My parents generation is disappearing. So many of our friends have lost their parents this year. In my own family there is only one of my mom's cousins left (there were 8 of them). These cousins grew up together until half of the clan headed to Florida. It was a family headed by my great grandfather, who was reportedly a lady's man and an SOB. (My uncle Danny, when he was about 5, saw his grandfather heading up the driveway, and repeating what he heard from the rest of the family, said "Here come's the old SOB"! So I have it on good authority!)
My great grandmother was the heart of the family...a lovely Irish-Catholic woman, Catherine, who both my mom and sister are named after. She was one of a large family of mostly sisters, the "Murphy girls", most of whom never married and had careers and lived together. My mom loved the Murphy sisters, spending many of her summers there when she was young. As she drifted into dementia, these were some of her strongest memories. My sister and I wearied of hearing the stories of the Murphy's over and over again, but now I'm glad we have those. One of the sisters was a baker, one a seamstress, another a nurse, one was the assistant to the city coroner, and one took care of the house (the wife to the rest). They were "lace-curtain" Irish, and my mom claimed that they were the ones who taught her how to properly set a table, have good manners and enjoy good food. They wanted to have her stay with them and go to a Catholic girls school in the city, but her mother pulled her out and wouldn't let her attend. We still have the "bishop's chair" that sat in their parlor and was reserved for the bishop's exclusive use when he came to visit.
My great grandmother was the only one of the Murphy girls to marry and lived in Oakmont. She had 5 children. One of those was my grandfather, named Daniel, like his father and he had two kids, my mom and her brother, also named Daniel. The cousins grew up in Oakmont and my great grandmother's house was the center of activity. My mom tells of her yelling out the back door for the grand-kids: "Buckey-Kate-Danny-Danny-Mary Alice", a bunch ofl their names rolled into one. I think my mom thought of how wonderful her grandmother was and used her as a role model for how she grandmothered my own children and my niece. My mom spoke of vacations they would take to Lake Erie, with her cousins, packing in the car in the middle of the night to drive up.
The vacation tradition continued into the next generation. We would visit our cousins (second and third cousins to us) in Florida or Georgia, or meet half way in North Carolina for huge Thanksgiving celebrations. But as we got older, we've seen them less and less of them (with the exception of my brother living in Florida.)
And now my uncle, Danny has passed. He and my mom were very close. They grew up with a father who, my mom said, was a great dad but probably not the best husband: a charming salesman who liked the ladies. As a result, my grandmother left my mom and uncle (and my grandfather) when my uncle was about 13 or 14 and my mom was 17. My mother didn't really get along with her mom, but my uncle was his mom's pride and joy, her "pretty boy". So he was really broken up by the desertion and my mom took over as mother and sister. She was supposed to go to college, but gave up these plans when this happened.
So Danny was always an important part of our lives. Both my grandfather and Danny lived with my parents when they got married. My older brother talks of sharing his room with Danny when he was an infant, Danny in the bed, he in the bassinet. Danny used to come at lunch to visit mom and he taught my sister to play pool. She was only 5 but he would bring a stool up to the pool table so she could see over it and learn to shoot. She got so good in a year, that she was able to beat my brothers (she was 5 and they were 8 and 12!) My sister remembers going over to Danny's house and playing with his boys, wrestling, and rough housing, which she never did with my own brothers. It was her time to be a tomboy. Both my sister and I danced with Danny at our weddings, just after the father-daughter dance, as he was like a second father to us.
My parents moved to Florida for a number of years, and though I didn't like them living so far from us, the one positive about it was that Danny was down there. And since we would go down to see my parents, my boys got to know him and love him as much as I did. He would take them out in the golf carts and return, raving about what a crazy driver my oldest was. He had a great relationship with my youngest, baiting him on and teasing him. I remember the laughter of the two of them sitting on the couch, playing this "shut the box" game, with Danny being so silly and my youngest, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.
We held a memorial for my mom in Florida in August and we had scheduled it there primarily so Danny could be there. The day before we all flew down, Danny fell and broke his hip. His heart was not strong enough for surgery. My brother, sister and niece, saw him in the hospital on Friday and were able to speak to him. My husband and younger son and I arrived late Friday and decided we'd go into the hospital and see him on Saturday after the memorial. Well, just as we were wrapping up the reception, we found out that Danny was in intensive care. We all went over to see him, going in to visit in pairs. Unfortunately, he couldn't communicate with us as he was connected to a forced air breathing apparatus. It was so frustrating to see him trying to communicate with us and not being able to understand him. I felt so badly that we hadn't gone in the night before when he could have spoken to us. We went back again that night and he was doing even more poorly.
We returned north on Sunday and Danny passed away a few days later. They had a service for him in Florida and one in Oakmont just this past weekend. Danny was the kind of man who made you feel loved and special. When my husband and son and I were driving from the Orlando airport to the Villages in August, anticipating seeing Danny, we were talking and reminiscing about him. Bobby asked if my other siblings felt badly because I was obviously Danny's favorite of them all. I laughed and cried at the same time. Because with Danny, each of us knew absolutely, that WE were really his favorite.