This Mother’s Day, my family will be holding dear to the memory of my maternal grandmother, Dorothy Rose Nolan, who died on March 19 at the age of 91. “Dotty,” as she was known to family and friends, was as unflappable in daily life as she was fiercely devoted to her family.
For one thing, Dotty would eat lunch at the Massapequa Park Senior Community Service Center as if she were dining at a Michelin 3-star restaurant. On one occasion when I joined her, lunch was fish and chips, macaroni and cheese, and a carton of milk. Grandma Nolan’s friends quickly forgot their bingo and gossip when the lunch trays arrived — with one thing missing, tartar sauce. All of them refused to eat, but not Grandma. Grandma sat there, eyes on the prize, and wiped her plate clean. Then, in true Grandma Nolan fashion, she asked where she could find the bread and butter.
Grandma’s unflappability at times veered toward fearlessness. That time we were shopping at the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst and a man robbed the jewelry store? Grandma had us hide behind a shoe rack in Payless so we could catch the action! In the excitement, she got caught on the rack and started to bleed. Blood scares me, never Grandma. Bad guys scare me, too, but apparently not Grandma.
I again witnessed Grandma’s fearlessness when she broke her shoulder. The doctor told us that at her age, she would not regain full range of motion. This meant that such daily tasks as combing the back of her hair could no longer be completed independently. Unwilling to accept this, Grandma used physical therapy as well as a self-made pulley contraption on the doorknob of her front door in Wantagh to improve her strength. Grandma was able to defy the odds, prove the doctor wrong and regain full range of motion in her shoulder.
For all that I admired about Grandma, what she admired most were her children and grandchildren. Her children — Uncle Billy, Aunt Dorothy and my mother, Barbara — were “the best” children a mother could have. They are also the most beautiful and handsome people in the world, all of this according to Grandma! As for her grandchildren, my cousins and I, even the smallest things we did made her proud. Like driving her and sitting with her at the senior center, or trying on our prom dresses and suits for her. If you are still not convinced: This woman’s wardrobe consisted of a rotating collection of 20 white sweatshirts, each featuring a different group photograph of her grandchildren on the front.
They say that it is not the quantity but the quality of time with a person that counts. On this Mother’s Day, I am thankful to have had 27 years with my grandmother — all of which involved lots talking, laughing and, of course, eating! That quality time spent with my grandmother is what I will hold onto and be grateful for each and every Mother’s Day.
Jenna Rose Cavuto,
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