EDNA MAE SCHUYLER HOWLAND
b. 10 May 1880 – d. 4 January 1965
During the 1950s, Grandma Howland lived in an upstairs flat on East Main Street in Rochester, New York, along the bus routes that led into the city and converged at Main & Clinton, the heart of downtown amid bustling office buildings and the iconic department stores of the time: Sibley, Lindsay & Curr; McCurdy’s; and the B. Forman Company. Her apartment was demolished in the late 1950s to make way for the Inner Loop, the expressway that led people around the city rather than into it. The site of her apartment building is now where the Inner Loop intersects East Main near Union. A Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise stood as a modern marker to where her building once was.
When that urban renewal occurred and Grandma’s apartment was demolished, she came to live with us at 470 Culver Parkway. We were Edna’s son, Verne – my dad, and his family, which included his wife, Josephine, and his three daughters – Linda age 15, Mary Ellen age 6, and me, Michele. I was 4. My brother, Lee, about 21 at the time, was already off to college. Edna was about 80 years old.
I remember one scene on moving day. Dad had parallel parked our two-tone silver and white 1957 Chevy station wagon at the curb in front of Grandma’s apartment building and headed up to Grandma’s flat. Mom, Mary Ellen and I waited in the car. I was at the passenger side, standing in the back seat, peering out the window. After awhile, Dad returned to the sidewalk. Grandma wasn’t yet in the scene. He opened up the front curb-side door by my mom’s seat, and they had a quiet exchange, at least nothing that I remember in particular. But what I do remember is my dad’s body language. Standing on the sidewalk, looking toward my mom, and his back to the apartment, he slapped himself! Not across his cheek, but with an open hand and out stretched palm, he whacked his forehead and grazed the top of his head.
Over the years since, dad repeated that gesture on more than one occasion, as I witnessed some of his most exasperating moments. I suppose that moving his aged mother into his already full household was one of them. Back on that day, I recall an innocent curiosity over his odd gesticulation. But now I have a much more complete understanding of the sentiment: the trials and sacrifices of an adult child caring for an aging parent.