, Newburyport, MA


April 7, 2014

A fine, gentle man

Sixty-seven years ago in the Green Mountain State of Vermont, winter stubbornly refused to relinquish its ruthless reign over the frozen land. Just 40 miles south of the Canadian border, lethargic blankets of snow covered vast pastures and hillsides, nestled snuggly between city sidewalks and streets, and quietly surrounded the hospital building where my paternal grandfather lay desperately sick.

In March of 1947, just one month before my dad’s 11th birthday, his 33-year-old father would tragically pass away, leaving him and my aunt fatherless and his mother longing for happier days when she thought nothing could ever go wrong.

At the time of my grandfather’s death, my 28-year-old grandmother struggled to provide the bare necessities for her children, depending on factory work and the kindness of family and neighbors. Her childhood dream of becoming an English teacher seemed absurd as the harsh reality of being a widowed working mother sank in.

Thankfully, in that same year, my grandmother would fall in love and marry for a second time, leaving the arduous past behind her. They would share 12 wonderful years together until he lost a horrific battle with nasal cavity cancer, when he, like my grandfather, was a mere 33 years old.

In the early 1960s, my grandmother would find love one last time. He was a neighbor who was, as she recalls, not only a good man, but “a fine gentleman.” Tom joined the ranks of our family two years before I was born.

As a navigator for a freighter, Tom had traveled the world extensively, which meant that he had put love and family on hold. However, by age 39, he was ready to abandon his love affair with the sea and settle down. With no children of his own, he had no experience with babies, until I came along. My grandmother can still remember how amazed she was when my mother placed me Tom’s arms; he took to me right away.

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