Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Last night I had a pull of connection that I can’t describe.
A woman I never knew. Only in photographs and historical family tree lines.
As I looked into the mirror, just before heading to bed, is when this moment happened.
Her name came to my mind and I felt as though I was looking at her reflection. Like what you see in movies.
I stood there staring at myself and these thoughts came to my mind, “How old was she? What did her voice sound like? Did she have a contagious laugh? How long were her curls? If I could hold her hand just once, what would that feel like? Did we have anything that was special to her, a scarf, a piece of jewelry, a hair brush, a swatch of fabric? Did she sing in tune? Did she smile so big it lit up the room?”
I took a deep breath and stepped away from the sink. It occurred to me that this was something special I needed to ponder and write about. The feeling was so strong and very special.
I have found that these moments are worth writing about. Sharing a deep connection to a space that is precious and delicate. Sometimes they happen in my dreams. Most of the time I just get a feeling and it stops me in my tracks. I embrace this gift and cherish it.
Last night was nothing different. I welcomed the visit.
I was feeling my Grandma “Beth” Elizabeth Ann Mulholland Meehan. You can call it a feeling, a presence, a deep remembrance, a curiosity at a pivotal moment in time, you can call it whatever. For me, it was a place that was sacred and special.
I texted my sister before going to sleep, “What’s Gma Elizabeth Meehan’s story? Like what year was she born and died? I don’t have mom’s history books with me. Just feeling something.”
The next morning I received my sister's text to me, “It’s because you are the same age as her. She passed at 54.” She followed up and sent a photo of Beth and Jack, our dad’s parents.
The photo must have been taken sometime in the 1930’s. Maybe it was their wedding photo or just a sweet picnic time? She is holding a bouquet of flowers and they are standing in a field in front of an old car. Beth is wearing a floral wrap/smock/sweater and leather boots. Her hair is parted on the side and her dark curls are combed back into a loose bun. “Jack” Michael John Meehan, is leaning into Beth with a gentle nudge, so close that I can only imagine after the photo was taken, he kissed the side of her cheek and they both smiled and laughed. Jack’s hair is short on the side but tousled and long in the front. Kind of like what our dad’s hair looked like around that age. In fact, the more I explore this photo, the more I see my dad in Jack. The ears, nose, hair, and eyes. What a handsome fellow! Beth looks tender and compassionate. The two are so in love. Married for 16 years.
They were both the same age, born in 1896. Prior to marriage, both Jack and Beth took care of their own families and finally were able to tie the knot and eloped at age 34 on February 2, 1931 in Helena, Montana. Then 1 year later their first child was born, “Rose” Rosemarie, on January 7, 1932. Our dad, “Pat” Richard Patrick was born 5 years after Rose on March, 17 1937. The family traveled around in Montana, Washington State, and California due to Jack’s blacksmith trade. Wherever work was, the family would move to that location or stay with extended family while Jack traveled. When our dad Pat was 10 years old, his dad, who was working on the new McNary Dam in Washington State, was killed in an explosion on August 7, 1947. Jack was 50 years old.
Beth died 4 years later. Her heart was broken. She was 54.
Last night, while reflecting in the mirror and pondering about Beth’s life, I found myself feeling sad for her. A woman who lost so much at such a young age. Still so much life to look forward to. With two kids ages 10 and 15 when she tragically lost her husband, no foundation of security or direction on how to move forward, feeling abandoned, and no money. It must have been devastating. It crushed me.
So this morning, I’m sitting on my couch drinking coffee with my Grandma Beth. To share her story and heart. A woman I’ve often wondered about. Whatever happened to her in those 3 to 4 years after her husband's death, We don’t know. What I hope is that she knows now that everything turned out ok. Her son is an amazing man. Strong, courageous, faithful, loving, caring, and he navigated himself at a young age out of a dark path with grit and determination. With the help of Beth’s youngest sister Kathleen, in Montana, he was able to share those sweet remnants and memories of his mother. His Aunt Kathleen was my dad’s Beth.
So, it occurred to me in my story The Dream Tree, Beth is in the kitchen too talking with the character Patrick, her son. She is wearing a cozy sweater in pastels, leather booties, her heart is warm and her hands are gentle, her once dark curly hair has now aged to gray white and it’s combed back to a messy bun and wisps of hair dance around her face. She’s leaning in and encouraging her son to dream. “Plant it wisely, and plant your dreams along with it.”
Thank you Grandma Beth for sharing this with me. I will be sure to pass it along to your son.
Beth, even though you had to navigate life by yourself and must have felt so helpless. I want to reassure you that our heritage is rich in love, compassion, hope, laughter, strength, grit, and determination. Your beautiful name has been passed down to your great granddaughters Megan Elizabeth and Erin Elizabeth and it’s nestled into your great great granddaughter's name Mea.
Beth, your son picked up the torch you laid down when he was a small boy and he's continued to carry it forward. The torch light burns bright for the future generations and it is wrapped in deep love and adoration. You’re alright. We are alright.
This song is for you Beth. Ain’t in Kansas- Jilian Linklater
Thank you Jilian Linklater once again for taking your pen to paper and strumming along another beautiful articulate song. You have a gift. This song inspired this writing about a grandma I never had the opportunity to meet. Your song and this "Freedom" video of a little girl riding with no hands on a horse galloping on a beach spoke to me. Image, music, words = great storytelling. Peace, freedom, flying, and remembering all will be ok. Thank you.
I shared this writing with my dad and mom before I published it. I had a wonderful conversation with them and it always brings more stories to the table, which I absolutely love. Dad shared these little snippets he remembers as a young kid:
“I remember mom used to put a penny in my cereal bowl and if I ate all my hot cereal I got a penny!”
“My first pet was a white rat. I used to carry him along on my shoulder.”
“My mom Beth was the oldest of 5 children (4 girls and 1 boy). Aunt Kathleen was the youngest. My dad Jack was the oldest in his family as well.”
“When my dad died, I started my first job at age 10 selling newspapers - getting a penny a paper. I’d run out to the street and pass out the papers for 5 cents and I’d get a penny.”
"My Aunts and Uncle (Beth's siblings) took care of me from time to time when I was real sick. My Aunt Cleo was a nurse and cared for me when I had pneumonia and my Uncle took care of me when I had to have my tonsils out."
Yes, It really does take a village.
After age 10 dad had to grow up real fast. He had to go to all the family functions (funerals, weddings, gatherings, etc) to represent the Meehan Clan. Still just a kid. So when he got to go to Montana for the summer time, that was his space where he could be a kid again. To enjoy nature, ride horses, fish, learn, play, work on the farm, and be embraced by his mom's family. Thank you Aunt Kathleen for your loving kindness and giving him that space to dream.
Rest well Grandma Beth. Peace.