Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 9, 2011

Her Mother’s Daughter

The next time her birthday rolls around my little girl will be fortymmmmfmfmfm.  That’ll be two days before Christmas.  I remember the ride down to St. Vincent’s in a cab at about one in the morning all those years ago.  It was snowing like it had never snowed before and it had all those years to make up for.  But, we got there, and so did she.  There never was any doubt in my mind for some years before I was married to her mother that our first child would be a girl.  We had only one name picked out for her, Jeanne Marie.  I wanted Jeanne for Jeanne d’Arc, and also for St. John, the beloved disciple.  Marie was her mother’s middle name, and also, again, the name of the Mother of God.  I wanted her to be strong, yet gentle, and well protected.

When she was waiting for her time to come she was quite an active kid.  She amused us while still inside by kicking the covers off her mother’s belly.  Sheila used to say that it felt as if she was swinging off her ribs.

When the weather got warm enough we’d take her out in her carriage.  I have no memories of her sleeping or even sitting down in the thing.  Her usual posture was to stand up, face front and babble in some infant Chinese while pointing the direction in which she wanted to go.  And, God help the lowly helmsman who did not steer a true course.

She had the same relationship with The Almighty, whom she expected to wait on her pleasure, I think.  One fine day in her second summer we stopped into a shoe store and bought her a pair of shoes.  Our next stop was the Post Office, where we left the shoes behind, and did not discover our error until we had walked all the way home.  There wasn’t anything to do but turn around and hope for the best.  The best took place and we were soon on our way home, the shoe box securely held in Jeanne’s arms.  “Did you say thank you to God,” Sheila asked Jeanne, who had been fluent in English since her tenth month.  “I did,” she answered, ” and he said ‘My pleasure.'”

She’s a nurse, now, who only ever wanted to be a Mommy and a Nurse since she was not much older than two or three.  She really showed me what she was made of doing that.  You see, she was only a year or so past a close brush with death.  No, really.  She had gotten very ill and no one seemed to be able to figure out why or what was causing her illness, whose sole symptom seemed to be that everything she ate passed through he almost immediately.  As she lost weight nothing any of her doctors gave her was of any use in halting the precipitous weight loss, until she was only skin and bones.

Finally, she was tested for gluten sensitivity, almost as a last resort.  She had Celiac Disease which simply meant that she could no longer eat even a molecule of gluten in any fashion.  And, on her new diet she steadily improved so that she became, at long last, the girl I used to know, the one who stood in the front of her carriage and pointed the way, like a little general leading from the front.  She remarried after her first marriage ended in divorce and annulment to a guy any guy would love to have married to his daughter; especially this one.

And then, much to my surprise, she told me she was going to go to nursing school.  In the back of my mind I thought all sorts of scary things and wondered if the stress of four children, a new husband and nursing school would put her into a tail spin.

I shouldn’t have bothered.  She not only completed the two years course with flying colors, she was the president of the Student Nurse Association, and has been asked back to advise the youngsters who are working their way through the course, now.  Someone who knows her well from those days told me that Jeanne stands up to authority and is not afraid to correct someone, or call for required help when it is necessary to do so.  “Hey, give me a hand over here, will you!” is the way it was put to me.

“Yes,” I thought.  And, I did not forget to add that if the asked for help wasn’t forthcoming one would soon find out it would have paid to do what had been asked.

She has been working at one of the two hospitals in town and before that she was briefly employed at a large care center/re-hab location.  Stories filter out from friends and relatives about her calm assurance and competence, and the gratefulness of relatives who appreciate her advocacy for their loved ones who, I think, are lucky to have her caring for them.  Knowing her as Ii do, I feel easy saying that she isn’t at all shy about making sure her patients are receiving exactly what the doctor prescribed.  I asked her recently if those with whom she comes in contact at work, either in her official capacity or otherwise, are  aware that they are dealing with someone who has had less than six months experience as a nurse.  She smiled and I could swear she winked before saying,  “The good thing about me, Dad, is that I am not 22 years old.  I’m 45, and that fools people.  I use that.  I know a little bit more about people than the average 22 year old kid.”

Well, that’s true, but even when she was only 22, she knew a little bit more, also.  In that she is entirely like her mother who at the same age had Ingemar Johansson apologizing to her one day on 3rd Avenue when he almost knocked her over on the way to some “very important meeting” or other.  It was a ratzo Rizzo moment right out of real life new York, not the movies.   On another occasion, here in Nashua, we were dining as a family at a restaurant when the manager came over and told us we would have to move from our table since Lamar Alaxander and his party were coming in to have dinner and wanted the table in the window at front where we were.   I never had a chance, nor did the restaurant manager.  Sheila, even voiced throughout, proposed that “Mr.” Alexander and his party be seated elsewhere, and asked the manager if he was ready now to take her order.  He paused, looked around and called over our waiter.

It is funny how all these things blend in my mind, yet all of them seem so clear, so separate.  I like it.  I like her.


  1. Jeanne Marie in her knowledge of people and ability to fool them sounds a lot like her father.

  2. Great story about Jeanne, and fond memories of Sheila as well.

    • Thank you, Mary Lou, indeed.


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