My father's mother, Nan Sybil, has been gone more than thirty years now but she remains an inspiration, the source of many great family stories and just thinking of her triggers an automatic smile. She was born at the end of the 19th century in Down East Maine and in the process of living 84 years suffered many losses including her husband and infant daughter during the Great Depression and two other sons who died suddenly in their 40s.  After her husband died in 1929 she struggled to raise her three surviving sons and a daughter. She often had to send her children to stay temporarily with other family members because she couldn't pay rent and was evicted. Like many others of her generation, she worked at whatever she could find... housekeeping, field work, store clerking or what today would be called a home health aide   At night she would do laundry by hand which her boys would collect and return to students at a local college. She convinced her four children that potato soup was nectar for the gods and a whole lot better than having nothing to eat which happened with some regularity.

   She taught her children and grandchildren the importance of family support and loyalty. She was mentally and emotionally tough and taught her children to be the same. She would not tolerate the prejudice against Irish Catholics in the towns where they lived. An example of this is when the local butcher sold spoiled meat to her son and refused to replace it when she sent him back to the store. The butcher told my young uncle spoiled meat was "good enough for the Irish". My grandmother returned to the butcher with the spoiled meat and offered him another chance to replace it. He repeated his earlier remark and Nan Syb responded by knocking him out cold with one punch! Not politically correct but it was satisfying. Washing laundry by hand makes for for strong muscles!

Mostly I remember her as someone who was feisty and strong, who never complained, who told great stories and loved to tell jokes one would not expect a Granny to tell. She laughed a lot and made others laugh. She never owned her own home and never had two nickles to rub together but she loved and lived joyfully. That is her legacy to her family and her world. If I knew how to do It I would post my favorite picture of her. It was taken when she was in her 80s during a visit to Disney World. She is smiling broadly and wearing Mickey Mouse ears!

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