Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Grandma

Today is my grandma's 86th birthday!!!!!
Look at that lush
I decided for her birthday I would write a blog dedicated to her.
She is a very strong independent woman who taught me that if you are in a relationship that isn't working, no matter what, you can get out.
You don't have to stay with someone because you feel it is the right thing to do or because you are afraid of what you are going to do if you are on your own. It took me a while to realise this but now that I do I wish more women would.
This is her story, it's long, but she deserves a long story:
My grandmother Teresa was born September 24th 1926 in Manhattan. Her birth certificate had her name as Female (first name) Hart (last name) as you can imagine through the years this has caused issues even to this day. They don't believe that her name was Female and we've almost had to get lawyers involved because of the new laws to get your drivers licence renewed. Her parents were John J and Kathleen and they had a total of three boys and three girls. The two oldest boys, John and Joseph, died young and Charles lived to old age but after the war he just disappeared and the family didn't discover, until roughly 7 years ago, where he went until two weeks after he had passed away. She had two sisters Rosemarie and Kathleen who are both younger than my grandmother. Sadly Rose passed away about a year ago which was very hard on G.

My grandma with her younger sister Rosemarie and Rose's two kids
My grandma grew up on St. Nicholas in Manhattan then when she was about 6 years old her family moved up state and lived on a farm. Times became pretty tough in that area so about 1940 her father decided to take another shot at Manhattan so he packed up the family and moved them back. During High School she worked at RKO Theaters as an usher. While working at the theater she started having health issues and the doctor informed her she needed to either quit working or quit school. With times being tough and having to help the family she dropped out of school and kept working. She met her first husband, Joseph Daw, about 1942 or 43 while working at the theater he was 10 years older than her, dapper, and a snazzy dresser. He was in the military so because of the war he was overseas and nothing happened.
She left the theater and started working at the Post Office for a while. After the Post Office she worked at Norden Bombsite until it closed when the Japanese surrendered.
Joe came back about 1945 and they married in 1946.
She worked at Emerson Radio as a book keeper and while being married to Joe she had 6 children, Melody Michael John Robert Kerry(my mom) and Anthony, and they lived in a two bedroom apartment.
R to L: Tony, John, Robert, Grandma

R to L: Michael, Kerry, Grandma, Melody, Tony
Sadly Joe was an alcoholic and had some issues which caused a bad home life. The family had hardly any money for those times and lived off of food stamps and pinching pennies. They kids helped take care of each other and just helped out where they could. Grandma worked nights PT at SH Kress and was there for about 6 years until someone she worked with got her a full time job at Dry Dock Savings Bank.
Grandma finally had had enough at home and got the strength to kick Joe out. She was now a single woman with 6 children (the oldest were in their teens) living alone in New York and the family survived.
About 1967 while working at the bank grandma met Jim. He was married and worked part time at the bank and his brother worked with my grandmother. They would go out to lunch as a group often and just started to get to know each other better. Jim divorced his wife and my grandmother, after being separated for years, finally filed for divorce from Joe. They started seriously seeing each other and Jim of course met the kids and my mom thought he was just a great. 
Jim was over 6 feet tall, great laugh, about 10 years older than my grandmother, and was one of the warmest people you would ever met.
I asked my grandmother what made her fall for Jim she replied with 
"He was kind, considerate, thoughtful, and love the kids." He loved my mom because the first time he called the house she answered the phone and just heard this deep deep voice and yelled to grandma that John Wayne was on the phone.
Jim had three adult sons and decided to move grandma to New Jersey so that they could be closer. This caused issues because the three youngest still lived at home and were in middle school and high school and didn't want to leave their friends. Jim found my grandma an apartment for her and the kids to live in while he lived in his house with his kids.
This blew my mind.
They were together for 10 years....10 years! and didn't live together. Crazy.
Jim treated my grandmother like gold, plain and simple. He wanted to give her the world and just to make her happy. He asked her once what she wanted and she replied with marry him, a diamond ring, a house, a fireplace, live in Florida, and a fur coat.

G and Jim
He gave her all of those things and more.
They would come down to Sarasota and vacation from time to time and with him getting older and her moving from job to job they decided it was time to move. They came down in 1976, met with a realtor and the next day purchased the house I grew up in. They moved down here with my Uncle Tony, he was in his senior year of high school, and just started their lives together. They finally got married and it was that love that just everyone knew was right.
 My mom had me and being a single mom in Manhattan with a job that wasn't too stable due to bank take overs she called my grandparents and asked what they thought about her going back to school and her being a nurse. She mentioned that this would mean a little kid (me of course). While on the phone without even thinking Jim responded with, "The tickets will be in the mail." My mom tells me that they weren't really sure that the two of us were really going to be staying until they saw my baby doll's stroller on the conveyor belt.
I remember my grandfather...Pop Pop...Jim...and he was a great man. He was rough and gritty but a giant softy and made my grandmother happier than anyone could be. Almost every day I would wake up and the cartoons would be on with my tiny table and chair, a bowl of cereal and some orange juice. He would sit me on the big table and tie my shoes, he would give me sips of wine or tastes of his ice cream, tried to teach me how to cook, he gave me a love of music and so much more. He is the type of man I hope to one day find because he treated this family wonderfully and I'm so happy after such a hard first marriage she found him.
He was diagnosed with Emphysema and sadly died on May 5th 1992. I was 5 and in New York with my mom for my Uncle's wedding. The night before he was rushed to the hospital my mom and I had watched Ghost together. My mom told me the next morning that he had passed and I of course, with my smart little 5 year old mind, asked if the black things like in the movie had taken Pop Pop away. My mom replied with "Nope, it was the light."
I wish they had had more time together but they had their love and not a day goes by that I don't think that he is with her.
My mom and I ended up staying with my grandmother and I grew up with two moms. Grandma never let me feel unloved, she helped my mom raise me and I am so grateful for it. I am one of those few people who are blessed enough to have grown up with their grandparent 24/7.
Me and G when I was 16 ?

G at her 85th Birthday party last year
Grandma worked in banks all over the area until about 10 years ago and she decided to retire. It didn't last very long and she got a part time job at the YMCA. She works from 5am to 10am 4 days a week, opening the gym and folding towels and checking members in. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's about 5 or 6 years ago and still works and keeps with her routine.
Grandma and My Mom
 I didn't grow up with a dad, I didn't need to. I grew up with two amazing strong women as my parents and I couldn't have asked for a better upbringing. Teresa has lived through the great depression, WW2, a blood disease, a very bad first marriage, raising 6 children practically on her own, losing the love of her life, losing two children, and now living with Parkinson's. She still has that fire and warmth and keeps pushing through, not giving up.
Today is your birthday Female Ruth Teresa Hart Daw Fennelly and I love you more than you could ever imagine.


Hallie said...

I ADORE this:)
you are soo awesome, and obviously I see why after reading about this AHMAZING women:)

Happy Birthday "G"

Rachel said...

I'm your newest follower via the GFC hop! I really loved this post! I actually decided after reading it that I needed to call my own Grandmother (just got off the phone with her!). Thanks for celebrating Grandmas!


Lauren Daw said...

Wow brie that was a really amazing story, I now know so much more:)

reneemonster said...

Wow. I have met your Grandma so many times and never thought to ask her story! It really makes you think that everyone came from somewhere and has a story to share. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share in your grandmother's amazing story.

bonnie c said...


You are an amazing young woman, but I would never have had any doubt that you would be considering you were brought up by two amazing women....your mom who I love dearly and miss even more and your grandmother!!