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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Names I Used for Grandparents

Randy at Genea-Musings brings up an interesting topic in the genea-blogsphere: What names did you use in addressing your grand-parents while growing up? What do or did your children use? Your grandchildren?

Abraham MacEntee (paternal grandfather)
I never had the privilege of meeting my grandfather on my father's side. I do know that he and my grandmother may have been separated since when I saw my grandmother, she was on her own.

Loretta Slattery MacEntee (paternal grandmother)
I only met her a few times, despite her living about 40 miles away. It probably had quite a bit to with the fact that my mother had divorced my father and we really didn't stay in touch with my father's side of the family except for a few of his brothers and sisters.

Alfred Austin (maternal grandfather)
I knew my grandfather somehwat and called him Grandpa. Other of my cousins used the word Poppy. Using Grandpa was confusing since that is what I called my great-grandfather, John Ralph Austin, with whom I was much closer.

My family has a very tortured (literally) past with my mother's father. It is difficult to go into and is almost never discussed by the family except for a brave few. My mother saw to it that there was little interaction between her father and my brother and I with good reason due to sexual and physical abuse issues in the past. I never understood the distance as a child but I now realize not only what my mother endured as a child, but also what she did to protect her children.

Anna Henneberg Austin (maternal grandfather)
My grandmother died when I was 2 1/2 years old but I do remember her being called Nana or Nanny. This was probably due to her German background. My grandmother had been abandoned by her husband, Alfred Austin, and died of a cerebral hemmoragh at age 53.

Jean Rose Austin (maternal grandfather's second wife)
Soon after my grandmother Anna Heneberg Austin died, my grandfather married Jean Rose, making her his second wife. I called her Aunt Jean and was told to do so by my mother. Because of the distance between me and my grandfather, naturally I didn't get to know Aunt Jean very well. Secretly, I liked her but sadly wasn't allowed to express that as a child. She was a spit-fire! Short, about 5 foot tall, smoked unflitered cigarettes like a chimney, and was not shy about sharing her opinion. My kinda gal!! Although I might not agree with her, she had spunk and was what we called "ballsy."

John Ralph Austin (maternal grandfather's father)
One of the biggest influences in my life and I called him Grandpa. I consider myself fortunate to have had him in my life before he passed in 1977. He and my great-grandmother would tell me stories of life in New York during the first half of the 20th century and I was always enchanted. Curiously, my mother (and her 11 siblings) called him Pa.

Therese McGinnis Austin (maternal grandfather's mother)
An even bigger influence on me than her husband and I called her Grandma while my mother called her Ma. She taught me how to behave, which fork to use, how to be excused from a table, how to greet adults, etc. Spending time with her - be it an overnight or two weeks in the summer - was like going to charm school and college all wrapped into one.

An imposing person at over six feet tall, she was like Julia Child but much funnier in my view. She always had an opinion on something and had great stories to tell. Her 1840s farmhouse was my second home and I miss both her and it. What I remember most is her smell - she wore Emeraude and you could always smell it, faintly like a light touch, when you went to hug her.

Nowadays if a woman walks past me wearing Emeraude, I go into a trance and am transported back to her dining room with its banjo clock, green floral wallpaper, blue ceiling and old dutch plank doors. I can almost hear myself saying, "Grandma tell me about the time . . ."

1 comments:

Lidian said...

What a lovely person your great grandmother Therese sounds like!

Thank you for your kind comment today - yes, I love James Lileks. I have another site, Kitchen Retro (link on Dime Museum sidebar) where I write about food as regrettable as that that is in his gallery.