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Our Future President Hillary Rodham Clinton with

Congressman Charles Rangel, my Granny’s student and friend

 

Today is my maternal grandmother Frances Nettie Messinger ‘s birthday. I witnessed my beloved Granny suffer an agonizing and prolonged death from lung cancer. I’ll never forget the last time I saw her at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She didn’t recognize me. This gentle, loving woman who had never even raised her voice at me started screaming. Without thinking about what I was doing, I sprinted out of her room and down the hall in terror. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew what I did was cowardly, but I was ignorant about death, and I wasn’t strong enough to face her decline. 

Hers was the first death to affect me significantly. I was twenty-seven when she died and I plummeted into a deep depression. As nightmarish as my depression was, it only gave me a hint of what would come after I’d be diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder. To be honest, I’m glad Granny died before I was diagnosed so she didn’t see me suffer the horrors of bipolar. I know she would have been devastated.

While I’m lucky that my Granny and my Dad are the only deaths that have hit me so hard, I know more grief will arrive. For now, it helps me to remember my beloved family members when they were at their best.

Granny was an absolutely  amazing woman. Yes, I sound biased, but read on and I’m sure you’ll agree. She was an elementary school teacher in Harlem, New York. Granny was a single mother to my Mom and she took care of her own mother “Bubba” until Bubba died peacefully in her sleep at age 93.

I was only five-years-old when Bubba died, but I remember her having a lively sense of humor and a clear mind. My most vivid memory of Bubba is when she shook hard with laughter while telling me a joke about the F-word. (Hey, now I know where I get my potty mouth!) I loved her bouncy laugh. Although I didn’t know exactly what the F-word meant, I could tell by her expression that it was naughty and that she got a big kick out of saying it.

On the other hand, Granny had an impeccable vocabulary. You’d never hear her utter an unsavory word for she was used to being an exemplary role model. This extremely dedicated teacher mentored many students, but one student stood out in her life. His name was Charles Rangel, and he would eventually became a Democratic Congressman and the first African-American chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee.

Granny and Congressman Rangel had a truly beautiful friendship. I was so proud of Granny for inspiring this extraordinary man to achieve his dream of governmental service. He is currently the second longest serving member of the House of Representatives. 

I met Congressman Rangel when he gave the eulogy at Granny’s funeral in upstate New York. There were only six of us in attendance, and he took time out of his jam-packed schedule to make sure he was there. Despite my being in a fog of despair, I was comforted by my brief interaction with this warm and wonderful man who loved my Granny too.  

I write in depth about this remarkable woman and our relationship in my memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder slated for publication in 2016 by Post Hill Press.   

Yesterday I found a link that posted a speech given by Congressman Rangel. He honored my Granny in front of Congress, and as you can imagine, I was totally blown away by such a find. What a gift!

Thanks, Granny, for leading me to this link and for so much more…

I miss you.

your Dyanu

Here goes:

In Memory Of Sixth Grade Teacher Nettie Messinger On Teacher Appreciation Day by Congressman Charles Rangel

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Mr. Speaker, let me join with my colleagues. I did not come to speak on this subject, but just this Friday I attended the funeral of a sixth grade teacher that I had. She was more than an inspiration to one of the worst kids in the classroom, which was Charlie Rangel, but it was fantastic that the more success I received politically, the better she thought I was as a student.

How quickly they forget. I was so blessed to have had her, not only as a sixth grade teacher in Nettie Messinger but as someone who counseled me after I got out of the service, returned to high school and went on to college and law school.

There were so many, many students that she took this very, very personal relationship with. She did not just let you play hookey, she had to come by your house to let your parents know that you missed school.

On behalf of all of the students from old PS 89, some who get on TV and many others who do not, let me thank the teachers that follow the high tradition of real teaching as Mrs. Nettie Messinger did and join my colleagues in thanking all of our teachers, especially those in the public school system.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Frances Nettie Messinger, My Inspiration

    1. Thanks so much, Kitt. I miss you & think of you often. Today marks one month I’ve been off Seroquel and I’m so exhausted/out-of-it/crabby. I”m glad that school enbds next week for the girls and we don’t have to rush like freaks out the door every weekday a.m. Hope you guys are relaxing this weekend! Let’s catch up soon. xoxo

  1. Your grandmother sounds like a beautiful soul to admire. Again, I relate, in that my grandmother, “Monini” too was a teacher (she taught disabled children). I felt honored when one’s relative recently reached out to me on Facebook to tell me what a saint she was. (Also, my bipolar rapid cycling started around the time of her decline and death).

    How touching it must be for you to know that your Granny was so influential that she left a legacy even the US Congress heard about!

  2. Amazing! What an extraordinary woman your wonderful gramma was! She obviously impacted her students’ lives. And yours as well. A loving, disciplined woman, who was a great teacher. And his incredibly amazing that mr. Rangel gave this tribute to her in congress!!! Grandmas are my favorite people. I miss mine as well, so much! Love and hugs.

    1. Thank you soooo much for reading this post & for commenting about someoneso important to me.

      Our wonderful grandmothers live on in us, beautiful & brilliant Samina – I wish I could say that I thought of that gem, but it comes from my counselor! 😉 She’s so eloquent that I told her I want her to write my book for me! Sending you my love always….XOXOX

  3. Fascinating post Dyane and so well-written! Your grandmother sounds extraordinary. No wonder you miss her. Thanks for sharing this story. Looking forward to reading more about her in “Birth of a New Brain”! 🙂

    1. A big, big *thanks* to you, Lisa, for reading this post & commenting too – I feel special. There was so many more juicy details I could have shared about Granny, but you know where that is headed. I know a 5000 word-long blog post would probably be a turn-off! 😉

      Thanks also for the rewteets – I’ll direct message you on Twitter this weekend. XOXO

  4. What an amazing post, Dyane, and so beautifully written. You must have had such a loving relationship with her to be so affected by her death. I get it. I was six when I lost my live-in grandmother and our family fell apart.

    Your grandmother had such an influence on a man who has achieved greatness…that’s quite a legacy for any teacher. Wonderful that you have this speech as his testimony. So many colorful family members..you should be proud. ❤️ Van

    1. What a beautiful comment – thank you!
      You and I were both so fortunate to know and love our grandmothers. I’m very sorry that when yours passed away, your family was torn – that must have been horrible. I bet she was an a amazing woman…just like her granddaughter!

      Thanks again for reading and for commenting – your words touch my heart.

  5. Ain’t you some lady indeed? Bubba must have know Obama’s grams 🙂
    Thanks for sharring Dy, a fews hours to my first flight to your infamous land of “milk and honey”; it warms my literary heart to read such a soulful tribute from you and congressman Randy…

  6. June 5th… Hi Mom, It’s your birthday! Just want you to know how much we all miss you. You were a great role model for me and a loving and inspirational grandmother. Your legacy carries forth with your great grandchildren. Watch over us Mama. We carry you in our hearts and cherish the memory of your life and courage. You were a pioneer among women and we all strive to emulate your achievements. Happy Ź Birthday Ms. Messinger. 🎼🎼🎼

    1. Thanks so much my sweet!

      I knew you’d appreciate this probably more than anyone. Teachers, my dear, ROCK!!!!!! Wish I could listen to you play piano tonight! XOXOX Love back to you and the P-ster

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