Monday, November 30, 2015

'That's my girl!'

Finally got around to deciphering a letter my maternal grandfather sent my mother for her 21st birthday in 1958. The cheque for 21 dollars he sent would have been worth roughly £7 ten shillings. A pint of plain cost 1 shilling 6d back then, she could have bought almost a hundred pints, (the sums working that out nearly killed me, and yes, I know it's easy...). Except she didn't drink back then, women rarely frequentd pubs, many of them were men only, and women earned on average 48% less than their male couterparts.

Grandad was a typesetter with the Irish Independent, he went to Detroit in the 50s to gain experience on a new litho machine operating in The Freeman's Journal. He lived there for a number of years and, times being what they were, didn't get home often. UncleTommy was 15 at  the time of the letter and he and my mother clashed constantly. I'm quite sure it was her fault - she had a ferociously quick temper, like her own mother. Tommy was more like Grandad; a funny, gentle, peace keeping man.

Mam and Dad (Seamus) married in October the following year. Thankfully Grandad came home for the wedding. The letter kickstarted a novel I've been working on - on and off, for a number of years, it's based on the time Grandad was in Detroit, 'cept I'm giving him an affair with a younger American female journalist! G'wan the Grandad!.

All of the Kennedys of Glandore Road are dead now, and all barring Grandma died young. Mammy only got another 33 years, not the 79 Grandad wished for her. Tommy was the last to go, he died a few years ago. I discussed the novel with him before he died and, while none of us have the faintest idea what Grandad's life was like in Detroit, Tommy approved of my granting Grandad a tempestuous love affair. If I ever finish it it will e dedicated to The Kennedys of Glandore Road.

 See text of letter and original below. Any errors mine.


My darling Elizabeth,

     I am sending this a wee bit early just so that if there is something special you wish to buy for your ‘21st’ you will have it in good time.

     The  cheque for twenty one dollars is to represent a dollar for each year. You have made me so proud to be able to say ‘that’s my girl!’. And proud of you, I really am - and always shall be, because I know you will never do anything to make me feel otherwise about you.

     It seems such a short time since you were just a wee baby. The years are flying and my earnest wish is that yourself and Seamus will have as happy a life as your Mam and I have had, and that you may be blessed with as lovely a family as God has given to us. My one regret is that I am not with you in person to wish you a Happy Birthday.

     Now, I know I should not, particularly in this letter, strike what may seem a discordant note, I am going to ask you to do one little thing for me.

      I know that Tommy and yourself do have little differences of opinion, and upset each other from time to time. Don’t forget, that in doing so you can upset your Mammy even more so than yourselves. Now I am laying blame nowhere, it’s just one of those things, and I know that Tommy and you will get together for my sake and be real good pals. I know the difference in your ages makes that difficult but you will both do it. 

     You know honey, when you are separated from your family – it is then, and only then, that you really appreciate each and every member of the family.  I know you both love each other deeply, all you have to do is to show it.

So now ‘left arm’ – for that’s as useful to me as my ‘right arm’, loads of love and I hope you have a wonderful birthday- at least another 79 to follow. 

Dad xxxxx

 PS I should also say thanks to Mam for giving you to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment