Golden Years

Golden Years

by Andrew M. Greeley

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Father Andrew M. Greeley, one of America's most popular and trusted storytellers, has long charmed readers with his continuing chronicles of the crazy O'Malleys, an irrepressible and resilient Irish American family caught up in the rush of modern American history. The previous novels in the O'Malley saga, including A Midwinter's Tale and Second Spring, have taken the longtime Chicago residents from the early postwar era through the turmoil and malaise of the 1970s. Now, in Golden Years, Chucky O'Malley and his ever-growing clan enter the Reagan years---even as a series of painful shocks tests the family's strength as never before.

The death of Chucky's elderly father brings the entire brood together to mourn, but what should be a time of unity is disrupted by the increasingly erratic behavior of Chucky's unhappy and emotionally unstable older sister, igniting a family crisis that ultimately threatens the lives of both young and old O'Malleys. Furthermore, as if their own struggles are not enough to cope with, Chucky and his wife, Rosemarie, also find themselves called upon to help an old high school friend whose beloved wife and daughter have disappeared inexplicably. To find Brigid "Bride" O'Brien and her innocent child, Chucky and Rosemarie must untangle a shadowy mystery that stretches from the bogs of Old Erin to the darkest chapters of the cold war. . . .

There will hard days ahead but, with love and more than a bit of faith, the O'Malleys will bury their dead, dry their tears, and try to make the best of their . . . Golden Years.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429912327
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Series: Family Saga , #6
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 450,636
File size: 380 KB

About the Author

Priest, sociologist, author, and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013) was the author of over 50 bestselling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. His novels include the Bishop Blackie Ryan series, including The Archbishop in Andalusia; the Nuala Anne McGrail series, including Irish Tweed; the O’Malley Family Saga, including A Midwinter’s Tale; and standalones such as Home for Christmas and The Cardinal Sins.

A leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to believers’ evolving concerns. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

