The Matriarch of the Geigers
Irene Nana Geiger
January 20,1899 to December 2,1998
Where to start about mom…. ABOUT 20 +YRS ago, Bob said to me that he would like to add an apartment on our house for his mom & dad, and how did I feel about it. I agreed and the rest is history. When we told the kids, the were so excited that Nana & Papa were going to live with us. Dad was happy to have the tools for his projects. He always griped when he went to the other sons, “They want me to do all these jobs and no tools to work with”, at our place he had the tools but couldn’t stand the mess. He was a blessing in disguise, he had the tools so neat half the time Bob couldn’t find anything, we now are back to “organized chaos”. Mom told me after dad died, that she was happy that he had three years in suburbia.
Now she is back with Charlie, not giving him much chance to talk, as usual. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear, “Irene will you please shut up”. She was a wonderful mother, grandmother and mother-in-law. Her years with us were great. We never had to worry about the garbage cans, the fallen leaves, or news about the neighbors, she knew them all. She even tried to keep up with the garage, but that was hopeless. She was not only a Nana, but also a wonderful mother to our kids. Whenever they had a problem, she always had an available ear. Listening, diagnosing or advising, She was ahead of her time and always one step ahead of the kids. We could go on forever, but suffice it to say, We all were blessed with her presence for 14 years. We’re going to miss her.
WEBSTER DEFINES “MATRIARCH”
- 1. A woman who rules a family, clan, or tribe
- 2. A woman who dominates a group of an activity
- 3. A highly respected woman who is a mother
The most important news for me this year — for all of us — is of course, the loss of our beloved Nana. As we dedicate this issue to her, I can’t help but think about how important Nana’s family was to her. Her husband, her four sons and their families meant the world to her. She was proud of all of us, and said so often. Nana had a knack for making people feel special, and I could always count on her to be proud and happy for me in all my accomplishments, whether large or small.
So many of my memories of Nana are tied to Papa, naturally, but also to Aunt Helen and the house on Hancock Street. I can easily conjure up such vivid images of the front gate, the yard, the Grundig radio in the living room, the kidney-shaped candy dish always tantalizingly full, the long and dark stairway leading up to the bedrooms and the creaky second and third story floors, the smell of Dial soap sitting on the sink in the upstairs bathroom. To this day, I continue to buy Dial soap because its fragrance reminds me of Nana and Papa. The heart of the house was always the kitchen, and I can still see the enormous dark table (although I doubt it actually was as large as I remember), the stove on the back wall and next to it Nana’s famous rocking chair. I swear I spent my formative years in that rocker, getting the back of my leg pinched by a split in the wood that Papa finally fixed after they moved out of Brooklyn. I’d either sit there, or at the kitchen table coloring with Aunt Helen, while Nana cooked dinner — often with that God-awful pressure cooker. After asking her about it once, Nana had told me she loved her pressure cooker. Then she laughed as she said something like, “You never know what you’re going to get till you open the lid.” I’m sure I heard the pea-soup-on-the-ceiling story a million times, but I didn’t care. I used to love how she’d end that story with “Oh, good night!” which was often her response after telling or hearing something that struck her funny.
Before moving to Kings Park, we had our Sunday ritual of going to Mass at St. Martin of Tours (which has been re-named, by the way, to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton), and then going to Nana and Papa’s house. And as sure as the sun rises and sets, neither Nana nor Aunt Helen would let us leave without what we referred to as “care” packages. We should have called them “love” packages — a paper grocery bag carefully folded closed, and inside a variety of goodies like Social Teas, Lorna Doone’s, Lady Fingers, Ovaltine, and little frozen cans of orange juice. Certainly not an unhealthy selection, now that I think about it. I remember feeling like I’d hit paydirt the times there was also a variety pack of Kelloggs cereals in that bag.
My love for Nana only grew as I got older and began to see her as a woman and not just a grandma. I realized she had incredible strength and she knew her own mind, as well as her husband’s! Although Papa was hardly a demonstrative man, I took comfort knowing that there was deep love between them. And I hope now that they’re together, Nana’s hearing all the unspoken words Papa didn’t know how to express then.
I remember when I began dating Rob, I learned something about Nana that shocked me at the time. She wasn’t without her prejudices, and she let me know in a fairly direct manner that she didn’t like Italians. I think the fact that I looked more Italian than Rob did, may have helped his cause a bit. But Nana enjoyed Rob’s sarcastic sense of humor, and then when he joined the police force that pretty much sealed it. From then on, he was an adopted grandson. The two of them would discuss, at great length, whatever police business happened to be in the newspapers: crimes, arrests, contract disputes. Rob would always remark to me afterward that he couldn’t get over how much she knew about his job. In fact, when Nana’s sight was gone and her memory not far behind, that’s how she’d remember who I was. I was the granddaughter who married Rob!
