“In reading Nana, My Grandmother, Anne Gillis, I knew it would be a very personal story by Robert Gillis, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact that it would have upon me. 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. Even if they have the opportunity, I wonder how many take advantage of it–if they truly understand what they could glean from these wise senior citizens whose minds hold family secrets and intriguing stories regarding their heritage. Grandparents are a living legacy; however, love, time and communication are necessary to reap the benefits. Robert Gillis proves this to be true.
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 on May 20, 1902. 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. Other than one brother, all the surviving Gillis children–as well as an uncle–eventually moved near Boston.
Nana’s only son, Robert Joseph Gillis, was born on March 7, 1937 in Medford, Massachusetts. Because Nana was never married, most of the circumstances regarding Bobby’s 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. She referred to herself as Miss Gillis and referred to Robert as her nephew. 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 Bobby would live. However, this intelligent and hard-working woman also had other plans for the 12-room house on 10 Trull Street. After making the necessary renovations, she operated it as 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 Bobby 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, the older Bobby could fix anything and, despite his lack of parental supervision while growing up, he was a sensitive and kindhearted man. This reviewer saw many examples of these same qualities in his mother. After the older Bobby 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; 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.”
— Bettie Corbin Tucker, for Independent Professional Book Reviewers www.bookreviewers.org