Thursday, June 14, 2007

Myrtle Marie

While cleaning out some old word files today I came across this one that I had written several years ago about my Mother-in-law. I use to be very active on a website that had some lively message boards and one night the ladies were really ragging on their mother-in-laws. So I posted this notice about mine to prove that good ones do exist, and I had one of the best.

Mom this one is for you.


My Mother-in-law was one of a kind. I have never known another woman like her. From the first day I met her until the day she died I never once heard her raise her voice, ask anyone for help or make a move without getting her husband’s permission first.

I once heard her referred to as a throwback to the last century. What people never understood was that due to the time and place where she was born she really was a 19th century woman. Her name was Myrtle Marie and she was born in 1910, the youngest of six children of a 60 year old father and the only child of his third wife, a 43 yr old former spinster. She married at 18 and had six children spaced over 20 years. Five of her six children born at home with the help of a midwife. She never held a job, drove a car, wrote a check or saw a dentist. She received her first pair of slacks when she was in her seventies. She never traveled more then 100 miles from the place she was born and what little schooling she got happened mostly around the kitchen table. She was 4 1/2 feet tall, wider then her height, had a lazy left eye, a very pronounced limp from a childhood accident and epilepsy since the great fever outbreak of 1915.

She would box the ears of her grown sons as if they were still children. No one dared swear or show disrespect within her hearing. Her feelings were hurt if you did not ask her first to baby-sit, and she always sent you home with at least two containers of leftovers from Sunday dinner. She waited on all the men of her household as if they were royalty, never set two plates on the dinner table with the same food and kept her household money tied in the toe of an old sock hidden in a Karo can in the back of the cupboard.

She was a wonderful and caring person who showed me nothing but love, respect and kindness. From the minute she realized her son was in love she adopted me as her daughter and I could do no wrong as long as her son was happy. She made sure I learned to cook all his favorite meals, passed down all the frugal household tips she learned during the great depression and tirelessly tried to teach me to crochet.

My mother-in-law was someone I admired, respected and loved. I do not recall ever having a cross word with her and she never once tried to interfere in anything that happened in my married life unless we brought it, uninvited, into her home.

By the time her husband died from a stroke she was advancing into the black void of Alzheimer’s. The progression of her illness caused a reversal in her personality and she was starting to get sharp tongued and testy when suddenly she was gone.

It was certainly a strange situation for her three daughter-in-laws when they went into her home to dispose of the material accumulation of sixty years spent in the same small five room bungalow where nothing was ever discarded and many nice things were stored as a hedge against the worst tomorrow that never came.

Mom only had two Sunday dresses and three for everyday. The daily dresses were threadbare and patched but we found her closet held at least 10 that were waiting to be moved into the rotation as her Sunday best moved into the daily lineup. In going through her things we soon learned that each pocket would be a mini filing cabinet or savings account, holding papers and small collections of coins or a few folded dollar bills. In each drawer we would find some small container filled with coins or a pencil size roll of bills tightly tied with twine. Apparently the fear of being without, learned from the great depression, had never been put to rest.

In the end this lady who had always managed to make do with nothing was laid to rest in the family cemetery beside her husband on a shady hilltop in the middle of a pasture overlooking the farms and valleys that were her playground as a child.

Rest in peace, Mom, I will always love you.

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