Read an Excerpt

Golden Years
CHAPTER ONERosemarie"This country," the ambassador said in his most ambassadorial tone, "will implode in ten years.""On what grounds do you make that prediction, sir?"The lean, hungry man with thin black hair who had been introduced to us as the second secretary of the US embassy in Moscow was obviously the CIA resident.At that very moment we would soon learn, back home in Chicago where we should have been, tragedy was stalking our family."It should be obvious to all of you," Ambassador O'Malley said, with serene confidence. "It's falling apart. When it does collapse, most--probably all--of the constituent republics will depart quickly. The satellite countries--which our presently gloriously reigning president has deigned to characterize as an 'evil empire' will also leave. After six decades the Bolshevik revolution will reside in the ash can of history."My husband is a man of many different personae. He can slide back and forth among them with considerable ease, not to say delight. Usually he is Chucky Ducky, my adorable and funny little redhead lover, about whom I write an occasional story for The New Yorker. However, tonight at the formal embassy dinner (myself the only woman present), he had become Charles Cronin O'Malley, ambassador of the United States of America with all the rights, privileges, and solemnity pertaining thereto. In fact, his term as ambassador to the Federal Republicof Germany had ended in 1964, seventeen years ago. Yet, as he explained to me, "once an ambassador, always an ambassador, just like being West Side Irish."He was also known as one of the "wise men" who had advised a hapless Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from Vietnam in 1968. In the world of the Foreign Service he was therefore by definition wise, even if he doesn't look like it. He was treated with enormous respect, the kind of which the family never accorded him. So when a young member of the embassy staff encountered us on the Moscow subway the day after we returned from Siberia, it became mandatory that the embassy invite us to dinner.They were disappointed and a little miffed that we had not announced our arrival at the beginning of the trip. They could have given us some warnings. Surely the KGB knew who we were and would shadow us during our month of wandering the Soviet outback. They did not trust people with cameras. They were not eager to have the impoverishment of the Soviet Union revealed to the media of the world.Chucky replied with ambassadorial aplomb that the secret police agents who were our guides had been very friendly and offered no objections to the pictures of ordinary Soviet people that he had snapped. "Snapped" was his word. My husband's persona as a photographer required that he create the image of a little kid with a Kodak box camera, such as the one he had used to take my picture when I was ten years old, a photograph which still shocks me. He saw too much."The Russians," he said, "are a friendly, gregarious people. They love to have their pictures taken."This was much less than the truth. However, the Russians were as likely as anyone else to succumb to West Side Irish charm. Our guides could see no harm to the Soviet image in what we were doing. All we did was "snap" pictures of families, and kids, and elderly people. We put the camera away when we were near factories or military installations. Only if the secret police had a chance to see all our pictures or to read the notes I had taken would they realize what an indictment of Soviet society our work really was.We arrived at the embassy with all my notebooks andnearly a hundred rolls of film Chucky had used, the latter in three X-ray-proof bags. The ambassador, a handsome WASP with silver hair and a red face, was only too willing to agree to put them in the diplomatic pouch."You may have trouble at the airport," he said. "They'll want to know where all your photos are.""I'll tell them that they went home in the diplomatic pouch."He nodded."They won't like it but that's just too bad."Everyone around the dinner table seemed hostile to the Soviet Union. The Cold War was still on. They didn't quite call it the "evil empire," yet their attitude was that the struggle with the Kremlin could go on for decades. Then my dear husband dropped his bomb. He was telling them in effect that all the intelligence on Russia the State Department and the CIA had labored so diligently to assemble was dead wrong."I don't quite see it that way, Mr. Ambassador," the DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) replied after a couple of moments of awkward silence. "I admit that nothing is very efficient here, but I can't imagine people turning out in the streets as they did in 1917.""They won't have to, Tony." Chuck smiled serenely. "The revolution will come from within the party, some of the middle-level apparatchiks will come into power in the next ten years and replace such senile Neanderthals as Brezhnev, Chernenko, and Andropov. They'll try to change the system to solve some immediate problems, and it will all fall apart.""The party won't let that happen," the resident said dismissively."The party has made the same mistake that the Catholic Church made. It educated its technicians and middle management. They have begun to think for themselves. Such people become revolutionaries.""I have never met any revolutionaries in the nomenklatura," the DCM said sternly. "They don't promote men with any tendency to think for themselves.""How much of their gold reserve do they spend each year to buy foreign grain?" Chuck fired back."Billions.""In a country which has some of the best farmland in the world?""They keep trying," a younger staff member observed. "When they succeed in making their agriculture work, they'll become a forbidding adversary.""We've been threatening ourselves