happy birthday nana

my dad’s mother, mary dwyer kenny, would have been 100 years old today. january 17, 1910. here’s what i remember about my nana: her blond wavy hair and twinkley smile. how she’d sit me on her knee and hum one particular irish ditty. how she gave me butterscotch candies and made me peanut butter and butter sandwhiches (i didn’t like jelly).

nana grew up in manhattan. her dad was an alcoholic who ran out on her family … nana had to go to work starting in middle school to help out … she had 3 sisters and a brother. i don’t know that much about her life … all i know is she had my dad when she was 35, which was pretty old back then. my poppa was kind of a crazy character with a serious gambling problem. he would go on benders, disappear for weeks, and was paid visits at home by loan sharks. eventually nana took control of the money and gave him a weekly allowance.

nana worked for the government … selective services…the draft board, which obviously no longer exists. poppa worked as a low level gopher type guy for the chemical bank (he called it the comical bank). nana was tough, stern. you couldn’t get away with anything the way you could with my other grandma. you wouldn’t even try. she had put up with a lot in her life and wasn’t taking any shit anymore, apparently.  she kept her furniture covered in plastic. she dressed up for everything and was strict about church, confession and all things catholic.

when i was in third grade or thereabouts, nana started losing it. then one christmas she fell and broke her hip. that led to rehab and her going into a nursing home. we would go and visit her on sundays after church. she sat with us outside, under a tree. i recall her repeating hail mary and other prayers, over and over. my poppa was always so sad after that. he would always tell me what a good woman she was. i was just a little girl but i could feel how much he missed her.

i only have a few pictures of her. the scanner’s broken so the best i can do today is offer a picture of a picture. it’s cloudy and mysterious, much like my memory of her. overall, i remember her as a strong, fiesty lady. happy birthday, nana.


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