I’ve recently had the opportunity to go on a quest for my parents, both of whom are the youngest in their families, to rediscover the past before their memories fade. Based on the information I was given, it’s been a priviledge to be introduced to all those amazing people who came before me. Since it is almost mother’s day and my upcoming empty nest, I thought I would focus on the women in my past first. My father’s paternal grandmother was left with 12 children to run a farm in Janesville Wisconsin after Typhoid took her husband as a result of a doomed trip back to Ireland to procure money from a wealthy brother (which failed, by the way). My great, great grandmother on my mother’s side, gave birth to 12 children, but by the time she was 43, only six of them had survived. She and her husband had emigrated from Ireland during the potato famine in 1886 and I haven’t been able to find out what happened to them yet. I had another great grandmother who, after her husband died at 38, moved in along with her four children into her oldest brother’s home, who also housed another widowed sister with a new born, and their aging parents. Sadly, my grandmother in that same line lost her husband early as well when my mother was only 12 years old and had to move into her oldest brother’s home.
I am humbled by these women. I used to think of all the struggles of having kids in the modern world, with juggling sports schedules, camps, homework, play dates and school activities with going to law-school and running a business and believe that my life was so much more demanding than my forebears because life was so much simpler back then. What a crock! Looking back at their lives, I realize now how cushy mine is. I hope next time I sit down with a glass of wine around my pool and even think about whining about hard my life is, they find a way to pull a big tree branch back and slap me upside the head. My life is easier because of the hard life they lived. I promise not to forget that…even in the middle of crazy town.
These women fought to survive in often the most difficult conditions, most were uneducated and beginning with my great grandparents were all first generation United States citizens. They truly had taken the road less travelled, and for all their hardship and struggle, established a lineage to which I am eternally greatful. These women have shed a new light on personality traits many of which I have perhaps have been irritated by and never truly appreciated. I see now that these qualities were essential ingredients in a recipe for, not only survival, but to thrive and build on an American dream. I hope that those who have passed are content and happy with the fruits of their labors. I know I am more greatful today as I look at the blessings that I have, to their strength and courage.