I cannot recall the exact date that I met her. She lived miles away but once I was old enough to make those very long train trips to New York, visits were more frequent.
My father, you see, was born and raised in New York City by his parents who came to New York from Ireland. After he met my mother and they were married they settled in Cleveland and so began the long distance relationship with my new family in New York.
We were fortunate because as my dad worked for what was then the New York Central Railroad and we rode the train for free back and forth to New York. Something that many never had the pleasure of experiencing.
Being the mother of five my grandmother or "Nanny" as I will refer to her from now on was your typical Irish Catholic strong willed woman who ruled the roost and most of the time put the "fear of God into you."
Although she was small in stature, she was mighty and stern and not the most affectionate woman as I recall. Being the first born grandchild, one of twelve you'd think some favoritism would have been shown but I cannot say I ever felt that way. She had many grand daughters in a row and when the boys came along I saw an even more rigid side of her.
The boys were mischievous, it was almost a challenge to them to see if they could get away with just the littlest thing but it just never happened. It was like she had eyes in the back of her head.
Her cooking skills were pretty much that of an Irish woman whom I still today think that may be my reason for not being able to eat lamb. Oh the memories. Every once in awhile she would sneak a swig of pure buttermilk right from the carton in the refrigerator and we all somehow knew that it was something we dare never try for who knows what she might do.
Actually my daughter Kelly seemed to develop that same habit for which I am not amused. I don't normally keep buttermilk in the refrigerator but I happened to be making soda bread that week and Kelly took a big swig out of the carton of buttermilk thinking it was regular milk. Surprise, she says she'll never do it again, but we'll see.
Although not very affectionate one of my greatest memories was at night when she tucked all of us into bed and she would sprinkle all of the kids with holy water before she said goodnight. She had an Irish Blessing hanging in her apartment that I read first thing each time I came to visit and today that prayer hangs in my own kitchen.
She was a strong woman coming to America from Ireland, marrying and raising five wonderful children. I was 26 when she passed away and I was lucky that I had her for all of those years.
She had open heart surgery at the age of 80 so I knew she was probably one of the strongest women I would ever know but in the end died of complications of pneumonia later that year.
Today I see a certain pair of shoes or a dress, as she only wore dresses, or a hat that reminds me of her. And finally this year I was able to visit Kinsale in County Cork where she was raised.
I remember feeling a certain sense of calm walking along the waters there and realizing how lucky I was to have her as apart of my life for twenty six years.