Friday, July 09, 2004


No rantings today. No funny posts. No silliness. I apologize in advance to you guys who came here to be entertained today.

Until last year, there were two women in my life that I truly cared what they thought of me, my mother and her mother, whom I always called Nanny. Now that number is down to one.

My mom met my father when they were both 16. My mother was charmed by this seemingly mature 16 year old who already had his own boat and was allowed to go knocking around the Long Island Sound by himself. Nanny, however, didn’t share my mother’s feelings about my father and forbade them to see each other.

That brings us to how I got here. My mother was deeply in love with my father by the time Nanny said they couldn’t see each other, so she made it so they’d have to see each other - she got pregnant with me. Nanny (and Poppy, my grandfather) were from the old school of responsibility, so they allowed them to marry at 16. I was born 13 days after my mother’s 17th birthday (28 days after my father’s 17th).

My mom and dad were married for the better part of 10 years. I don’t really remember what home life was like when they were married, because my dad always had a job either in New York City or Syosett, NY, both of which were hours from our home on Long Island. After almost 10 years of broken promises and shattered dreams, they agreed to divorce. By this time, my dad was living full time in Cape Cod, MA; my mom, my brother Jamie and I were living with Nanny and Poppy. This is how it stayed for most of my childhood.

In 1978, mom, Nan and Pop packed us all up and moved to Central Florida. My dad was still flaking out on the Cape with his 2nd wife (whom I still adore). We all moved into an apartment and life returned to normal. Nan always made sure that we had food on the table, clothes on our back and a roof over our head. Poppy had retired from Grumman Aerospace with a full pension, so his days were free, but Nanny and my mother found work at the local hospital. They’d work hard all day and come home, cook dinner and hang out with my brother and I at night.

We didn’t have all that much money, but I never knew it. Jamie and I always had new clothes, shoes, were well fed and earned an allowance. Nan provided all this for us because my father was unwilling and my mother was unable to provide much with the acronym GED on her resume.

Many years later, I found out that this had come at a price - their retirement. Nan worked and worked to provide for us and never put money away for their retirement. When she turned 65, she officially retired. They were still renting (a house) and had to go on Social Security as Pop’s pension had long since run out. Never once after retiring did I hear Nan complain about it. Every time I visited her (while I was living in Florida and while I was elsewhere), I was always treated to home cooked meals, dessert, loving conversations in which she took a genuine interest in whatever was going on in my life, no matter whether she agreed with it or not.

Before I moved away, I had no money. I had just come out of a bad marriage that claimed my house, credit rating (gotta love the woman that runs up five credit cards out of spite when she was the one at fault) and very nearly my sanity. Nan, once again, took me into her home, let me sleep on the couch and told me she loved me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Seeing no opportunities in Florida, I headed first to Michigan and then west. My mother re-married when I was a senior in high school and moved to Oregon with my stepfather right after I graduated. I chose to stay behind.

Here in Oregon, I found plenty of opportunities and have done pretty well for myself in a short amount of time. After a year or so, I was able to send them a check each month to help them live a more comfortable lifestyle. Nan would always return the check to me with the same note - “Thank you, but Pop and I are fine. We don’t need your money.”

After my kids were born, I desperately wanted them to know the woman who practically raised me. They did get to see her. G-Doggy saw her four times (the last of which he remembers) and Reesey Monster saw her twice (the last of which he doesn’t remember). The first time she saw them, she fell in love with them and wanted to spoil them with gifts. I would have none of it. Her love for them was enough. I wish they could have seen each other more, but life gets in the way of the important stuff sometimes. She left an impression on G-Dogg, sometimes he cries that he wants to see Nanny and that he misses her. That speaks volumes to me.

In 1999, Nanny was diagnosed with lung cancer. She smoked for many, many years, quitting after it was too late. On March 26, 2003, the day after Reesey’s 4th birthday, I got a call at 2:30 a.m. from my mother saying that the woman who had a hand in my knowing what it takes to be a man had passed away. I cried buckets. Still do from time to time. I went back to Florida for the funeral and, after Pop passed away this year, I went again so that their ashes could be spread together in Pensacola Bay, which was their favorite spot of all in their 53 years of marriage.

Tomorrow, Nanny would have been 78. I’ll cry tomorrow. Ok, I’m crying now, but I’ll cry tomorrow too. I know I told you this every time I talked to you, but thank you for everything you did for our family. Thank you for caring more about us than you did about yourself. Thank you for your unconditional love. I love you. I miss you terribly.

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