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The Women In My Life

The Women in My Life

National Woman's Day huh? Well, I grew up in a matriarchal family. My maternal grandmother Gussie (aka Nana), born in 1885 and lived until 1982, passing away at 97 after eating too much seafood. What a way to go! She taught me how to garden, how to clean up after you cut the lawn, how to paint, how to mix cement, famous lessons: "You can always put more water in, you can't take it back out." When I got dirt in my mouth, "You have to eat a bushel of dirt before you die." (My retort: "Yeah, but not all at once.")

Nana lived with my grandfather and namesake Frank Louis Jockers who I never knew except through my Nan, and their daughter my Aunt Meam, short for Muriel. Meam contracted polio and wore steel braces on both her legs so she could walk, and drive, and paint, and garden, and do everything my grandfather expected her to do, like drive him to work every day. Meam was the one person in my life who gave the unconditional love. To all of us, all of her "children" her nieces and nephews and our children.

Meam was one of those people who was so genuine, she made you feel welcome the moment you met her, leaving her feeling like you knew her your whole life. A strong woman who never married, but lived with her mom and dad, and then her mom, my Nana until she died. Meam lived in Florida, and when she knew I was coming to visit (which I did often) she would always make sure she had my favorite foods in the fridge and cereals in the closet. Never mastered the Aunt Meam's omelet, a quarter inch thick yellow circle begging for butter, syrup and powdered sugar. Or her "Aunt Minnie" ice cream stirred up with a spoon until it was as smooth as custard.

And my mom, Joan, or Joan Ann, as my father so affectionately called her. He worshipped the ground she walked on. She never went to college, back in those days, women usually did not. She worked for American Airlines, married my dad, had two kids, my sister, 18 months later me, and 8 years later my younger sister with whom she now resides. My mom was well read, and bright (still is at 94), and always found interesting jobs; Mimi Benzel an opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera - her correspondence secretary , Office managed for James Roosevelt, Franklin D's son, Publisher's Clearing House (yes THAT Publisher's Clearing House) in Port Washington where we grew up.

My Nan, Meam, and Mom all wanted us to be around them, and wanted to be around us, on the suburban street we all lived on in Long Island, on the lake in New England where we spent summers, and in one of their many homes in Fort Lauderdale Florida. They loved us, and gave to us, and sacrificed for us, and contributed to our childhoods, and college educations, and to our own families. Smart women, independent women, strong women, and I am better for knowing them, loving them and growing up in their shadow.

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