Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of my grandmother, Bridget Houlihan Hynes.
|My 29-year-old grandmother in 1948|
with my mother, age two.
I was very lucky: I got to know my grandmother as an adult, which is not something I take for granted; she died when I was 30. I was student teaching in New York City, and it would be less than a year before I'd graduate with a degree in English, one that would allow me to teach. Among other things, I was so disappointed she died when she did: I had really wanted a picture of my grandmother, my mother, and me - three generations of teachers.
My grandmother had been a math teacher at a time when it was an oddity for a woman to attend college for the first time as late as she did (I believe she was in her 40s, possibly her early 50s, when she began college). She received an undergraduate degree from Cedar Crest College and a master's degree from Lehigh University. My mom's father didn't have much formal education himself but thought that, if his wife wanted a few college degrees and teach, well, of course she should do just that. My grandmother retired in 1985 after teaching for ten years. As a means of comparison, I'm not sure my dad's parents finished elementary school.
Because I was going through a teacher education program at the time of her death, my grandmother and I would talk about teaching; I would tell her about my coursework and she would tell me about her experiences teaching, including her remembering being taught about how to lay out her classroom, even seating, which surprised her; she hadn't realized the importance of seating and things that, once you gain some experience, you put more thought into. She told me that she most enjoyed teaching 6th grade.
My grandmother died of cancer, and my mother, who lived locally, would stay with her on the weekends. My aunt Anne, who lived in upstate New York, would come down for one week to stay with and care for my grandmother; my mother would stay with and care for her on the weekends; and my uncle Patrick, who lived in Virginia, would stay with and care for her the next week. (In other words, my aunt and uncle alternated weeklong care while my mother covered the weekends.) My mother called me at 6 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, October11, 2006, to tell me that my grandmother had died.
I turned 40 in February, so I've been thinking about milestones lately. On my 30th birthday, I submitted the paperwork for the SUNY Urban Teacher Education Center, a program designed to allow students to fulfill their student teaching experiences in New York City. It took me nearly nine years to find a full-time teaching job, but at age 40, I was teaching full-time. In the meantime, I finished my undergraduate degree, got married, started and completed a graduate degree, started my teaching career, and began an ESL endorsement. I wish I could have shared these things with my grandmother.