Honoring a Matriarch on Father’s Day 2021

by Alex Garrett

This Father’s Day carries a lot more weight to it for my family and I! Father’s Day 2021 falls on the 3 year anniversary of the loss of my grandmother, Shirley ‘Dee Dee ‘ Brockway .

On June 17th, 2018, my father, stepfather, mother and Aunt from California were surrounding the alert now-100 year old Shirley on Father’s Day. She wasn’t feeling as well but she kept pushing through and kept asking questions that showed her sharpness never left her right up until her final breath, 3 days later.

As far as Fatherhood goes, my dad and I always stayed over at my grandmother’s, because she had such a welcoming and loving soul to all her family. Between the two of them, I definitely learned to, as Dee Dee would say , “put on my big boy pants” in life.

My grandmother also welcomed my step-dad, Vic , in 1999 when my mom and Vic started dating. She must have given off a smile after Vic fixed her stove that she had, as he puts it, “written son-in-law across my forehead”! Just a few years later , son-in-law became official and as I got older Sunday visits were the norm where Vic , my mother, and ‘Dee Dee’ would also teach me different ways to get better in the real world. All of these moments took place at the dinner table in her later years.

Of course for Vic and my father, they have taught me in their own ways all the while growing up on how to be in this world. They’ve calmed me down to reality and yet have inspired me to go after dreams I have, and thanks to them I have felt a strong balance of faith, love, adventure , and yes mindfulness, in my life because of my immediate father figures !

What some may not know is that Shirley Brockway lived a full life outside the house up until about age 91, when retired from her leadership position with a senior citizens center in the Bronx. Not only did she work there until she was 91, she was consistently DRIVING up to work in her early 90s! Outside of work she’d come to various events for all her grandkids , including weddings of my cousins on LI and, personally, my appearances on Variety the Children’s Charity telethons. Remarkably, she also made my 2013 graduation from Queens College in 95 degree heat, while 95 years old!

The photo above is from the post-graduation lunch in 2013. To have both my fathers and my grandmother all at one table knowing how tense it sometimes was when we were all together was a breath of fresh air for me.

That was the thing about Dee Dee , she brought family that may have felt on opposite sides of a spectrum together. She welcomed all into her home for many years, including at her 100th birthday extravaganza with my ENTIRE family! She loved us all through our faults and stood by us as our matriarch.

It’s intriguing to write about a matriarch on the day we honor Fathers. Yet, I believe her strength for my family helped the men in our family become better men! She also raised three-strong willed women who inspired their kids to be better men in this world as well! I’m very proud of my mom , who has instilled a sense of what I should be as a man , disabled or not, in this world.

There’s so much more I can also write about my father figures, which you should stay tuned for, but this one goes to Dee Dee! We miss you and love you , but we feel your spirit with us daily!