Frank McCourt Passes: A Tribute
What a father can learn from Angela's Ashes
By Ethan Snyder, 16 July, The Examiner –
Frank McCourt, best selling author of Angela’s Ashes, is reportedly very ill and unlikely to survive his current bout with meningitis. McCourt’s brother, Malachy who is also an author and actor, has been providing the public with information. Frank McCourt recently was treated for skin cancer, but had been active and doing well until contracting meningitis.
McCourt’s break through novel, Angela’s Ashes, was a true life story of his childhood in Ireland. Though his mother, the title character, was the main focus of the story, there was plenty to be learned about fatherhood as well.
McCourt’s father was a conflicted individual. He worked hard to support his family, going every day to work in horrendous conditions to provide for them. Unfortunately, the money seldom made it home.
In the book, McCourt said his father, named Malachy just like Frank's brother, would often go without food so that his children could eat. His father drank tea with sugar while watching his many children eat the food provided.
Malachy McCourt was very involved and gentle with his family when he was not working or drinking. In fact, as Frank McCourt points out, his father seldom had a harsh word, he may have dragged them out of bed smelling of whiskey and make them swear to die for Ireland, but he seldom barked at them.
In a particularly powerful scene, the father saves one of the younger children from death by placing his mouth over the nose of the child and sucking the phlegm from his head. Had their father not done this, the boy would have likely died.
McCourt also painted his father as a man of immense humor and love, which makes it all the more difficult when he is suddenly gone.
Of course, it must also be pointed out that life was difficult, both physically and emotionally. The family lost a daughter, which drove the mother into depression. There was famine, unsanitary conditions and political unrest at this time as well. When placed under this type of pressure, people often make bad decisions.
What most people remember about the stories patriarch is his excessive drinking and lack of responsibility. Many of the elder McCourt’s pay checks never made it home, instead being spent at local pubs. Perhaps he wouldn’t have had to make so many other sacrifices if he had been able to pass the bars.
Malachy also goes out to find work to support his family; traveling all over Ireland to earn money that he promises to send home. No money ever makes it home, and neither does he. He simply seems to disappear in the Irish mist, leaving everyone and everything behind.
How can a man that seems to love his family leave them like this? It is difficult to say. Frank, Malachy and the other McCourt children are able to survive because of the strength and sacrifices of their mother. This story can show fathers both how to care for their families and what consequences their actions may have on others.