My grandmother, Anne Gillis
Perfect Bound Softcover
What began as a stop to drop off the newspaper blossomed into a very special responsibility that lasted nearly 25 years. I visited Nana daily since I was five years old; I helped shop for her, took care of household repairs as I got older, watched out for her, and just spent time listening to her talk about her life. Over the years I developed a very special love for Nana, and a great respect and affection for the elderly.
The matriarch of our family, Anne Gillis could be stubborn, melancholy, and gloomy. She was always generous, the most honest person I’ve ever met, religious, good-natured, and kind. Nana was human and not perfect, but she was a loving woman who made a profound difference in my life for which I will always be grateful.
After Nana died, I started jotting memories about her—things I wanted to remember, stories she told, family facts and trivia, and little anecdotes. I discovered that after such a difficult personal loss, writing was the best therapy. I hadn’t intended to write a book, but the memories just flooded into me and I kept writing. Over time, I found that there could be no better way to mourn Nana, and accept her passing, than by celebrating her life.
While this book chronicles Nana’s life and times before I was born, much of it is devoted to my life experiences with Nana, such as the unique problems Nana faced as a landlady, my relationship with Nana over the years, Nana growing older, and my first year after Nana died.
It's a very special story, and one I would like to share with you.
Nana and I repeated this conversation a few times, and then she grew quiet and said something she had never said before. “Bobby, I’m getting old and I don’t want to die.” Nana went on to explain that she was very afraid. She was starting to forget things and not recognize familiar places. I felt so bad and tried to imagine how she must feel, to have lived all those decades and suddenly be so confused about simple things.
I listened for a long time, just holding her hand and reassuring her that everything was fine. Finally, I said, “Nana, I’ve always done my best to take care of you and I promise you that as long as I’m around, you’re going to be fine. I will stay right here with you and I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise you that I’ll take care of you for the rest of your life. I’ve always been there for you. I promise that I’ll watch over you and take care of you.”
Suitably reassured, Nana closed her eyes and fell asleep. I tiptoed quietly out of the room, but Nana woke up a little later so we talked some more. Eventually, she fell asleep for the night.
I went to bed, but I was restless. I’d long since accepted my responsibility toward Nana, but that night put things in a new light. For the first time, I acknowledged that Nana really was getting old, and it occurred to me how often Nana thought about her mortality, and how much she feared being alone. I promised myself that as long as I was alive, Nana would never be alone.
(You can reach more excerpts at my website, www.NanaGillisBook.com)
Robert Gillis grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and is a graduate of Boston College High School and U/Mass Boston. Although he''s been a professional computer programmer for nearly 20 years, his first love has always been writing, and he has written a regular opinion piece for the Foxboro Reporter since 1996.
He and his wife Susan live in Foxboro, home of the Superbowl champion Patriots, with their “kids,” a German shepherd and a very opinionated Moluccan Cockatoo parrot.
He is very active in the Foxboro community; in addition to being on the board of directors for the Foxboro Jaycees, he also serves as that organization''s web master, and created and maintains the web site for the the Foxboro Doolittle Home, a place where senior citizens live their lives in dignity and quality of life. He also works with the Foxboro Food Pantry. Recently, he has taken his love of photography in a new direction and is selling his photographs at his website, G i l l i s P h o t o s . c o m < /SPAN>
“Nana” is his first published book, and was truly a labor of love, written over six years in memory of a very special lady. He hopes that anyone who has loved a senior will enjoy this book.
Perfect Bound Softcover
Sale Price $11.70