The Unsinkable Molly Brown

On April 15, 1912, Margaret Brown – a new money socialite who was quite outspoken for a woman of her time – survived the sinking of the Titanic. She helped evacuate other passengers before being pressed to board a life boat herself. She then argued with the Quartermaster, insisting the boat take on more passengers and search for survivors. It’s unclear who won this fight, but my money’s on Molly.

This incident, as well as a series of other misfortunes in her life, earned this daughter of Irish immigrants the moniker “unsinkable.”

It seemed like nothing could pull her down.

She died in 1932 at the age of 65.

A few years ago, I started calling my grandmother unsinkable. After my father passed away, a friend who had also lost a parent described how difficult it was to hear other people talk about their living parents. “And grandparents,” she added. “Grandparents enrage me.”

I could appreciate where she was coming from, but I didn’t know how to respond. I’d lost so many people in my life – a father, an uncle, a cousin, peers – but I still had one grandparent standing. She was unsinkable.

Born on August 23, 1924, my grandmother was a child in the Dakotas when the Dust Bowl swept up. Her family moved to California where she was mercilessly mocked for her accent. Life wasn’t always easy, but she was tough. Whatever life threw her way, she emerged on the other side.

I gather she was scandalously strong and outspoken. Unbecoming for a properly lady, perhaps, but with that working class Irish attitude that expects pain with a tightened jaw. Not that she didn’t complain.

Her physical ailments were many. I lost count of how many times she had cancer over the years. Her recent life became a series of regular hospital visits. It always seemed dire, but she always came back. Unsinkable.

She passed away on March 17, 2014 at the age of 89.

Unsinkable til the end.


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