My grandmother’s name was Margaret Henrietta Muckle. She was born 140 years ago today in the rip-roaring town of Virginia City, Nevada. Her parents were Irish immigrants — one from County Down and one from County Roscommon — who met during the Comstock Lode silver mining boom.
Maggie married Joe Kenny (whose parents were also born in Ireland) in 1897 and she and Joe had five kids including my mother, Mary Audley Kenny, who was born in Virginia City in 1910. By 1925 the silver boom was long gone and my grandfather was in dire health, both financially and physically, and he and my mother and grandmother moved to San Francisco to live with one of my mother’s older brothers. My grandfather died in 1936, the same year my folks got married. Maggie then lived with one of her children for awhile and then another and then another. Of course she also lived with her children’s children and we all called her Nana.
Nana was living with us in the Westwood Park area of San Francisco on December 7, 1941 and my parents took her out for dinner in honor of her 70th birthday. My Dad told us many times over the next 50 years that this was the worst dinner in his whole life. Now Dad did not get along with his mother-in-law very well and he always complained that she was always complaining. And Dad made the story worse when he said that Nana didn’t even thank him for the dinner. “In fact,” he would say, “she never thanked me for anything!”
But there was another reason why this particular dinner upset my Dad so much. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor that day and the lives of all Americans (as well as all Japanese) changed drastically from that day on. Dad was alive for most of the 20th century and many historians believe that December 7, 1941 was the most significant day of the century.
By the 1950s Nana had become senile and she died in San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Old Folks Home at the age of 95 in 1967.
My Mom never said a word whenever Dad brought up the topic of his worst dinner. Fifty years after Pearl Harbor she also became senile and she died at a home for Alzheimer’s patients in Millbrae in 1995.
Afer Mom died Dad never brought up the subject of his worst dinner again. I guess he, too, finally forgot. He died at home in 2000 at the age of 90.
Today is the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I don’t remember that day because I was not yet two years old then. But today I remember Nana and my Dad’s worst dinner.