Happy Birthday to My Irish Grandmother!

I’ve only known one grandparent in my life– and she would be 97 today.

Her husband, my grandfather, died before I was born. Everyone called her Nanny, but I refused to call her anything but Grandma. My dad’s parents died before I could meet them too.

But she couldn’t have been a more loving, vibrant woman. She gave me enough love for THREE sets of grandparents.

Until she died in 2001, she was my favorite person, period.

Her name was Ruth. And she exuded joy!

I LOVED her house. There was a deep gold shag carpet, and even her furniture was cheery.

She had an electric teal sofa that was nubby, and these great chairs that were yellow, green and blue plaid. She’s the reason I keep my  butter out in the open on the tray, so it softens at room temperature. She made the best bacon and eggs ever.  She taught me how to hard-boil eggs, and would always pretend she didn’t notice when she turned her head and I would steal hers too! She loved to talk on the phone, except Thursdays at 11 a.m., when “The Young & The Restless,” was on, and I knew not to call then!

In her backyard, Lilacs bloomed. She had a wonderful front porch. She always gave out Snickers for Halloween.

I grew up right down the street from her, until I was seven and we moved to Illinois. I probably saw her almost every day that was possible during that time. We were less than a mile away.

She smoked for sixty something years. She loved her coffee. But most of all, she loved to “visit.”

I remember she would come over to our house and I would always want her to play with me. Many times she indulged me, but other times she’d say the grown-ups are going to sit and visit. I thought that was so boring! WHY, I wanted to know.

“Because adults like to TALK,” she’d say with a twinkle in her eye.

Her Catholic faith was the bedrock of her life, her marriage, and her family. She was born to be a mother, to love.

She would pray with me over the phone. She’d let me tell her anything I wanted, for as long as I wanted. She never judged me. When I was upset, she let me cry it out. But most of the time I’d end up laughing. She had the perfect time to make a joke– and never to downplay what you were feeling. But just to remind you  that you could laugh.

She was a letter-writer.

I have every card she ever sent me. She would write a novel in them, and sign them, “Your Irish Grandmother.” We sent cards for every holiday– Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, whatever!

My entire life, she had fluffy short hair, like a blonde piece of cotton. She got her hair done by a woman named Lydia, I believe once a week. She took me to this place called Georgie Porgie’s and always let me order whatever I wanted. One time I was obsessed with fried ham, and she let me order “Fried ham, with a side order of fried ham!” I believe I was about four.

She wore perfume, Jontue and Samba and others I don’t recall. She loved silk scarves and turtlenecks. Even in the summer, she would rock a turtleneck. She taught me to always wear a sweatshirt or something long-sleeved at the grocery store, because it will be freezing!

She was a voracious reader. She especially loved biographies. She had strong opinions and wasn’t shy about sharing them!

And she lives on in her daughter, my Godmother. My Aunt Judie has that same wonderful sense of joy, that same passion for her family and the gift of how to be an amazing force of love. I see her in my Uncle Jim, who is passionate about his business– started by my grandfather. And he’s still running even in his Seventies! My Uncle Ron had an incredible laugh, much like her. I see her in all my cousins, who are affectionate, open, FUN, hardworking and loyal people who also are devoted to our family and the families they’ve begun with their spouses.

And I hope she lives on in me. If she were here, I know she would be reading my blogs.  Well, maybe not– because she hated new technology. I don’t think she would be the type for Facebook! But regardless, she makes me want to write. To write things that she would be proud to read, and to tell people,

“My Irish Grand-daughter wrote that!”


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