Some of my grandmother’s generation left the Black Road in north Leitrim, entered the United States through Ellis Island and never returned home.
Nowadays when I WhatsApp my son, I see him sitting on a bench in Boston and we chat about the most recent Spurs match we’ve watched live on different sides of the Atlantic.
The unbelievable is our new reality.
Donald Trump in The White House. The two Russian tourists who came to Salisbury to visit its famous cathedral. To put it a different way, as the con man Kint says in the film ‘The Usual Suspects‘: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist."
A most recent manifestation of the pinch me, scratch my confused head everyday norm was the sight of Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and the party’s sole member of the European Parliament on a diplomatic offensive in Brussels a week before the EU Summit.
Do I wake or do I sleep?
Even more so than in December 2017, when Theresa May took an angry phone call from Arlene Foster that forced her to take a break from Brexit discussions with EU leaders, the DUP is at its greatest position of influence in the party’s history.
It has a Conservative Party minority government, dependent on the support of ten DUP MP’s to remain in power at Westminster.
It has the European Commission wondering what sort of package might placate the group that provides one member in the 751-member European Parliament - and she, Diane Dodds, has already signed and submitted her own P45.
And it has the Irish Government wondering what is the best it can do to limit the damage from the crock of trouble coming its way, courtesy of the next door neighbours.
Truths stranger than fiction have brought the DUP to this centre stage position. A referendum result they and the prime minister (David Cameron) who called it did not expect.
A Westminster election result they and the prime minister (Theresa May) who called it did not anticipate. A still voiceless, moribund power-sharing executive the DUP and the party that collapsed it (Sinn Féin) did not contemplate.
The August 2016 two-page letter Arlene Foster and her partner in the then Stormont government, Martin McGuinness, took almost a fortnight to agree is now utterly redundant.
It included an explicit reference to their need, on behalf of the power-sharing executive "to be fully involved and represented in the negotiations on the terms of our future relations with the EU and other countries."
The DUP are now Northern Ireland’s, indeed the UK’s manifestation of The Donald.
When a party delegation goes to Downing Street and says "Jump" to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State or some other senior minister assigned by Theresa May to await their latest demand, the response comes back: "How high? "
In Berlin, in Paris, in Madrid, in Warsaw, earnest officials have been working up briefs to educate some of Europe’s most powerful leaders about who exactly are the DUP.
The time Ian Paisley shouted at Pope John Paul in the European Parliament hemicycle was small beer compared to this current phase of DUP notoriety.
In the past there were many high-octane occasions. Ian Paisley before the tens of thousands outside Belfast City Hall in 1985, shouting ‘Never, Never, Never’.
After the DUP overtook the Ulster Unionists and moved from a party of protest to a party of power, First Minister Paisley and his partner, Martin McGuinness, chuckling on the marble stairs in Stormont’s Great Hall on Devolution Day 2007. Peter Robinson, the so-long master strategist, becoming Peter Robinson, statesman.
Former Ulster Unionist, Arlene Foster becoming the DUP’s first female leader and from west of the Bann.
But nothing compares to the DUP’s current political clout.
It has Theresa May trying to come up with a set of Brexit proposals that is acceptable to the EU, to her own divided party and to the DUP. So far it has been an impossible task. And that may well continue to be the case.
The crucial element of the DUP demand is that Northern Ireland must continue to be treated like every other part of the United Kingdom, such as Finchley or Somerset.
There can be no border, including customs checks or interruptions in the Irish Sea, affecting the flow of trade from Northern Ireland to the UK.
Nor can there be any interference in inward trade from the UK to Northern Ireland - if the post-Brexit UK cuts some deal on cheap raw materials or goods with another country, the DUP wants Northern Ireland to have unfettered access to it.
One possible way to allow such arrangements is for the EU to accept the free flow of goods, both ways, between all of the EU and the UK while the UK strikes its own arrangements with outside countries.
The have your cake and eat it scenario that would delight the Brexiteers, the British government and the DUP but would be unacceptable to many, and possibly all, EU member states. Courtesy of the DUP, Ireland, the wide-open back door route to the EU’s Single Market, accessible to the 60 million-strong state that left the club.
Mrs May is in a terrible bind. If she faces down the DUP, they’re threatening to withdraw support and bring down her minority administration in Westminster.
Even before that, without DUP backing she might lose a Brexit vote in the House of Commons.
If she pushes on and discovers the DUP pulls back from opposing her, she may still find her set of proposals will fail to attract House of Commons backing or get rejected by EU negotiators or its member states.
The impossible set of asks in the British government’s incoherent Brexit negotiating strategy may quite easily leave Mrs May unable to define what she wants and lead to a no-deal UK exit from the European Union.
Power (political, financial, commercial) can be such an oppressive burden.
Ask Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, David Cameron, Tayyip Erdogan, Jose Mourinho, Howard Hughes, Sherman McCoy/Tom Hanks. Chuck Feeney’s response to his accumulation of wealth was to give away his billions.
