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Life lessons from Nana
Author Recalls the Value of Time with Grandmother and Wisdom of Senior Citizens in New Memoir
FOXBORO, Mass. Grandparents are a living legacy; however, love, time and communication are necessary to reap the benefits. Robert Gillis spent many years of his life caring for his grandmother, and he recounts what he gained from his experiences with a remarkable lady in his new memoir, Nana: My Grandmother, Anne Gillis (now available through AuthorHouse and at Amazon.com, BN.com, and other book sellers; ISBN 1-4208-7931-6 – Soft cover)
Gillis has written an extraordinary tribute to his uniquely lovable grandmother, Anne Gillis. The story follows her from her birth in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, through her years as a dutiful nurse to the elderly as the sole proprietor of the Uphams Corner Rest Home, to the humorous and bittersweet final years of her life. With great pride and honesty, the author does a remarkable job of remembering and relating the part of the story that occurs during his childhood as if he were still using the eyes of a child. It is also with great skill that he captures the poignant moments near the end of a life well lived, as well as the grief of those who have been deeply affected by it.
The pages depict a very special relationship between the author and his remarkable grandmother whom he called “Nana.” Sadly, in today’s global society, many families are separated by great distances, and the youth often don’t have the opportunity to really get to know their grandparents. If only they truly understand what they could glean from these wise senior citizens whose minds hold family secrets and intriguing stories regarding their heritage.
The author begins by taking readers to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where he provides them with the family lineage for Nana beginning with her grandparents. He describes the rural, farming village of Glendale where Nana was born. The background of the family is presented interestingly enough to appeal to all readers which demonstrates the author’s talent and is pertinent to understanding Nana as well as the other family members. Mr. Gillis is obviously proud of his heritage and plans a future visit to Glendale.
Nana, at the age of 17, left her homeland and went to the United States with her older sister Mary. In Boston she did secretarial work and cooked and cleaned for rich families. Because Nana worked hard and saved her money, she was able to send for her parents in 1929.
Nana’s only son, Robert Joseph Gillis, was born in 1937. Because Nana was never married, most of the circumstances regarding the birth remained a mystery. People in the 1930’s were unforgiving toward unwed mothers; therefore, it took a strong woman to keep and raise her son, especially with her time restraints and work schedule. Sadly, the two of them were never close; however, with the passage of time, though Nana did not openly display affection toward her son, there were signs of veiled love.
In 1941 Nana, who had training as a nurse, purchased a large house in Dorchester — a beautiful mansion where she and her son would live. However, this intelligent and hard-working woman also had other plans for the 12-room house. After making the necessary renovations, she operated it as the Uphams Corner Rest Home which was a boarding home for elderly persons. Nana worked unceasingly as she bathed and dressed patients, fed them home-prepared meals, washed their clothes in a washtub, and dealt with city inspectors who always found clean and healthy patients. Despite the challenges, this determined woman did very well financially and was extremely generous when it came to loaning money to family members. In 1965 she went out of business and began renting rooms in the home to tenants.
Nana’s son married a lovely woman named Marguerite in January of 1964 — a woman Nana truly liked and one who would help look after her in her later years. Then Bobby, Jr., the author of this book, and his sister Theresa were born. When little Bobby was five or six, his grandmother offered to pay him some small change if he would bring newspapers to her home during the weekdays. He agreed and the ten minute visits were the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship that developed between the two of them. When he was older, Bobby, Jr. worked alongside his father who had been doing most of the work in maintaining the house on 10 Trull Street. Though he didn’t graduate from high school, his father could fix anything and, despite his lack of parental supervision while growing up, he was a sensitive and kindhearted man. After he died, his son took over the upkeep of Nana’s house.
Regardless of how busy his schedule was, Bobby managed to spend quality time with his grandmother, listening to her tell the same intriguing stories over and over, taking her on trips, helping her shop and, of course, making repairs on her home. Many of his wonderful memories were — and still are — associated with 10 Trull Street, and readers will enjoy his description of the various activities that took place there.
This book is extremely well-written and contains valuable information as to how one can help senior citizens with their needs. The author loved his grandmother, recognizing her exceptional qualities and acknowledging that — like all of us — she wasn’t perfect. He helped her when she was recovering from an illness or accidental injury; along with his mother he made tough decisions when he realized that she could no longer care for herself. At the appropriate time, Bobby — though his heart was aching — gave her permission to let go of this life so that she could be with other family members in Heaven. This sweet and inspiring book is one that entire families will enjoy. Just as Nana gave so much to her grandson, he gives so much to readers.
Robert Gillis grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and graduated from Boston College High School and the University of Massachusetts Boston. He has worked as a professional computer programmer for nearly 20 years and has written a regular opinion column for The Foxboro Reporter since 1996. He is very active in his community in Foxboro, Mass., where he and his wife reside. Nana is his first published book. For more information, visit www.NanaGillisBook.com and www.robertxgillis.com.
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