Monday, May 26, 2003

It's Memorial Day. The occasion brings to mind many family memories. In my clan, it was the tradition to visit my grandparents' graves on Memorial Day. As a kid, I always wondered why, since the official holiday was about remembering the war dead, while my family's deceased relatives all passed of non-combat disease or age. I guess lots of people just figured it was a good time to think about those you miss and who went before you.

This year, I'm thinking about my grandparents a lot. They were, on both sides of the family, working class Irish Americans, living in Massachusetts. My aunt remembered with us last night that my Dad's mother (Nana to me) would travel on two buses during WWII to get meat in far-away Lawrence, so the kids wouldn't be without, even when meat was hard to get and rationed. She did that after working a full shift at the factory. She and Granddad raised five kids well. They also housed a sister of hers, another factory worker.

My Granddad on my Mom's side was a local cop. He died young, in his fifties, of colon cancer, when the "C word" was something people didn't talk about plainly. He died leaving the other Nana, who re-invented herself, learned a career, ran her boss's hair salon when the boss retired, and lived over thirty full years on her own. These people were resourceful, especially when faced with hard times.

I guess it feels like we're in some hard times again, both in our family, where we deal with health and economic challenges that surprise and upset us, and in our world, where everything seems new and troubling. We're better off than people were in those days, at least economically, but it's still hard to adjust to our world being off axis, as it seems to be these days.

It's helping me to remember my ancestors, who came into a tough new world, lived through war and economic depression, and fought, in their own quiet ways, to bring up children, face down fascism, rebuild their country, and change their ways to build a better world.

Here's to you Nana, Granddad, Nana and Granddad. We'll do well to remember
you today.

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