Wednesday, June 07, 2006

ABC Along - J is for Josephine

There have been many great Josephines throughout history. There is of course Napoleon's Josephine:

There was also the absolutely fabulous Josephine Baker:
There is even a great sweater named Josephine:

But the best Josephine of all, at least for me, was my Grandma:

She started life as Josefa Opeshenska, but her dad died early on and my great-grandmother, Juliana, married Edward Hurley. He forbade them to speak Polish anymore so grandma became Josephine Hurley. From the pictures it would seem she was a bit of a glamour girl:

She worked for the NY Athletic Club as a bookkeeper. She used to tell fantastic stories from her days there. Many of the young actors of the day would hang out there. Laurence Olivier occasionally took her to lunch. She hated Bing Crosby because she felt that he treated his family horribly (that was his first wife Dixie and their kids). She dated a pilot named Benjamin Franklin O'Connor, who's ID bracelet she had till the day she died. I know because I have it now.

She married my grandfather Leroy Crane in 1935 I believe. There marriage wasn't easy. My mother told me they separated in the late 30s but they had reconciled and in 1941 my mother and her sister were born. My grandmother had suffered a great trauma in young adulthood which in respect for her memory I won't share but it shadowed our family for years and effected her greatly. She drank. Fairly heavily from what I understand. Having blind twin daughters I'm sure didn't make things any easier but from the way my mother and aunt turned out she obviously did her best.

When I came around she and my grandfather decided I was their second chance at a child (according to my parents at least). There was great concern about my mother's ability to care for a young child and so I lived with my grandparents until I was nearly 5. At that point my grandfather died. My grandmother couldn't take care of me herself so I went to live with my parents. She was still my primary caretaker however. Watching me after school and on days off. Coming over to do my laundry, laying out clothes for the week. I always felt she was my mother and my own mother more of a sibling. I loved her desperately and forgave her the drinking binges she still occasionally went on. At the time that my parents broke up my mother and grandmother hadn't spoken in over a year (though I still saw her everyday) my grandmother was the bigger person and called my mother. She didn't touch a drink again for the remaining months of her life.

She died in January of 1985. I was 15. I was already in bad state emotionally and her death took me to an even darker place. It took me over a year to come out of it, but once I did I was able to let go of all the bad things going on in my life and start fresh and I've never looked back.

I've long believed my survival and success was a testiment to the strength she taught me...