Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anne's Ashes

Well, Frank McCourt passed away the other day. He will be missed. I certainly liked Angela’s Ashes, but I was disturbed by its undercurrent of self-pity, and if it was tolerable in that book, it rather disfigured his others. And though I am a Stuyvesant graduate, I never had him as an English teacher, and the scuttlebutt among my friends was that he was the sort of teacher who was most interested in hearing the sound of his own voice. Whatever.

Well, Frank McCourt passed away the other day. He will be missed. I certainly liked Angela’s Ashes, but I was disturbed by its undercurrent of self-pity, and if it was tolerable in that book, it rather disfigured his others. And though I am a Stuyvesant graduate, I never had him as an English teacher, and the scuttlebutt among my friends was that he was the sort of teacher who was most interested in hearing the sound of his own voice. Whatever.

Today I want to write about someone else born in Brooklyn of Irish extraction, who also recently passed away, my mother-in-law, Anne Kenney DeLuca. She was, in her voice, in her mannerisms, in her interests, her predilections, her eccentricities, New York Irish. Her father was an Irishman working on the Caledonian Railway in Scotland, where she met her mother, the daughter of the Catholic undertaker of Motherwell, near Glasgow. They moved to the United States in 1908, settled in Brooklyn, of whom, Anne, the sixth, was the youngest. She grew up in Flatbush, and thereafter moved to Suffern, New York, and after she married Louis DeLuca, to Bristol, Pa., outside of Philadelphia, and thence to Levittown (PA), and then, in the mid-1970s, to a farm in Addison, NY, near Corning, where these two urbanites and suburbanites spent twenty years growing and tending to crops and flocks. They moved to Corning in 1997. Lou died in 1999.

Anne was vibrant till the end. On our last visit, on the 4th of July, she gave her theories on the death of Michael Jackson, on the best fish fries in the greater Corning area (and offered the opinion that she never understood why the church had abandoned meatless Fridays in the 1960s), talked about the Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra (she was a lover of playing the horses all her life, and often spoke of the time she met the legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. ) She wasn’t in good health, but her death was sudden and quite unexpected. She loved to tell the story of her cousin, Eugene Daly, an Irishman who immigrated to the United States in April 1912 on that most ill-fated of ships, the Titanic, and lived to tell the tale. It represented her philosophy of life. Life has its ups and downs, but even if you hit the occasional iceberg, just keep your wits about you, and you will probably live to tell the tale, and drinking a beer while telling it. She was fun-loving and vibrant to the end. During her funeral, which was lovely, the priest’s cellphone went off, not once, but twice. When my wife Jane began her eulogy, she laughed and said her mom would have gotten a real kick out of the cellphones, and everyone in the church, including the priest, had a good laugh. Like Frank McCourt, she will be missed.

2 comments:

L'Archivista said...

Peter, please convey my sympathies to Jane. Your late mother-in-law sounds like a lively, interesting, engaging woman, and I can't begin to imagine how Jane must feel. And please take care of yourself, too.

Andrew said...

Your late mother-in-law sounds like a lively


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Andrew
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