Last night my Grandmother, my last Grandparent died. Herself, as we called the matriarch of our sprawling Irish family, was born in 1919, on May 18th. Mary Gladys Costello Hunt was what you might call old time tough. She had 14 children though the youngest never lived to see the outside of the hospital. She raised her kids and grandkids with a slightly distant expectation that you would take care of yourself, and with standards that were tough, but loving.
For her 70th birthday all of the kids and grandkids (who were old enough to do so) wrote stories about her. We put together the Book of Gladys and gave it to her along with a huge party. I’d like to share the story I wrote, as it was and is the best one I have of her.
Rite of Passage
When people talk to each other they sooner or later get around to discussing family. What is your dad’s job? How many brothers and sisters do you have? That kind of chit chat. Me, I have the trump card in these conversations, and I usually save it until the end, that trump card is my Grandmother.
I listen to the remarkable and mostly unremarkable things that they say and then I am ready. My Grandmother had thirteen children; I remark off hand, she has around 67 grandchildren. This leaves most people stunned, and that is the reaction I like, but really it doesn’t go very far toward telling them about Gladys. If they think about it at all they assume she was some kind of baby factory and leave it at that. However to me those two facts speak of an amazing toughness and compassion.