Sunday, July 19, 2015


Every family has at least one, a mighty oak: that stands tall through the years, showing strength and endurance. But sometimes these mighty oaks are short or small only in stature, but not in heart.

Two such mighty oaks lived once in my family, on both sides. They were of course my two grandmothers, who endured hardships yet were great teachers to their children. Moms mother Mary: Born in this country, losing her mother at infancy lived under a tyrant of a step-mother, withstood great hardships for her three young children as her husband, my grandfather left her one day. With no job, and three kids to feed she had to find work in the mid-twenties, living alone and with some help from her brother Lou she managed to scrape by teaching her daughters the differences between right and wrong, raising three ladies of special note.

At one point Mary had to go into the hospital for a nervous breakdown and her flock was scattered among religious institutions and relatives, a heart wrenching time for any mother. She died at the age of 46 from stomach ulcers or stomach cancer, make your choice, the results were still the same.

Frances was Dads mother, and the one I knew personally. She was a strong woman with a strong heart and mind, who was afraid of nothing. Coming to America at a young age of 15, by herself, she braved the language barrier and the prejudice of America at the turn of the century and built a family, business and following. She lost my grandfather to Spanish Influenza and married his best friend. Ralph adored grandma and did whatever she told him to do. She sewed buttons on coats after working all day in a factory to earn extra money. She was a phenomenal cook who was so good she could put ingredients together and they kind of cooked themselves. That’s cooking. She also owned a restaurant and vegetable and fruit stand and an apartment building. Given an education, she would have been a pioneer in industry. She was very active in her church and made countless boat and plane trips to Italy on the behalf of orphans from the war. In Naples somewhere is an orphanage named after her.

Of course there is another oak who still grows every day, and by the time I am gone, her legendary life will be complete. Yes, I speak of TLW (The Little Woman), who has had to endure me for far too long.
Just the other day we went out for breakfast, trying out a new dinner. It was after 7:00 am and as we approached the dinner TLW said they may not be open!
Nah, said I, they have to be open at this hour. She insisted and said: "Well you go in and if you do get in I’ll get out of the car and follow you."

I get out of the car and open the door and go in. The waitress comes over to me and says: “How many” and I say: “One please” and she seats me. I sit and moments later TLW comes in and walks over while the waitress points to me and says you are with him? I start making these funny faces to deny I even know her and the waitress mouths to me: “She’s your wife.” And a mighty oak indeed she is!


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