“On Gram”

A poem for Florence

by Amy Adams

Florence Fowler (b.1907-d.1988)

On Gram

(written c.1987)

With all her years
Behind her now,
Like water running
Downstream;
The pain she bore,
The joy she gave,
Now, in sorrow, she lay,
Hoping for unknown answers.

Frail and weak
She aggravates.
But for all she waits,
To help and know.
They seek in her
Solace and wisdom.

She prods them to
Move on,
To partake in life
Whilst she dies,
and then it is too late
No time to apologise.

Who Was Gram aka Florence Fowler?

Gram was the mother of Stuart Chasmar a single father and the Grandmother to his sons. She owned a multi-family home and lived on the first floor and the boys and their father lived in the apartment above. An old house that was up on the clifftop along the Hudson River on Duer Place in Weehawken, New Jersey. She was the mother figure for the boys as they grew up and helped to raise Stuart’s sons – Dave, Mimo and Mark. Her name was Florence Fowler.

I met Gram when she was in her late 70’s in 1983 shortly after Mark and I started to date when I was 20. I had the pleasure of knowing her until she died. When we married a few years later, Mark and I lived in the 2nd-floor apartment and his brother Mimo moved up to and lived in the 3rd-floor apartment. 3 apartments, 1 grandmother, 2 grandsons, a grand-daughter-in-law, 2 dogs and an Abyssinian cat named MacDuff that loved only one person – Florence. We often sat together at her kitchen table and conversed. I would come down from the apartment on the 2nd floor for night-time tea and cookies before she would retire for the night. They were really special moments, she shared many stories with me.

In her last years, she had arthritis and spent every day shuffling around the kitchen, taking breaks as she was determined to make a delicious meal for her grandsons who lived on the floors above her. She didn’t complain about her arthritis and found enjoyment in nourishing her grandsons.

Florence was a pathmaker and leader as the first woman manager in the offices of the A&P grocery store chain in New Jersey. She was a whip, a woman of intelligence and sophistication. She was born into a time of change for women. As a young woman in the roaring 20s, she was a flapper. If you’re too young to know what a flapper is then here’s a quick explanation –

Flappers were born out of the empowerment that came with the right to vote. Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. Liberated, the young women of this time not only voted, they smoke, drank and danced. This period was considered the Jazz Age and flapper fashion included short skirts and bobbed hair. The women were independent thinkers.

Both Mark and Mimo were dedicated to their grandmother and not out of duty but love, and took care of her as her body failed her. Sometimes they were frustrated and aggravated but they were grateful for the woman who helped them to become the men they are today. But her body failed her ultimately. Mimo (Mitchell) was with her when she died.

Now 34 years from when I first met her, I remember her here knowing how fortunate I was to have a wise woman share stories and knowledge with me.