Friday, February 11, 2011

Letting go

My former mother-in-law, recently diagnosed with cancer, died. She would have been eighty-one in a few weeks.

My granddaughter wrote on Facebook, "We have about a hundred years on earth, that doesn't seem long enough."

I don't know if that was an unattributed quote or if it was spoken directly from her heart, but I'm sure we all agree.

Ruth was my mother-in-law for twenty-five years and she was in my life to some degree, since I was fifteen years old. She was the "proverbial" mother-in-law and I could write a book about problems, alcoholism, wounds and scars. I could toss in a few sentiments about marrying too young for all the wrong reasons. But then this post would end up being about me. Let me tell you some things about her. She had four children. My deepest sympathy goes out to her immediate family John, Ray, Carl and their late sister Sue; Ruth's sisters Betty and Rosie and her brother Terry, and all of the extended family members.

A tough exterior of gruffness, anger and/or orneriness is often a shield worn to protect someone who has been hurt in their early lives. Ruth suffered cruel emotional indignities at the hands of her own mother.

Early on, she fell in love with a man, and then she married his brother. She fell head over heels in love with her first-born and held onto him for dear life. She spoke her mind without temperance and didn't mind letting others know what she was thinking.

When she came to our wedding, I feared that she would drunkenly stumble down the aisle and cling to her son. Instead she sat sober in a pew, legally signed her boy over to me, and giggled with my mother who shocked everyone when she arrived, TIPSY. I was mortified.

She and my mom were the daring duo for a year or two during their mid-life crazies, one trying to be a religious goody-two-shoes and convert the other who had a devil-may-care attitude, but was baptized at the end of her life.

When her son was drafted and sent to Alaska, she took me in. I split my time between her house and my mom's (blocks apart). I was a married KID with two sets of dysfunctional parents and I couldn't wait those four months for that plane ticket to Alaska, my great escape.

They found me, even though we had no phone and only a post office box. On Christmas they called the State Patrol and dispatched him to the green trailer on School Road where buffalo and moose roamed freely. I had no money for a long distance call and so he directed me to the only folks in our area with a phone. I stood in their livingroom in the presence of authority and trembled with fear about who had died back home.


I heard their voices, a duet if you will, one after another wishing me a happy holiday and singing, Beautiful-Beautiful Brown Eyes.

I have blue eyes, so I figured Ruth was singing for her son. She and my mom used to send their 'recordings' to him when he lived in the barracks, and he played them on an old fashioned clunky tape recorder.

So, there I stood in the elderly, retired school teachers' living room, suffering from complex emotions and pregnancy hormones, trying to maintain my composure, trying to look a little shocked at the "bad news from home" "HMMING" and "Oh my-ing", wanting to shout jubilantly, "Merry Christmas; what do you two think you're doing calling the Alaska State Police to find me?!" Instead I said, "I love you too and thanks for letting me know."

"Oh yes, officer, everything is okay back home. Thank you."

When I looked into her coffin last night and saw her wearing a sky blue chiffon dress and a peaceful expression, I released a torrent of silent laughter at all of the silly things she and my late mom engaged in.

I packaged up a prayer, tied it loosely with a ribbon of forgiveness, and asked her to take it to heaven to hand to my mom just in case they bump into one another.
Lord help the angelic choir if those two reunite and try to chime in.



Deborah said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your former mother-in-law. That was a nice post. One hundred years does not seem long enough, I agree with that quote.

Terri Tiffany said...

Again the way you tell a story touches my heart:))

BECKY said...

Being your friend, I already knew a lot of this, but not quite all of it. Thanks for sharing. Beautifully written!

Linda O'Connell said...

I sincerely thank you.

Your posts, whether on your blog or mine, are always uplifting.

I consider this a hug, friend.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Oh, Linda,
What a lovely tribute to your former mother-in-law, and such sweet memories of your mom. I remember reading your Alaska State Trooper story. You are a gifted writer with a generous heart.

Karen Lange said...

What wonderful lessons here. Glad you shared with us.
Happy weekend,

Bookie said...

So nicely and fairly told, Linda. You captured both pathos and affection...
And the quote at the end...never heard it before but appreciate it much...

Tracey Simpson said...

I think your story was well-written and heart-felt. You were in the family for 25 years, and I think it was very kind of you to not only attend the wake, but to also write a sweet story about past memories. Some people think that when a divorce happens,that's it. Break all ties and forget the past. But, when children were born from that broken marriage...the ex-spouses will always be tied together in some way (bithdays, graduations, weddings, births and funerals). I think Grandma Ruth and Grandma Ginny would have got a smile & a chuckle out of reminiscing about your story. They both probably would have been amazed to see all who attended their funeral services. I like to think of them having a cup of coffee in heaven and talking about all that is going on down here :)

Julia Williams said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. The quote at the end is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I saw your comment at Jennifer Shirk's blog just now and came over to meet you. Glad I did! I love cheery blogs and positive people like yours and you.

What a lovely tribute! I remembered the joyful times, too, when I spoke a year and a half ago and my younger and only sister's funeral. Wish I'd had this quote you post here: especially "Love leaves a memory no one can steal." Thank you!!
Ann Best, Author

Susan said...

Nice story, Linda, and written, truly, from your heart. Blessings to you and to your late Mom and Mother-in-law. Susan

Chatty Crone said...

This was a nice story and I am sorry for your loss. love, sandie

Linda O'Connell said...

To all my readers,
A heartfelt thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Deepest Sympathy Linda, you and your family will be in my prayers.

Sioux Roslawski said...

What a wonderful tribute to your former mother-in-law. It was nice to read about another facet of your trooper story.

(I'm still here, just sick with an awful cold. Thanks for wondering...)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Linda, but you've offered a beautiful tribute here. God bless.

Lynn said...

Sorry for your loss. Sounds like you had some real characters in your life who in their own way had a lot of love to give to you.

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Oh, Linda, that was a lovely tribute. She showed the beauty, the fun, and the joy in her. And the lessons you learned, as well.

She is in an easier, better place, and I believe that one day you will see her again. With the bonus of no more dysfunction!


Pat Wahler said...

Everyone we meet changes our life in one way or another. Very nice post.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lovely story, Linda. So sorry for your loss.

Tammy said...

Thank you for sharing your beautifully wrapped package of loving forgiveness with us. It was a gift.