My mother, Patricia Duffy, was born December 7, 1927. She was one of two children raised by Rose and Frank Duffy in Oakland, California. Frank Duffy and his brother came to the United States from County Cavan, Ireland. Frank had a small grocery store in Oakland, which afforded them a lovely home near a small creek in Oakland Hills. Mom said that Grandpa’s Irish brogue was so thick that she sometimes had to translate for her friends. Grandpa Frank was a fun-loving prankster. He was known to have a neighborhood card game going on in the back of the grocery store. Dad told us later he thought he was part of the “Irish Mafia.”
Grandma Rose “a Gallager girl” Duffy worked as an Army nurse in World War I and had many memories of “her boys” that she cared for during that time. She lived with her grandchildren in her later years. She would recall a dream she had the night before. “I was sitting in Mass, with my white gloves on and my lace cap on my head – prim and proper. In the dream, I was at a funeral for a young man, and the priest called me to the altar to ‘clean him up.’” We all laughed at how ridiculous the dream was! This is just one of her Irish tales of everyday life that was our Irish humor. We would sit around the table telling stories from our day and make it a joke so that everyone would laugh!
My mother’s brother, Joseph, died during childbirth. Mom was petite and vivacious. She was a “toe” ballerina and danced for the Oakland ballet. She played the piano beautifully. She made exquisite clothes but preferred to wear jeans and “cream and coffee” shoes. She married Henry Wright Barr at the Saint Francis Cathedral in San Francisco. My father called Grandma Rose “Boss” as an enduring nickname. Grandma Rose took care of Grandpa Frank until his death from Alzheimer’s disease in 1961.
Dad graduated from UCLA Medical School when I was five. After graduation, my sister Ginger and brother Patrick moved to Sacramento, California. My sister Mary Anne and adopted brother John came shortly after. Being raised in East Sacramento, I attended Sacred Heart School and Sacred Heart Church. It was an Irish Catholic community with five to eight children in each family: O’Conners, O’Neils, and Flanagans. The 42nd Street 4th of July celebration in which all the neighborhood children decorate their bikes and ride around the block is renowned. My mother’s happiest times were raising her children.
Patricia Duffy’s legacy is her Irish humor, grounded Catholic beliefs, and focus on family. She made sure all of us learned how to play sports and received an education. I mirrored my parenting style after that of my mother. I am proud that my children, Sara and Steve, are my best friends.
In her final moments, Mom was still guiding me and comforting me. I miss her but know that she is with me all the time in my heart. ♦