• Elizabeth Cornwall

St. Patrick, A Few Snakes, and My Brother's Name


The Enlightener of Ireland has become the enlightener of all, celebrated for driving out Ireland's snakes. He's a saint who is embraced by Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, Protestants, and Irish whiskey devotees of every confession or non-confession.


I only recently learned how my brother got his name; he was named for an Irish county whose nickname is "the Kingdom" — County Kerry, Ciarrai or Ciarraighe. Ciar in Old Irish which means black or dark brown. My brother Kerry was not from a dark tribe but from the ginger Viking tribe: he was a tall, well-built former Marine, covered with ginger hair, beard and a galaxy of freckles.


He was the middle child of five. He toted the baby brother born after him like a sack of flower, carrying him from room to room as our mother held her breath. He wasn't three years old himself. As he grew, he did things like build rockets in an unused field. He cracked a smile — not much more — at the ensuing fire and fire department sirens.


He was in introvert who read "Popular Mechanics" and "National Geographic." He certainly had a kingdom of the mind where few penetrated. He didn't say much but when he did, you'd remember it. He's the one who told me that I could get pregnant if a boy tickled the bottom of my right foot.


Eventually, he joined the Marines with a stent in Japan. There, he encountered snakes.


Kerry with our grandmother in small town South Carolina, tracking down our Scottish ancestors.

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