with that possibility for a couple of decades ... And when they run out of gold reserves?"More silence around the table."Socialism doesn't work," my husband continued. "Never has. Never will. The workers have no motivation to work. Stalin is no longer around to put a gun to their heads. So they don't work. The regime is both incompetent and corrupt. Male life expectancy is down to fifty-seven years, less than many third world countries. A quarter of the men are chronic alcoholics. Highway deaths are higher than in the United States, and they have a tenth of the cars. They make the best ice cream in the world, however.""Many countries are both corrupt and incompetent," the ambassador, all diplomatic charm, said. "All of Africa, for example.""The African countries have not promised their people a dream of the good life for seven decades and they are not industrial giants with an educated population. The evidence is all around: one of the great industrial powers in the world is grinding to a halt, good ice cream or not.""We don't quite see it that way, sir," the resident said. "And our experience is much longer and has more depth than your month of wandering about with a camera.""The lens of a camera has no ideological filters," Chuck replied. "It sees the results of a collapsing social structure which you don't see."That was an insult. My husband was arguing that he was more of an expert on the Soviet Union than men who had spent much of their lives studying it, precisely because he was free of their Cold War ideological blinders.I had warned him as the embassy limousine had delivered us to the door that he should not start a fight and insult our hosts."We both agree about what we saw, Chuck," I said. "But welook at this country from the perspective of the West Side of Chicago. The people we saw out there in Sverdlovsk might see it differently.""They all call it Yekaterinburg," he replied and kissed me gently. "They know that this regime is only temporary, even if it has lasted seventy years."I knew then we were in for a fight.The ambassador deftly intervened to change the subject. Chuck, knowing that he had made his point, just as deftly backed off."Well, you creamed them," I said as the limo took us back to the Cosmos Hotel."Yeah, I won't say the same thing to the president when I take his picture next week.""The heck you won't!"There is a tradition dating back to Ike that my husband "take a picture" as he calls his work of every president. He was not looking forward to the trip to the White House to "snap" a man he called "a washed-up actor.""Idiots who try to build a Hilton and end up with a dump like this," he said as we climbed out of the limo, "can't stay in power much longer."The tile was peeling off the tub in our bathroom, the curtains hung at half-mast, the TV worked intermittently. The staff were indifferent, but not unfriendly, especially when Chuck tipped them with Yankee dollars.He had slept most of the way to the hotel. My husband travels very badly. I was astonished that he had survived the Trans-Siberian Railway, the endless rides on very bad roads, and the crazy pilots on Aeroflot's domestic routes who seem to feel that they had to prove they were totally unafraid of death. Indeed he kept muttering that we were pushing our respective guardian angels too far. It would take him a-couple of weeks to recoup once we were home. My role on these trips, besides that of a film provider and an occasional lover, was to take care of him. This time I was worn-out too. We were a long way from home.It is probably clear already that I love him deeply, passionately, permanently. He is not much to look at, unless you happento like pint-size altar boys with red hair like a wire brush, gentle blue eyes, and a grin that would melt your heart. His exact height is classified information but at five-eight I tower over him, even when I don't wear heels, which I usually do. He doesn't mind that because he is slow to anger except when pushed. Then it's not Clancy who lowers the boom as in the song which I say is about my ancestors, it's Chucky lowers the boom.His strongest appeal is that he is a sweet, gentle, passionate man. The first time he kissed me at Lake Geneva when I was, I think, ten years old, he persuaded me that a man might love me someday, which had always seemed impossible. Then the first time he held me in his arms, the day I tried to drown myself after a Fenwick prom, the whole world seemed kind and good. Neither of us knew much about sexual love when we were married, but he was a confident and tender partner and I learned from him.I have never made love with another man and never will, so I don't have any comparative data. But from listening to conversations among women--at which I usually remain silent--I think he's a pretty spectacular lover. He knows me completely. I cannot hide from him. His tenderness and sweetness completely overwhelm me. All he has to do is to look at me with desire, much less touch me, and I surrender. Indeed I abandon myself completely to him.I shivered and not from the cold when we left the limo after our trip to the embassy."It already feels like winter," I said. "And it's only September.""I'm glad we took the film over to the embassy today," he said sleepily. "Doubtless they've searched our hotel room while we were gone, since they know we're leaving tomorrow.""Shouldn't they have done it last night?""Like I said, they're incompetent."Back in our room, Chuck noted that the search of our clothes had been inept."Clumsy oafs. James Bond wouldn't have left any traces at all. Now they're trying to figure out what we did with the film.""They'll search us at the airport.""But they won't try to prevent us from leaving. They don't need an incident just now.""I hope you're right."I wanted to be flying over Lake Michigan on our way home, more than my