My grandma was the best “figure-outer” I have ever known. She completed the crossword puzzle every day, was a fiercely competitive card player, and always got the maximum number of cookies cut out of a rolling of the dough. Grandma was a meticulous seamstress who could alter any pattern for the perfect fit.
She never used a calculator to balance her checkbook. Often, the number associations Grandma would think up seemed convoluted to others, like the code to get into her building (“The first and last numbers are eight and the first two numbers add up to ten, while the second two add up to fifteen…” – it was easier to memorize the four digits out-right), but she loved to solve problems and see connections between numbers, letters, and people.
Eight years ago today I was sitting in the chapel at my grandma’s funeral. As the service began, I remember I tried to think about anything that would not make me cry. This would be a challenge, but the first thing that came to mind was how there was a pretty good crowd for the funeral that Monday morning in April. Not that Grandma would have been too concerned with how many people turned out, but she would have liked to see the family all together and old friends there to pay their respects.
Next, it dawned on me that April 26th was my grandparent’s wedding anniversary. I immediately thought of their wedding photograph:
Agnes McMahon and John Regan - April 26, 1941
Grandma would have liked this over-lapping of important dates. I wrote about my grandparents and their 70th wedding anniversary last year – click here to read more.
At the luncheon following the service, I met Francis Byrne, my grandpa’s cousin. After an adorable story about my grandma helping him out of a bind in the 1960s when his daughter was stung by a bee, Francis said, “You know, Agnes and John came to visit my mom and dad in Pine River while on their honeymoon. I remember I brought them out to the sanatorium where I was working. I think I took a picture of the two of them…”
Honeymooners - 1941
As I chatted with Francis, I began to piece a few things together. My grandma always told me how on their honeymoon, my grandpa’s Aunt Nellie Byrne gave my grandma a recipe for banana bread. It was the recipe Grandma always used and passed on to my mom and me. When I asked Francis if he remembered his mother’s banana bread, his eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, it was delicious!”
I made a new friend that day in Francis. Whenever I see him, I remember how much he helped me get through that difficult day and subsequent years, and I always bring him a couple of loaves of his mother’s banana bread. I think my grandma would have appreciated this connection as well.
Thinking back, my grandma was a total perfectionist (maybe with a little OCD!) but to me she was just the perfect grandma. We all miss her very much.
Agnes Regan is buried in Clontarf, with her husband John W. Regan and Cornelius and Annie Regan, her in-laws.