I guess Nana understood so much, in part, because she loved to read somuch! Can’t you just see how delighted she’d be with the whole premise of the Geiger Gazette? To know that although there are lots of miles separating us from each other, we’ve made a commitment to somehow shorten that distance through our annual Gazette? I truly believe that Nana would be very proud of us for our efforts to remain in touch.
When I remember Nana, I will always think of her warmth, her perpetual smile and the sound of her laugh, as well as her infinite love for all of us. She taught us the Golden Rule and lived it every day, and she expressed a dignity that she never lost, even later on in a rather undignified setting. There was a time when I thought Nana would outlive all of us, but she’d never go for that. One final thought: When you picture Nana the way we all like to remember her, do you see as clearly as I do those short little legs, and those teeny-weeny feet going about a hundred miles an hour? I thought you might.
I love you, Nana. You’ll always be in my heart.
We were saddened to hear of Nana’s death last month but also relieved to know that she went right to Heaven. I will miss Nana very much and I have very fond memories or Nana and Papa.
She was very good to me, John, and Holly when they stayed at our house in Huntington, and in Brooklyn where we always had fun. I am sure she will watch over the entire Geiger family. She will also be in our prayers.
Diane Sikora wrote…
As we all know, 1998 saw the passing of our beloved Nana. I’m sure she was enjoying her view from above of her family gathering together on her behalf. It was good to see everyone. Jackie also wrote a beautiful tribute to Nana that expressed so perfectly all of our feelings for Nana. She was one in a million. Nana was the picturesque vision of a grandmother with her plump, cherub cheeks and her offer of “Can I fix you a cup of tea?” to all who entered her home. She was always willing to drop whatever she was doing to offer some of her grandmotherly advice, or to just talk with you about what was happening in your life. I think of Nana whenever I see a shiny penny.
She used to save them for us in the pocket of her apron. To my amazement, I am finding shiny pennies all over my house — they seem to pop out of no where. I remember when she would scold me for biting my nails, and remind me to wash my face twice a day. Looking at a jar of Noxema brings back a ton of memories of our talks at my parents’ kitchen table. Nana was a sweet and lovable person and, at the same time, a strong and independent woman. Even while she was in the nursing home in her wheel chair, she would tell me how she would try to exercise her legs by lifting them up and down. Even at that point in her life, she continued to teach, to be a role model by her example.
I will miss her being in my life and in the lives of my children. But I do believe that a little bit of her is in each and every one of us — just as she would want it — to continue being a presence in our life, a teacher of life’s lessons, and a confidant to our wishes for the future.
I am constanly reminded, like a voice that speaks to me like an echo after speaking, of the wisdom, kindness and love Nana shared withus. It is a common joke about parents finding themselves saying things to their children that they swore they would never say to their children when they were younger. Well, that happens to me, and sometimes, if I am lucky, I hear Nana’s voice, as well.
We all recall the Social Tea bisquets and the cup of tea offered to all who joined her. Some of us can recall being told to ‘go run around the block and holla-fire’ when we were in her way in the kitchen. And it was such a BIG kitchen, too!
I would be doing my homework at night and the door between our house and her appartment would open. Nana would step out and place a cup of tea and a few Social Tea’s on my desk and ask me how I was doing. This went on for many years. I only wish I could just replay all those conversations. She updated me on family-goings-on, offered her thoughs on all kinds of matters. This is why, 9 years ago, I decided to do the Gazette. I missed the family updates. I had taken those updates for granted.
Nana taught patience in her way of listening and caring. She reminded this raging teenager to “have a sense of humor” and “learn to laugh at yourself” on many an occasion. I may not have seemed important at the time, as things were less than funny. But it is a ‘must learn’ lesson for life.
I also learned about how to be quiet. She and Pop would be sitting quietly doing a crossword puzzle, having tea maybe (of course) and they would not be saying anything. Yet, it was enough that they were together. Being together did not require words… just being there for each other. Trusting in each other’s love.
I think this kind of lesson is unfortunately lost to many people these days. The divorce rates probably reflect, in part, a lack of a learned ability to just be together, among other things.
I will always remember the special gift Louise gave Nana — birthing Gregory on Nana’s birthday, January 20th, 1986. Nana was very excited about Louise going into the hospital on her birthday. It was after Eleven pm., getting late, and we did not think he would make it on the 20th. But Louise pushed extra hard and he was! I called, not my mother (I hope I have been forgiven for that), but Nana first and simply said, “Happy Birthday Nana!” She knew what I meant, and my mother tells about Nana bounding up the stairs with the news even as I was calling mom on the phone!!! Gregory was always, “my Gregory” to Nana. Gregory will have to settle for our memories of Nana, as he did not get to know her as we did. For this and the families rememberances, I will always be grateful.