husband did.I found a plain envelope in one corner of the room. Inside was a cable."Chucky, listen to this: 'Joe Raftery wants to talk to you. Urgent. Vince.'"Vincent Antonelli, attorney-at-law, was married to our sister Peg. He was, as they say in Chicago, clout heavy."Joe Raftery, you remember him of course, Rosemarie?""Fenwick football team?""He was the unfortunate end to whom Vince's pass was intended when the evil Ed Murray blocked it and the equally evil Mount Carmel went to the city championships."Ed and his wife Delia, one of Chuck's sometime sweethearts, lived just down the street from us. They are anything but evil."Chucky Ducky," I said with some impatience, "you know damn well that's not the way the game ended. You caught the blocked pass and stumbled into the end zone. We beat Carmel.""Pure legend.""Then you saved my life when I tried to drown myself in Lake Geneva after the prom.""I have no recollection of that event either. Perhaps you tricked me into pulling off your prom dress."He was hopeless. He was also a mystery. I had yet to understand him completely and never would. He knew damn well that he had beaten Carmel and saved my life. Why did he deny these events? Part of the game no doubt, a game in which I was a player, but I didn't know the rules.I grew warm at the thought of our subsequent embrace that afternoon. So I changed the subject back to Joe Raftery."Wasn't he a tall, slender boy with sad brown eyes and the mystical glow?""He was quiet, perhaps because he didn't have anything to say.""What happened to him?""He ignored the blandishments of the Golden Dome and went off to Leland Stanford, Junior, Memorial University where he was an all-conference end. Then he played for the Los Angeles Rams, even though he failed to catch Vince's pass. I believe he married a starlet, then passed into the obscurity of La La Land twilight.""What do you think he wants?""What we all want at one time or another--help.""Will we help him?""I fear, Rosemarie my darling, now that we are in our golden years, we are too long in the tooth for these adventures.""Speak for yourself, Chucky Ducky, I'm not in my golden years yet.""In another month ...""The world might come to an end first.""Speaking of removing gowns." His fingers touched the zipper of my dress. I knew I was doomed. He played idly with the top of the zipper, knowing that such actions turn me on. After forty years or so of watching me closely, my husband senses my every mood, my every need, my every reaction. I'm putty in his hands, so to speak, not that I mind it."Chucky!" I protested for the record. I am not quite his sex slave, not exactly."Hero has routed bad knights," he whispered as he kissed my neck, "now he must ravish the defenseless matron."I sighed, again in insincere protest. It is by no means a bad thing to have a husband who understands you so completely.He undressed me slowly and delicately, sweeping aside the remnants of my womanly modesty. I shivered in momentary embarrassment as I always do. Then I felt my body and soul swell with great longing. He played with me gently, teased me with his fingers and his lips, nibbled on me with his teeth and then, after I had begged repeatedly that I could no longer endure his depredations, he entered me and carried me off into a firestorm of ecstasy."Not all that long in the tooth," I laughed weakly when my breath returned. We both laughed together and gathered each other in our arms and fell into satisfied sleep.The phone rang from a great distance. I ignored it. Where was I anyway? Why was I sleeping in a sloping bed? What was wrong? Why didn't Chuck answer the phone? Anyway it was a dream, wasn't it?Finally, to shut it up, I picked up the receiver and turned on the almost useless bed lamp."Rosemarie Clancy," I said hoarsely."Hi, Rosie, it's your intermediate daughter."Bad connection. Dammit, we were still in Russia where all connections are bad."What's wrong!" I screamed."Gramps died this afternoon. Massive heart attack. Grams said that there are worse ways to die."I covered my breasts with the sheet. You shouldn't talk to your daughter naked, especially on a bad connection."Moire Meg, he can't be dead!"She had metamorphosed recently into "Mary Margaret," her baptismal name because she liked the "Catholic sound of it." Now was no time for that stuff."Grams found him reading in his favorite chair. She thought he'd fallen asleep.""How is she!""You know Grams, Rosie," my totally gorgeous red-haired child's voice was calm and even. It would be. "She's Irish like the rest of us. No hysteria. Quiet tears. The usual kind of comment.""Which was?""I'm not going to pray for the repose of his soul. Fifty-six years married to me is enough purgatory for the poor man. Then everyone laughed. Still the Crazy O'Malleys."I laughed too."Who's in charge?"I knew it was all a dream. People die, but not my foster father."Aunt Peg is still numb. Everyone is. So I guess I'm in charge."Naturally. People said that she had Chuck's red hair and my figure and her grandfather's cool. But he had died the first time in 1918 so he could afford to be cool."Rosie, are you still there?""I guess I'm numb too, dear.""That's all right, Rosie ... are you coming home tomorrow?""Today ... No, yesterday your time ... No, that's wrong ... Wednesday afternoon on Aer Lingus if we can make the change in Shannon ...""Uncle Vince and I will meet you.""Is the wake tonight?""Thursday and Friday, funeral at St. Ursula, of course, on Saturday. Father Ed will say the Mass, Father Raven will preach, Father Keenan will concelebrate, and Jimmy will be the deacon. One eulogy. Chuck will give it.""You decided all of these things?""Someone had to. So I was Ms. Take Charge again ... Father Ed is a totally cool priest. More quiet than the rest of you, but a wonderful priest.""How's Shovie?"Siobhan Marie, my youngest