He was only 12-years-old when he was boarded onto a coffin ship with his mother and baby brother, hoping to escape their Irish background and the Famine that threatened their future generation. There were many ships that were heading to Canada and America, but this particular one was heading to the “Land of the Free”. It sounded like a dream that he wouldn’t mind never waking up from. It sounded like paradise, compared to the harsh conditions he was used to. He had many hopes that life would be better in America than the place he’d grown familiar to since he was born.
Maybe we’ll finally have a stable home, food on our table, medicine for mamaí.
He’ll have to see. He has to get through the long, dreadful trip first.
Not many people survived the long, horrendous trip, including his mother and brother. The disease spreading across the ship seized its deadly arms around anyone who was the most weak and vulnerable. Even despite being trapped in its embrace, his mother kept smiling, reminding him that the American Dream was worth it. It was worth the misfortune. It will be better. It will get better. And he truly believed that when he stepped on American soil for the first time.
It was hard. However it didn’t nearly compare to what he previously experienced. But if a common person who didn’t know any better went through his everyday conditions since he arrived in America, they would break after the first week. They would lose hope. They would give up.
He’s lost hope. Was less than a step from giving up. It’s not easy being reminded that you don’t belong here. That you taint the American soil your weak feet walk on. It’s mentally exhausting on the already mentally exhausted. To flee one tainted country only to end up in another. But he’s seen worse. Been through worse. What could possibly be worse?
To him, America still seemed like paradise, even if its people and laws looked down on him. He remained optimistic for the country and himself. He looked up to America differently than everyone else. He was never the nationalistic type. He’ll praise the country when it does something good for all its people. But he couldn’t bring himself to hate America. It wasn’t perfect, no. Far from it. His mother never raised him to hate. Life didn't rise him to hate. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t. People spat on the very ground he walked on, threatened his existence, acted as bystanders towards the hate on immigrants and others. However, he just couldn't allow his heart to be tainted with hatred. If he did, what would be the difference between his heart and their’s?
He thought about this often as he held his cushlamachree, his beloved, close. Her presence reminded him that not everyone in America was toxic. There are some pure souls out there. It was hard to search. But there will always be some.
His mother was right, just like she always was. He would’ve loved to see her face right now as he stood with many others and recited the oath, eyes connecting with his cushlamachree, then their children and their children’s children. He would’ve loved for his brother to stand next to him, taking the oath, and sharing these intense emotion he was feeling. He finally felt accepted. He didn’t have to cry and plea anymore. He made it through. Just like his mother had hoped as her life slipped away.
The American Dream was worth it. It really was.
He was an American citizen. He felt like an American citizen. He was ecstatic. He was proud of himself. He was proud of America and its people. It really was worth it.
America had grown, that very much was evident. He couldn’t seem to keep up with all the technology that his grandchildren used these days. There was always something new happening everyday, whether good or bad. He was thankful of the changes made for America to be better. He was also thankful to all the people who used their voice for important matters. Not everyone had that choice back then, especially not him. Watching America grow to the nation it was today almost reminded him of his children. The nostalgia hit him like bricks.
Of course America still disappointed him at times. The hatred was still there, clear as day. But it was easier to find pure souls. They were everywhere you look.
Not everyone was treated fairly, but compared to what he’s seen and experienced, there’s been improvement.
From the time he stepped foot on American soil, he couldn’t bring himself to hate America. The words “I hate America” could never leave his mouth. He wouldn’t ever let those words leep off of his tongue. He didn’t blame the people who expressed that freely because it’s all they know. But to him, America was still paradise.
America is still far from perfect. He knows this. He thinks of this as his hooded eyes peer over his family surrounding him. They are all smiling upon his request, even though it doesn’t meet their eyes. He smiles too. He truly was happy. All his worries were gone. His shoulders weren’t heavy anymore. He wasn’t alone. He could rest peacefully knowing that his future generation was no longer threatened. The misfortune was over. His mother would be proud.
The American Dream was worth it.
He closed his eyes and drew his last breath.
It truly was worth it.