“Top of the Mornin’ to Ya!” my dear friend Mr. Murphy would shout out in greeting. “And the rest of the day to yerself!” I’d reply in a terrible Irish brogue. He would belly laugh, which would make me happy. Éirinn go brách!
Mr. Murphy – Bernard John Murphy – was my best friend, mentor and confidant. I addressed him always as “Mr. Murphy,” although in later years he insisted I call him John. I was a mere 19 years old starting a new job at Ingersoll-Rand when our paths first crossed. I was just a kid, and he a seasoned 50-something patent attorney happily married to Margaret “his bride” of many years and father of 11 children. We hit it off immediately, sharing a quirky sense of humor which sparked a lifelong friendship. We reveled at pulling practical jokes on each other and co-workers on almost a daily basis. He made that job the most fun I’ve ever had in the workplace.
My own father was very serious, and we never really saw eye to eye. Mr. Murphy stepped up to become the fun paternal figure who understood my hopes and dreams and encouraged me every step of the way. We shared the love of writing, and through the years I received countless letters and notes and newspaper clippings from him. I saved each and every one. Every now and then when I’m missing him, which is often, I’ll go through my stash of his letters, pick one out and he is with me, talking with me, encouraging me, stroking my ego and making me feel like I can do anything in the world I set my sights to do. He always made me feel special.
Couldn’t let March 14th – Mr. M.’s “natal day” as he would call it – go by without a shout. His birthday, although a few days short of March 17th, is synonymous with his favorite and most revered holiday St. Paddy’s day. In 2006 I flew to Indiana to surprise him for his 80th birthday and to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with him. We wore green, ate, drank and laughed until we cried, sharing corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Crème. It was a grand celebration, and that special time will be etched in my heart forever. It was to become the last time we would spend together. His kids, who share his sense of humor, listed me as his adopted twelfth child in his obituary.
So I make a toast to you today on your special day, my dear friend, and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand.