Storyworth: What were your grandparents like?

| January 24, 2022 | 0 Comments
Kieran and Me

This chapter will be much shorter than the previous ones. Of my four grandparents, only one was alive when I was born. My mother‘s mother was Margaret Mahoney. I knew her as “Ma.” She lived with my Aunt Theresa in the downstairs apartment from where my family lived. I remember very little about her, but I believe I was her favorite grandchild, probably due to the fact that I lived in the same house and was the first grandchild to do so. 

I have a vague memory of being shuttled off to my cousins’ house in Roxbury when she died. There seemed to be unusual concern among the adults about the impact it would have on me. Clearly, I had a special relationship with Ma. Presumably, she loved me and nurtured me. I was her favorite grandchild. And I’m sure I loved her back. But I remember very little of any personal interactions with her.

In order to gather some information for this installment, I called my Aunt Mary, widow of my mother’s twin brother, Charlie. It was her house to which I was shuttled off when Ma died. She’s the only aunt or uncle I have left. She’s 96 years old, sharp as a tack and lives independently in Boston. I was hoping to get some warm family anecdotes that would help me describe Ma for this article. I was particularly hopeful that she might fill the gap in my memories of my very special relationship with Ma.

”Meanest woman I ever met!” she said when I asked. 

“Nobody was good enough, particularly the men and women, like me, who married her eight precious boys and girls.” 

She told the story of visiting Ma after she’d had her first child, my cousin Danny, who is about 4 years older than me. Apparently, Danny was a bit of a chubby baby. Mary had not yet shed her pregnancy weight and Uncle Charlie was a beer drinker at the time, so had put on some pounds. When they arrived at the door, Ma exclaimed, “Here come the three little piggies!” 

My uncle Paulie married a woman named Eleanor Murphy. Ma considered Eleanor a bit “plain.” When their infant child was brought to visit Ma, she said, “Well, there he is, another homely Murphy.”

Not sure what to do with this information, except share it, of course, with whoever reads this.

Mary also noted that none of Ma’s eight children ever mentioned their father after he died. All of the men and some of the women from that family became alcoholics. All but one gave up drinking at some point in their lives. They had ”issues” but they had the strength of character to address them.

And, they all contributed to the defeat of the Nazis. So, there’s that.

My father’s parents had both died before I was born. So, I never really had the experience of bonding with a grandparent. But now I AM a grandparent (see photo above of Kieran and me). And there’s nothing better in life.

I will say, with all the tumult that my mother’s generation went through and whatever trauma they experienced from their parents (my grandparents), they ended up raising some pretty good people. My own siblings are all good people, as are almost all of the forty or so first cousins from my mother’s siblings. 

While they weren’t perfect, the “Greatest Generation” still fits.


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