.

THE HEADLINE: The quote is from A. Bartlett Giamatti‘s classic baseball essay, “The Green Fields of the Mind.” Even if you don’t like baseball, read it. Better yet, listen to the former baseball commissioner’s reading of it to a live theater audience. (Note: written versions of the essay use ‘autumn about it,’ but Giamatti, reading it aloud, uses ‘autumn in it.’)

Giamatti died of a heart attack at age 51 in 1989. His “Green Fields” essay, focusing on the last day of the 1977 baseball season at Boston’s Fenway Park, is some of the best writing I have ever come across. It is full of wisdom, perspective, raw emotion and the rewards and punishment of living life passionately. If it doesn’t stir something within, you may already be dead.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in Baseball, family, Irish Investigations, music, peace, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to ‘… a time when every summer will have something of autumn in it’

  1. An Irish tune has to be pretty bad for me to not like it. I haven’t heard one yet. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. markbialczak says:

    Thanks, Jim, for steering folks to the Elders and Bart, both worthy of the attention. This Pole loves bands of our time playing their own style of Irish music because, well, I don’t have to explain it to you. And baseball would have been so much better today if Mr. G had not passed away too young, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thanks, Mark … with all the live music you’ve seen and heard, you know what it’s like to feel those transcendent moments when a band or a song just takes you away to … somewhere else. I’m certain our ethnic heritage plays into that. As for A. Bartlett Giamatti, what a loss. At age 51, no less. Scary, but that age seems younger every day. Keep on keeping’ on, my friend. I hope the new daily grind is going well.


      • markbialczak says:

        Yes, when a band just hits it, I don’t even know where I am!

        Fifty-one is so young, you are right, and A. Bartlett had much going on in the free-thinking head of his.

        Finally, Jim, the job is going well, thank you for asking.


  3. Molly says:

    Hi Jim,
    I’m so glad that Kathy Cofta shared your column on FB. I otherwise might not have heard The Elders. I’m visiting my parents this week in Texas, and listening to The Elders as we all enjoy coffee and the Sunday papers. When I was a kid, living in Elmira, Sunday morning meant Mass, newspapers, and The Clancy Brothers. The Elders have taken me back there today. So on behalf of the Fennells family, thanks. I can’t wait to share this music with my brothers and sisters.


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