Thursday, February 10, 2011


My dad died when I was 18 months old.  I have no memory of him.  We called him "Daddy up in Heaven" and still do to this day to distinguish him from my father, Jack.  My mother worked for the New York Telephone Company in New York City; she was an operator in the Chrysler Building.  Her family lived in Cliffside Park, NJ a short journey over the George Washington Bridge.  My dad's family was from Manhattan, actually Harlem. All four of my grandparents were Irish immigrants who came to the United States around the 20's.

My mother heard at work about a party at someone's apartment on Friday night and that there would be a bunch of Irish guys there.  She went with a few friends and sure enough, Irish guys.  One of them walked up to her.  He was tall, thin with brownish red hair, green eyes and a beautiful smile.  He started talking to her and finally asked her if she was free the next night.  My mom said, "No I'm not free. I'm going out with that guy over there."  She pointed to a really handsome guy across the room;  he had that Tyrone Power's look to him with dark eyebrows, dark eyes, dark eyelashes and the cutest dimple in his cheek. "Ah, that's my kid brother, Jimmy." he said.

Peggy and Jimmy were married not long after in 1951.  They moved to the Bronx, 282 Gunhill Rd,. not far from Jimmy's brother, Tommy and wife, Rose.  Jimmy's parents and two other brother's lived in the next building over. My parents had a three bedroom, fifth floor walk-up apartment and with four kids, they were busting at the seams. My crib was even set up in the hall way.

It was 1960; my dad, Jimmy worked for New York Central Railroad.  He had just received a promotion and was being transferred to Syracuse, New York.  He took the train up with a friend and then rented a car to try to locate a house to buy.  With four small children just under six, my mom was happy to stay home.

My mom told me she knew the minute she opened the door.  There were two police officers standing there to tell her the news.  She was blindsided.  "Not Jimmy, not my Jimmy!" He and his friend were going to a company party the night before.  They were on Thompson Rd. in Syracuse; it was dark, rainy and the road had a bad curve..  Jimmy lost control of the vehicle and  hit a tree.  He was killed instantly; his friend had a broken nose.

My grandfather took care of everything, the funeral, grave, gravestone and the burial.  He wanted to take care of us too.  My mom didn't want him to do that but what choice did she have?  My Uncle Jack was a bachelor of 30 when Jimmy died.  He had a good job and a car in New York City which was rare.  He was so overcome with grief; he wanted to help in any way he could.  My mom said that he came over to take us down to the park to play and on the weekends took us for drives in his car.

On a drive to the country one day, in Thornwood, NY, Jack's proposal came.  "You wouldn't want to marry me would you?"  "Yes," was my mother's reply.  They were married a few months later.  My grandparents wouldn't go to the wedding; they thought it was disgraceful.  My mom later told me, it was the most natural thing in the world.  They grieved together and helped each other emotionally and it blossomed into something more.

My mom always said she was the luckiest woman; she had two wonderful husbands.  She would sometimes joke with my friend, Mary Burnham about finding a man.  She'd say, "Mary, pray to to St. Anne; she got me two good husbands and she can get you a good one too.

I am the fourth of eight.  Three of my siblings are biologically-related and my other four brothers are my half brother/cousins; we are all Mulherns. This was the story we grew up with, a story of death and loss.  It could have happened to anyone, but it didn't, it happened to us.

1 comment:

  1. From the happiest of times to the scariest of times. It sounds like your mom and "Daddy up in Heaven" had a wonderful life. Your crowded (but oh so cozy)little home reminded me of how I grew up. Your mom really had to carry a heavy burden after your dad passed. She must have been scared to death. Jack must have seemed like a knight on a white horse coming to the rescue. Peggy must have been so hurt when your grandparents shunned her and Daddy Jack. It makes me want to cry and say I'm sorry Peg, I do understand. God bless you!