At a political meeting in Detroit back in the 70s I had breakfast with the guy reported to have coined “Don’t trust anyone over 30” during the Berkeley free speech turmoil of the 60s. By the time of that breakfast we had both turned 30.
Over the Christmas holidays in 1968 my youngest brother Jim told me that I was over the hill because I had just turned 25. He turned 65 this September.
When my sister Kate reminded me of Jim’s birthday, I started reminiscing about that event. Many things changed for our family in 1951. In the spring we moved out of the South End of Bridgeport, Connecticut into Black Rock. Our house on Cottage Street was becoming too small for us. We had moved there when my father left the Army-Air Force after World War II. The family (mother, father, two toddlers) lived on the first two floors, and my parents rented out an apartment on the third floor to help with expenses. By 1950 we were a family of six, then seven with our grandfather’s moving in to live with us, to grow to eight in 1951 with the arrival of a new baby. We needed a bigger house.
After we moved, I finished second grade at Sacred Heart school with the help of my father’s friend Eli Burke, who drove me every day for the last week between our new house on Ellsworth Street and school on the corner of Park and South Avenues. In the 1960s Eli would marry the widow of my father’s brother Edwin.
The Connecticut Turnpike now towers over the structure that housed Sacred Heart parochial school. In years to come my father represented residents fighting to keep this road from decimating their neighborhoods. The school building is now used by the Mercy Learning Center, which provides education for adult women. Even though I don’t see any religious affiliations on the list of board and staff members, I don’t think it’s coincidental that my teachers belonged to the Sisters of Mercy. Their old convent is now used to provide shelter to homeless veterans.
I started third grade in St. Ann school shortly before Jim was born in September. We were taught by the Daughters of Charity, who still wore the large white cornettes for which they were famous. The black-and-white habits of the Sisters of Mercy struck awe in my first and second grade heart.
But the added height and wing-span of the cornette was positively fearsome.
Despite her habit, Sister Mary William made me feel welcome. I particularly glowed with pride when she praised the Daly’s for getting their new son baptized before my classmate Kathleen Basta’s baby brother was. (Kathleen was one of three red-heads with whom I went through grammar and high schools. Unfortunately she died a few years ago. I blogged about the other two earlier this year.)
Hearing that Jim was born 65 years ago brought back this stream of memories. As I basked again in the glow of Sister Mary William’s praise, I remembered something else. Laura was born in 1951. Laura would have turned 65 this year, on this coming Monday October 3rd.
At first I felt somewhat guilty that I had not thought about Laura first. But then I realized that this reaction just shows the evolution of my grief, not a lack of caring. In the first few years after Laura died I was quite concerned with capturing every detail of the story of her illness and death. Hence all the posts that started this blog. Lately I’ve been thinking more about all the happy times of our courtship and marriage. I’ve been smiling at the memory of her laughter, particularly on her birthdays which she always celebrated. So I’m celebrating. Happy Birthday, Laura.
- Apologies to Paul McCartney for changing his lyrics. And, for the record, he’s now 74.