My grandmother, Mary Catherine , born in 1898, left school after eighth grade. One of her first jobs was to mount women’s combs on cards. She married my grandfather, a widowed lawyer with a toddler son, at age 22. She had seven children, four sons and three daughters; she raised her stepson as her own. Tragically one daughter died before she was two. Her husband died when she was 40; her children ranged from 17 to 2. She had lost her parents the year before. There was no social security, no pension, very little insurance. She collected rent from three small apartments in Brooklyn, but the apartments were the source of endless headaches. She worked part-time in a laundromat.
Grandma was a very loving, giving single mother; all her children turned out well–two lawyers, two teachers, a nurse, a social worker, a computer programmer. She was unavailingly there to help out when babies were born, when someone was sick, when someone was in crisis. A very religious women, she was empowered by her deep faith. When she died at age 86, she had 31 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren; most of them attended her funeral because they had loved her so much. She is my inspiration and role model.