One day several years ago, my husband and I were visiting his parents when Mark’s Mom and Dad began to debate the cost of the dining room set (table, chairs and china cabinet) they had purchased some 40 to 50 years earlier. Once the debate progressed to a certain point, Mark’s Mom announced she would prove that she was right. She stood up, walked out of the room, came back into the room with a pleated cardboard folder, opened the pleats, put her hand one time into a particular spot and pulled out the receipt for said furniture. (For the record, she remembered the price correctly before checking.) Mark’s eyes were dancing, but I dissolved into laughter right there in the den. When she asked me what was so funny, I explained that she had attained a level of organization I could never hope to attain.
Another favorite story is the time she had to go out of town to Andalusia (Alabama, not Spain) for something, which is usually a full day’s trip. To surprise her, my Dad-in-law pulled all of the furniture out of the dining room, including the removal of all of the china from the china cabinet, and painted the dining room for her. The paint job was perfect. He then very carefully put everything back in the room, put the china back in the cabinet exactly the way it came out, and had the room looking spectacular. When she came home, what she noticed was that the china cabinet was off-center by one inch, whereupon he emptied the china cabinet once more to put the cabinet where she wanted it.
Then there was the day that Mark’s dad decided to replace the baseboards in the kitchen. He had been talking about this project for a while, and Mark had already offered to bring down his portable mitre saw to help him when he got ready to do it – all we asked was that he let us know in advance so we could plan. Mark’s mom called us that Saturday morning, speaking just barely above a whisper, to let us know his dad had decided to go forward with Project Baseboard on his own, and she really thought he might need some help. We threw the mitre saw in the car and drove down to Montgomery from Alexander City, about an hour’s drive, and sure enough, the mitre saw came in handy.
I don’t know how fond of me she was when Mark and I first started dating, although she predicted that I would be the one he married because my birthday was December 27. This was not based on astrology, which she had little time for, but on the fact that her daughter had married a man whose birthday is December 23, and her son married a woman whose birthday is December 22. She was right. By the time we got married, she loved me dearly and ever since we got married she always treated me like I was one of her own children.
During the five years I was in law school at night, she fed me supper three times a week when school was in session – their house was just down the street from my law school, and the only way my schedule worked was for me to leave straight from work, grab something to eat at her house, then head over to school.
I never once walked into her house without being welcomed by her special smile, a hug, and the comment, “My, how pretty you look.” And even though I know for a fact that I didn’t always look pretty, I never doubted for a minute that she meant it.
When Mark’s Dad died in 2001, she had to learn to live on her own. It wasn’t easy for her, but I admired the courage that it took for her to take each step forward in rebuilding her life.
When Kayla came to live with us December 1, 2004, she fell in love with her immediately. I can remember the first time she baby-sat for us – we had warned her in advance that three year olds and sugary foods did not mix well. When we came back to pick Kayla up, Kayla was bouncing off the walls and ceiling. Mark’s mom looked just like a kid whose hand was caught in the cookie jar as she confessed that she had “only” given Kayla a piece of chocolate cake and some candy. We laughed about it; there is, after all, a reason that what happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s.
She hated having her picture taken and the number of pictures we have of her smiling is very limited – you had to take the picture when she didn’t know you were taking it and she was concentrating on something else. I am very proud that I have some.
Here she is with Kayla on the first Halloween Kayla was with us:
And here is a picture I took when the entire family got to meet Andy and Anne’s first-born child, Carter, her first great-grandchild.
She fell and broke her hip in 2016, and things were never the same for her afterwards. She passed away this past year right after Christmas. Everyone in her family, including me, misses her and we grieve but there is part of us too that is grateful that she is out of pain and reunited with Mark’s Dad. And, of course, all of us believe that we will see her again some day.
So sadly I say “au revoir” to my Mom-in-law, say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for her entry into the next great adventure, and look forward to the day when I see her again, and she smiles at me and says once again,”My, how pretty you look!”
Have a great day.