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Notes From A Polite New Yorker: Great New Yorkers - My Grandmother

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You would be hard pressed to meet a better person in all of the world. Go ahead and try.

This past weekend, the wife and I packed our two baby girls into their car seats and drove upstate (upstate defined as north of the Bronx/Westchester border) to celebrate the 90th birthday of my Grandmother, Mary Sheahan.

They don't make New Yorkers like Mary Sheahan anymore. My Grandmother immigrated from Ireland and went through Ellis Island as a child in 1925. She grew up in the Mott Haven section of The Bronx. She raised seven children there, and is a grandmother to nine and a great grandmother to three. My Grandmother remained in The Bronx as long as possible, and then stayed a little longer. She has never been far from the city and still visits frequently. Her last child left the five boroughs only a few years ago (after living in the city more than 60 years), and she has two grandchildren living here now.

No person I have ever met represents unconditional love and the joy of living and loving family like my grandmother. You would be hard pressed to meet a better person in all of the world. Go ahead and try. You might find someone you think is pretty good, but they won't hold a candle to my grandmother. If you think you've got someone who can compare in kindness and sweetness, I'm sure you'll find something terrible if you dig a little deeper, like they torture cats in their spare time or something.

My grandmother is so sweet she even gives homes to insane dogs, like her current pet, Misty, a friendly but mentally ill, hyperactive beast who would be put into Kung Pao form in no time if it were up to anyone else other than Grandma. I don't know how she manages to walk that crazy animal at age 90, but she manages somehow. I always make a point to walk that damn dog when I visit her, so she'll have at least a few hours of freedom from it.

But that's one of the minor points about my grandmother's excellence. Having her as my Grandma has been a great privilege. In my younger years, especially when I was a teenager, I was a jaded and angry person who hated the world. Even today, I find it hard not to consider much of the world and the people in it loathsome. But no one can keep that disposition for long in the presence of my grandmother. Even in my angriest and most obnoxious teenage years, when I thought it might be cool to murder my parents and live the life of an itinerant assassin for hire, I could never find it in my black heart to think a mean thought about my grandmother.

My grandmother's wit is sharp as ever and she stays active. She can still drive and she walks under her own power, and I still try and promote the idea that she secretly runs a criminal empire and is just successful at not getting caught. It would be fun to learn that my Grandma has strangled mobsters with piano wire and brained drug lords with shovels.

It was great to introduce my own daughters to my grandmother and to take photos of her with her kids, most of her grandkids and all of her great grandkids. Grandma was happy as ever to have so many of her family in one place at one time. Her children and grandchildren now live all over the country. Family flew in from as far away as Georgia and Wisconsin to celebrate Mary Sheahan's 90th birthday.

I am exceptionally lucky to have the family I have. And my family is exceptionally fortunate to have Mary Sheahan as its matriarch.

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