Self-confidence can be such a dangerous trait. The nightmare the gung-ho DUP is not yet imagining may be the consequences of this all-powerful phase.
Above all other considerations, it has doggedly represented one view, its own one, a minority position, an absolutist approach on Brexit issues, for the past two years.
In the March 2017 Assembly Elections it returned 28 assembly members to the currently closed 90 member Stormont.
During the 2016 Brexit Referendum it was the only one of Northern Ireland’s five main parties to campaign in favour of the UK exiting the European Union: the votes cast by the electorate it serves were 56% remain, 44% leave.
Apart from the Independent Unionist, Lady Sylvia Hermon, (a Remainer), the DUP has been the only Northern Ireland voice, pushing a pro-Brexit policy, in the House of Commons.
The abstentionist stance of seven Sinn Féin members facilitated that monochrome situation.
Two of the DUP’s ten MPs, Emma Lyttle Pengally, 38, and Gavin Robinson, 33, are under 50. If a political life is a week, several of the DUP Westminster ten are at the Friday night stage.
In the 650-member Westminster parliament, the role the DUP ten have played in recent times will be noted and remembered not just within Labour ranks, but also on Conservative, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Plaid Cymru benches.
The meeting Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, called with Northern Ireland’s five main parties on Monday of this week wasn’t even a poor version of fantasy football.
Her authority as an honest broker is sundered because she represents a government dependent on DUP support for its very existence.
There will be no return of power-sharing until the Brexit debate is settled, because the assembly would not have the shoulders to carry the competing forces involved.
Another train has left the station. It is the Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry. The sizable online viewing audience considers it Northern Ireland’s version of the West Wing.
As in Brexit affairs in Westminster, in the ‘cash for ash’ controversy, the DUP is the only Northern Ireland party with a role.
The DUP’s current leader, Arlene Foster, is the only serving politician questioned at length during proceedings.
Three panel members are conducting the hearings - the chairman, a retired Appeals Court judge Sir Patrick Coughlan, Dame Una O’Brien, a former civil servant in the UK’s Department of Health, and Dr Keith McLean, a highly-experienced expert from the Energy Sector.
They pursue their task with the diligence of a Dr Gabriel Scally or a Peter Charleton. Their report may be ready by the spring of next year. Around the same time as the official date of the UK leaving the EU. The Ides of March........
Fairness requires the statement and restatement of the obvious. The DUP has relentlessly and faithfully pursued the Brexit mandate on which it campaigned and was elected.
But in doing so, has it lost sight of the middle ground space it cultivated during the past decade?
In the study of the south Belfast home where Ian Paisley spent his final years with his wife Eileen, a special place is given to a gift, received well south of the porous border. It was given to them by a woman who emerged from a crowd in Cobh, Co Cork.
A large silver Celtic cross, with the clasped hands of a Claddagh Ring in the centre. She gave it to them for their role "in the healing" of recent years.
Paisley wasn’t the only one who spent his final days glad of the reconciliation he had contributed to in the closing chapters of his life. Martin McGuinness, David Ervine, Gusty Spence and Albert Reynolds had that sense of inner peace too.
One of the most prominent and controversial public figures during the past forty years once dropped his guard and said to me "what was it all about ... it was like a row in a family."
In my home town of Sligo, a project is under way to name and honour every person who died in a British Army uniform during the First World War.
There was a time when such a memorial would be opposed or desecrated. But the Queen’s Bow in the Garden of Remembrance, the visit of Prince Charles to Mullaghmore, the climate that rediscovered a sense of neighborliness changed all that.
Arlene Foster comes from 65km up the road. It is extraordinary how she has become a lightning conductor during this current wave of political turmoil. From ‘crocodiles’ to ‘blood red’, the words have a habit of coming out wrong.
The dignified figure who went to the funeral of Martin McGuinness, the person who travelled to Clones to attend the Fermanagh versus Donegal Ulster SFC final, gets eclipsed. The hope around her has a habit of unraveling.
Always, in my dealings with her, she is courteous and decent. But it is hard to get away from the conclusion that circumstances contrive to put a brake on the person she might be.
As a child, some neighbours may have supplied information to the IRA gang who almost killed her father. IRA bombs on her school bus and at Enniskillen’s War Memorial intruded in her adolescence.
She is a woman in a changing but still male-dominated environment, a UUP defector to the DUP, a Church of Ireland member in a party with Free Presbyterian history.
In the Brexit Referendum, Fermanagh-South Tyrone voted 58.6% to Remain and 41.4% to Leave - higher than the Northern Ireland figure (56%) in favour of staying in the EU.
For someone who loves the local, among her constituents, she is out of step, arguing from a minority standpoint. The Brexit challenge has certainly catapulted a section of her party to centre stage, but it is the issue she did not need.
And so 'the last stoke of midnight dies', the Brussels Summit beckons.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that just as Brexit has halted the fragile equilibrium and healing nurtured by the Good Friday Agreement, it has dented the capacity of Arlene Foster and the DUP to reach beyond themselves. That tragedy - its scale, its sadness, its implications - is not understood in Finchley or Somerset.