JimFormation · I’ve Been Thinking …

I am the product of a “broken home.” Only I never quite knew it. Nan made sure, somehow, that I had the most normal life a goof-ball boy could have.

She died in 2001. I think about her every day. These are only some of the things that my Nan is.

5 February 2009

This Is Nan

When my parents could no longer take care of my sister and me, Nan and Pop stepped up and took us in. From the time that I was eight-years-old, they were my parents.

Nan was a tough bird. She raised my real grandmother’s children; they called her “Aunt Ida.” My real grandmother told her children (four boys, two girls), “I may be your mother, but you listen to Aunt Ida.”

Nan never told me that she loved me, but I never doubted her love. None of us did.

These are some of the notes that I wrote as I was sitting next to her hospital bed the day before she died:

Nan is one of thirteen children born and raised in a poor section of Baltimore, Maryland.

Nan is a white woman named after one of her mom’s best friends, a black woman, Ida Mae. This was in 1913.

Nan is the woman whom my daughter is named after.

Nan is the woman whom Pop married. He brought her to New Jersey.

Nan had no biological children, but took in many step-children.

Nan is the woman that went back to that impoverished Baltimore neighborhood to take two of her ill, pregnant sister’s children back to New Jersey to ease the pain of poverty.

Nan is the woman who, tears in her eyes, turned the car around and picked up her pregnant sister and three other children and brought them back to her home in New Jersey.

Nan is the other mom of her sister’s six children. She raised them. They are hers.

Nan is the woman who nursed her ill sister in her home. For years. Until her sister died in that home in 1965.

Nan is the woman who was the other mom to my mom.

Nan is the woman who told the judge that she’d break my mom’s neck if she tried to come take back the children. I was one of the children.

Nan is the person who the judge trusted to raise two more children: me and my sister.

Nan is mom when you don’t have a mom anymore. But Nan never lets you forget your mother. Or father.

Nan is my mom. I am hers. I am lucky.

Nan is dinner at 5 o’clock every evening for the thirty-seven years of my life. And for twenty-five years before my life.

Nan is home. Sitting her chair. Watching her family as we grow. Always.

Nan is on the phone catching up on aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends.

Nan is on the phone passing on the news.

Nan is the hub of many worlds.

Nan is there where you’re sick with chicken soup, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and tea.

Nan is the one who will tell you right from wrong. Because Nan knows.

Nan is the business end of a wooden spoon when you’ve done wrong.

Nan is a quick thimble-sheathed noogie when you haven’t done wrong. Or, as she would say, when she didn’t catch you doing wrong.

Nan knows everything about you. Seriously. She does.

Nan is the person who lets you know.

Nan makes you rich when you’re as poor as can be. She humbles you when you feel bigger than you are.

Nan is an iron fist and an open hand.

Nan never asked for anything.

Nan gave everything.

Nan is always there. Always.

Nan is a green, flowered dress.

Nan is the net under the tightrope of life.

Nan is one of my True Loves.


If you liked that, you might like one of these:

  1. On Being a Parent
  2. How Not To Die
  3. Ten Quick Questions
  4. Girls, Girls, Girls


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Posted by
5 February 2009 @ 4pm

What a remarkable woman. You are very lucky to have had her in your life.

Posted by
Sami Ann
5 February 2009 @ 4pm

Always Uncle Jim… you always make me cry…..

Posted by
7 February 2009 @ 2am

“Shit in one hand, Wish in the other”
~ Nan

Posted by
11 February 2009 @ 8pm

I liked your Nan when I “met” her through your Twitter post. Now that I’ve got to “know” her better, I really like her. I like to think that if more people were or are like your Nan the world would be so much the better for it. She’s lucky to have made such a mark on your life and memories.

Posted by
11 February 2009 @ 11pm

I think I remember this from awhile back. Or, somehow, I divined it. It’s good.

[...] for him (as I told him) and he was the conversationalist that you would imagine and we talked about Nan and Pop … and ancient mirrors hanging and jujitsu (as I laughed because I cannot imagine such [...]

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