Thursday, January 27, 2011


When you think about the sheer number of incidents that occurred in the lives of my grandparents and parents lives, it's a wonder the four of us kids were ever born at all.

To whit:

My grandmother, Corinne, was born 2 months early. In Jamaica. In 1908.


Mom said they pinned her to a pillow to keep her close by. She must've been teeny tiny at birth, because she was tiny as an adult.

Then, at 18, in 1926, she got pneumonia. Her doctor sat beside her bed and begged her not to die. Only two shots of penicillin were sent to the island and were meant for someone else, but that person died before they got there. The shots were given to my grandmother instead. She went on to outlive all of her immediate family, doctors and friends and died at the ripe old age of 96.

My dad, born in 1933, was what they called a "blue" baby. Apparently my Nanny had rH factor problems after her first child was born and my dad, the third surviving child, could've died. They actually gave him a blood transfusion to save his life. Then later, still as an infant, he got horribly ill with what we think was bronchitis. All of the doctors in the area were at a conference, so none were available to come and help. Someone apparently put a mustard plaster on his chest, but he didn't improve. A cousin who was also a nurse went out to find the one doctor that didn't go to the conference. He came, saw dad was turning blue (Again!), ripped the plaster off and gave him a teaspoon of brandy. Mind you, this was during Prohibition, so that teaspoonful came dearly. The brandy caused him to shudder and cough and breathe again.

Saved by booze.

Then, my parents having met at all was sheer coincidence. Mom was supposed to have left for the US on a piano scholarship in the fall, except that the nun she gave her application papers to didn't submit it. Dad was on assignment to the bank in Jamaica, but was already past his allotted time. He should've only been there for 2 years, but was finishing up his 5th year by the time he met HER. At the bank. So she should've been in the States, but wasn't. A friend of hers told her that a girl had just quit and a position had opened up at the bank and that mom should apply for the job. She did and was hired. Dad showed up a few months later to relieve the bank manager and met mom.

From the stories I've heard, once dad laid eyes on mom he immediately started referring to her as Mrs. Family Name (i.e. where Family Name is my maiden name. Obviously.). Nowadays, we'd call that harassment. Back then? That was flirting. Dad was dead lucky that mom was able to get past his "stuffed shirt" appearance to get to know him.

Their romance is a tale in itself. One day I'll get the whole story. A drunken serenade is involved, so you know it's good!

Our family tales are made of equal parts unlikely happenstance, pathos and comedy.

But maybe that's the stuff of which all of us are made. We just have to live through it and make the most of it while we're here.


Cousin Janet from NY said...

OK I totally loved that story. And do you know how Gramma Emma met Grampa Sam? She was a basketball player (don't ask me - I guess they were under 5' tall back in the 20's) and Grampa & Uncle Joe (or it may have been one of his other brothers) went to see her team play. He liked her & asked her out. She told her mother she wouldn't go out with him - he looked like a "tall drink of water". But then she found out he had a Model T Ford, so she succumbed to his charm. The rest is history.

OhioGirl said...

What amazing stories! I wish I knew more about my family, but neither of my parents were close to their families (whole lotta issues there), so it kind of stops with them. Maybe some day I'll try to research around them...

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