daughter."Like the rest of us ... You know Grandpa doted on her ... She wants you to come home right now.""Tell her we're on our way.""It will be good to see you again, Rosie.""We've been away too long.""I didn't say that."I couldn't cope with her. Never could. She could, however, cope with me, so it was all right."Hug everyone for me, especially the Good April.""I will ... You'll tell Chucky?""Of course, I don't know how he'll react.""He's Irish, Rosie, like the rest of ups.""Yes."The tears were unaccountably falling down my cheeks."Rosie ...""Yes, dear?""I love you very much, both of you.""Now I'm really going to cry.""Me too."Mary Margaret O'Malley at twenty-one was cool and self-possessed, the woman who would take charge when "Rosie"was away and Aunt Peg was out of action, and "Chuck" was sleeping off a sexual romp in a broken bed in Moscow. Yet beneath the cool were the combined fires of her two passionate parents.I must say something about Peg, my sister-in-law, sister, confidante, mother confessor, and best friend for almost all of my life. We're so close that the Good April claimed that we had our first periods on the same day. Actually mine was the day before hers.I will always remember the day in first grade, feeling lonely because no one seemed to want to talk to me and I was afraid to talk to them. I was walking home on Menard Avenue and this little girl, pretty with brown hair and intense brown eyes caught up with me."I'm Peg," she said."I'm Rosemarie.""What a pretty name ... Can we be friends?""I'd like that very much."Later, I can't remember exactly how old we were, she took me over to her house, a small, disorderly second story of a two flat near Menard and Augusta. It was a house full of love and laughter and I wished I could stay because there was none of either in my house. We had bonded, as the kids say now, instantly. Slowly and without quite realizing it I became part of the Crazy O'Malleys. My shrink says that relationship has been my salvation.She had this funny big brother with red hair and kind eyes and a smile which was also a grin that lighted the whole room and I fell in love with him too because he was so nice. I had to fight with him and he with me, because that's what little kids do when they fall in love. Peg and I have seen one another through good times and bad and always talk to each other on the phone every day, except when I'm in some dumb place like Russia. We push each other about exercise and diet and that sort of stuff and are very competitive in a good way. I'd be dead if it were not for Peg.When the O'Malleys made a lot of money after the war--he was a successful architect--and moved into their big home onNew England Avenue in north Oak Park--there was a bedroom that was permanently designated as "Rosie's room."When we were teens, Chucky compared us to two jungle cats, lithe, handsome, and extremely dangerous. I think he said tiger and leopard, but he insists that he did not because tigers and leopards don't live in the same places. We pretended to be deeply offended, but in fact we were flattered. Brats!I would have to wake Chuck, now the titular head of the clan, as if that mattered with all the Irishwomen who surrounded him.I shook him gently. He grumbled and turned away, burying his head in a thin pillow, the best the Russians could do."Chucky," I shook him, "wake up!"He rolled over and glared at me. Then seeing my tears, he sat up."Who's dead, Rosemarie?"I had known and worshipped the man for more than forty years, slept with him for thirty years, and bossed him all the time, except when he saved me from alcoholism. Yet he was a mystery to me. How many men would have reveled in his role as the funny little redhead in my stories? There were depths beneath depths in him, fascinating depths indeed, but so far in our lives impenetrable."Your dad. April found him asleep in his reading chair, his last afternoon nap. Massive heart attack."He lay back in the bed, folded his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes."There are worse ways to die.""That's what the Good April said."He smiled."She would ... Who called?""Ms. Take Charge, who else?"He smiled again."What are her plans?""Wake Thursday and Friday. Mass at St. Ursula. Father Ed says it. John Raven preaches ... .""And I give the eulogy?"He opened his eyes. Tears had appeared in the deep blue depths. They broke my heart. I touched his bare chest gently."Titular head of the family.""Emphasis on the first word.""Naturally!""Mary Margaret and Siobhan send their love."I moved my fingers across his chest."I knew that this would happen, sooner indeed rather than later. Yet parents are not supposed to die, especially when one is in Moscow."More tears, quiet tears."Rips you apart?" I said as I continued to caress him. He knew what I was up to. His eyes shifted to my breasts after which, I had often told him, he had lusted even before I grew them."The door slams shut, Rosemarie. I'm alone, an orphan.""April is still alive.""Not for long. Without him she won't want to stay here on earth."My parents had died long ago, my mother in a drunken fall down the basement stairs, my father in a Mafia explosion. Neither had loved me very much, not that they were to blame for that. Yet I still missed them. In my dreams I often imagined them still alive (the preconscious, Maggie Ward, my shrink, had told me rejects death) and begging that I help them, which of course I could not do. What would Chuck's dreams be like? What would the regrets be in his dreams?"Now we're the parents about whose death our children will look forward to in denial and fear," I said."The cycle of life ..."Copyright © 2004 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd. Teaser copyright © 2005 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterpises, Ltd

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