|Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh|
(Someone cut this photo)
My dad loved and admired his grandmother, Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. He never talked much about his childhood except to say it wasn’t a very happy one. There were a number of alcoholics in the family, but that’s a story for another time. Mary Theresa was the most stable of the adults who came and went in their household on Charleston Avenue in the Newtown community in Portsmouth, Virginia. She saw to it that Daddy got to church and to school.
Maybe the uncertainty of the Killeen-Walsh “village” that was raising Daddy prompted Mary Theresa to foster his dreams for something better. In fact, he grew up to be a very positive and hopeful man, a dreamer, always confident that things would work out for the best.
I don’t know who first had the dream to own a pony – Daddy or Mary Theresa. Daddy said that they would sit on the porch and listen to the train whistle blow. Mary Theresa would say, “Sonny, this might be the train with your dapple grey pony.” Of course, he never got that pony, but he did name one of his real estate investment companies Dapple Grey. Perhaps prophetically, it didn’t amount to much either.
Honestly, I’ve always hated the pony story. It reminds me of a sad and curious blend of Willie Lowman in Death of a Salesman and the mother in The Glass Menagerie, both of whom fail to achieve their dreams of greatness for themselves and for their children. I have to remind myself that they achieve a measure of heroic nobility by refusing to let reality get in the way of dreaming in the first place.
Maybe the same can be said of Mary Theresa.