I missed the funeral, but I am glad Nana is with Pop. She always missed him. She did well surrounded by family. Always independant and happy. When this changed, it was not a preferred way of life for her, and at nearly a hundred, it was likely a relief for her. I am happy for her and may she rest in Peace and forever warm our hearts with their memory.
I want you to know all that you have meant to me in my life. If it wasn’t for you, God only knows where I’d be today. Through your words of wisdom, your warm hands, kind heart, hot cups of tea, and endless stories, I learned more than a few things about life. To this day, something will happen in my life, and I’ll remember a story you told me. Thank you for everything. I love you.
Some guys grow up comparing the woman they meet with their mother. Well in my life She not only had to pass my mothers tests, but also had to surpass yours. I’m so happy that Rita had the chance to meet you. I’ll never forget the day she sat on the bed with you and you explained life’s many intricacies. I have some great pictures of that day.
Rita makes me very happy and I know you would be proud of us. One of the things you taught me was that life must go on. You proved that when your hubby left you and you stayed with us for many years. I know that was rough on you, but I can’t tell how happy I am that you stayed. Some of my fondest memories are of those years that we had together. I know that the two of you are together again and I’m sure you are very happy. I can only hope that when it’s my time, you will be there waiting for me with a hot cup of tea, a nice story, and of course some social tea cookies. Until then, you will always be in my thoughts.
It was nice to share our “Nana” stories at Nana’s funeral. It’s funny the things you remember about someone. Some of us remembered the same things and others remembered other things that I had forgotten. How about that big picture in her kitchen in Brooklyn with the family sitting around the table – that picture scared the heck out of me. The upstairs scared me too because we were hardly ever allowed to go up there. I can remember playing hide-and-seek, but I would do anything I could to hide downstairs.
If my brothers hid upstairs, they could just stay there for all I cared . . . I wasn’t going up there. I think it was the dark stairwell that was the scary part.
I remember looking forward to seeing what candy would be in the dish Nana had on her coffee table. Doreen said it was butterscotch; I remember butter mints. When Nana would come and visit in Huntington, I remember she would call me at my friend’s house to tell me to come home and do my chores before my mom came home because my mom “would scold [Nana]” if I didn’t do them. Or, she would say my dad “would scold her” if I didn’t do my homework. I knew she wouldn’t get “scolded” but I would do the stuff anyway. I miss her rice that she used to always make so mushy. I’ve been trying, but I can’t seem to get the consistency right.
Well, I’m relieved Nana is resting now; I don’t think her last years with us were all too pleasant for her. I have nothing but nice memories of her and have actually missed her for some time now.
My last memory of Nana at the apartment was when I was in town for a wedding and stayed with her. I rolled in at about 2:00A.M. and when I walked up, I noticed all the lights were still on. I walked in and found Nana sleeping on her bed with a book on her chest. She was trying to wait up for me. She woke up when I walked in the bedroom and wanted to know all about the wedding.
Nana never forgot our birthday’s and would always send a few dollars and a letter. I still have a couple of those letters.
Things that remind me of Nana: Entenmann’s Crumb Cake, mints, Pepperidge farm bread, and eating dinner at lunch time, and having sandwiches for dinner.
I’ll never forget when she had a heart attack while we were visiting in 1977. She tried to pack her own bag to go to the hospital. The next day we went to the hospital to see her and she told us that she was sorry she spoiled our weekend.
The last time I saw Nana was a few years back and I brought Karen and my mother with me. Even though she wasn’t in the greatest shape I wanted Karen to meet her. Nana’s eyes were closed during most of the visit but when Karen and mom went to the ladies room I asked Nana to open her eyes and look at me. When she did she said “look at all that grey hair.” This from someone who supposedly could not see.
Nana was the best grandmother anyone could ever hope for, and I will never forget her.
The worst part of my year was losing Nana. Though she was 99 and it was a matter of time, it hurt when she actually passed away. She was a beautiful women both inside and out and I will always remember her smile and caring heart. We were all lucky to have known her and each of us carry a piece of her spirit with us. She will be missed very much. I remember the time I went with my father and brother to visit her and at first she couldn’t remember who I was. All of a sudden she said “OH yes, the wild one”. I’m still not sure why she said that but we all laughed so hard that she got the cutest little smile on her face. It was precious… I’ll never forget it!! Another time I remember is when we all went to Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Irene’s for Nana’s birthday, everyone went to sleep but Nana stayed up all night long and had a big breakfast ready for all of us in the morning. She always thought of others first and making her family happy gave her great joy. It’s nice to be part of a family that remain close to eachother even though we don’t get to see eachother as often as we would like. That is something we can attribute to Nana, she always loved having her family around and the more the merrier.