Fran’s birthday

Fran & Bill, January 21, 1942. Five days after they were married, just days before he left for Australia to fight in the Pacific.

Today would have been my grandmother Fran’s 96th birthday. She was an interesting woman – I didn’t understand her much when I was small; she wasn’t a warm fuzzy grandma who invited me to sit in her lap. She was a sharp, intelligent woman who read voraciously, dominated at poker and had a pretty good golf game. She and her husband existed entirely for one another – they had few friends. My relationship with her started developing after her husband died. When I was in college I finally had a car and could visit her by myself, not rely on my parents to bring me.

Her mother died when she was 4, her father died when she was 12, and she was raised by her grandmother (also named Frances). My grandmother was apparently engaged several times before my grandfather proposed–apparently she even told one suitor that she’d wear his ring, but “if Bill asks me to marry him, I’m going to do it.” And the guy still gave her the ring. Scorpio magnetism at work.

My grandmother and grandfather.

My grandmother with her father-in-law.

I think I’m like her in some ways. I have her eyebrows, which she made me promise to keep. At the time, I thought that was an odd request, but since then, I’ve come to appreciate it. I share her passion for reading. I’m a far better cook and housekeeper, thank god–her house was a mess and she could barely cook (probably because she grew up with servants who handled that.). She appreciated family heirlooms and I have some wonderful furniture and jewelery that she passed on to me. While I don’t think she was pretty, I think was interesting-looking in a way people found attractive. I think the same thing about myself – we have character that shows.

Later in life she wore completely awful polyester pants with loud plaid patterns and mismatched sweaters, but I can forgive her that. She painted her living room the ugliest salmon color you’ve ever seen. It was her living room and she liked it. That was good enough for Fran.

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