Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Tribute to 91 Years Young

This is was my mother in law, Katie.
As I've mentioned before, she no longer is technically my mother in law.
However, I still choose to call her that.
This past week, I was lucky enough to travel to Bemidji with my kids in tow to celebrate her 91st birthday!
Isn't she darling?

She is one of the nicest, sweetest people I know.
I consider myself lucky to have loved her now for 31 years!
She was married for many years to my father in law who passed away a few years ago.
She is Mom to three sons.
Grandmother to four and great grandma to two.
Up until about 5 years ago, she bowled using a 16 pound ball!  She's not even five feet tall!
She could whip out a pie crust in no time flat!
And man, could she make great jelly.  All kinds.
She played basketball back before girls "did that kind of thing."
She learned to send email in her 70's. 

I was married to one of her sons for 19 years.
We spent many, many weekends with her.
We played a lot of cards and laughed until we cried.
Since I've been divorced from her son, I haven't seen her much in the last 14 years.
We've stayed in touch via emails, letters and telephone calls.
It's not been the same as seeing her though.

Upon hearing of her move to an Assisted Living Unit due in part to early onset Alzheimer's, I knew I had to see her now.

The entire trip up to Bemidji (Almost 300 miles one way, including picking up TJ) was a very sentimental one for me.  Our journey took us through my home town where a stop at the cemetery to "see" Mom and Dad was in order. And of course, we had to see our old house and cabin.  The sweet, sweet memories of days long gone swirled around every one of my five senses.

Reaching Bemidji immediately brought back college days, dating, working and ultimately marriage.  And of course, the memories of being with my in laws.

Sadly, Katie didn't know us as we walked in.  Happily, once I said our names,
she smiled, hugged us and seemed truly over joyed.  It was as if we had never been apart.  My dear sister in law, Mona was with us.  It was decided that Katie could use a trip to the Dairy Queen as well as a trip to her "house." We had a lovely time eating our ice cream out in the summer sun overlooking the vast and beautiful Lake Bemidji.
The  trip to her home was less than delightful for any of us, but especially Katie.  Family is preparing it for sale and perhaps a rummage sale and each and every room was in huge disarray.
I can only imagine what must have gone through her head as she looked around at 40 plus years of making a house a home to have it reduced to piles of stuff.  I know she was hurt and sad as I was too.
She tired quickly and Mona took her back to her new "home" which she adores.

We all gathered with her the next day for the "big" birthday bash!  We enjoyed good company, a tantalizing cake and many good memories.  She tired quickly but was looking forward to the next cake and party, thanks to her house attendants and roomies.

It was then time for the rest of us to go her home to try to do some organizing.  I was fully energized and willing to give it my all for the short time I was there to help.
Upon entering the living room, I glanced at "my" chair and stated out loud "I think I need to just sit here, one last time."  I could immediately see and feel Grandpa Tom to my right.  I could "hear" Katie puttering around in the kitchen as she so often did.  I just knew a card game was right around the corner with cheese and crackers served as snacks.

As  tears ran down my cheeks, I was transported back to the present day and the reality of how quickly life can and does change.  I've always prided myself on being able to handle change gracefully.
I confess though, I don't like these changes.  In fact, I detest them.  I want things the way they used to be.  I want my Mom and Dad back.  I want Grandpa Tom back.  I want Katie happy and living in her own home again.

But then, I remember how lucky I am to have had all of them in my life.
I know many are not as fortunate as I am.  And I try to hold my head up high as I try to teach my children that life must go on.  I tell them it hurts some times, this thing called life.  I tell them how important it is to think back with smiles, not sadness.
I'm trying to listen to my own advice tonight.
Happy Birthday, Dear Katie.
We all love you so much.

To the rest of you,
please go hug someone you love.  If they aren't close enough to hug, call them up or write them a letter and tell them how you feel.
I promise you will be glad that you did.


Anonymous said...

Jill-OMG that was beautiful! I feel i know another part of you which makes up the amazing woman and Mother you are! Thank you for writing this-I am touched!

Love, Kathy

Anonymous said...

Wow - you made me cry. I'm sending you a big hug!


Kandi said...

That's a wonderful story...thank you for the reminder. Why do we take advantage of the present times in our lives and think nothing will ever change? Happy Birthday to your Mother in law!

Anonymous said...

Jill, I'm sorry it took me so long to post on this beautiful piece you wrote. I, too cried when I read this. When we are young, we think we have forever to do things. How fast life goes by and the many changes we go through over the years. I am so glad we were there together and you helped with so much when you were there. I feel the "loss" of that wonderful home that Tom and Katie made each time I step through the doors. They moved into that house the year Corey was born. So many beautiful memories were made their for all of us! Last week the electric company cut the hedge down in the front yard as well as one of the beautiful pine trees that Grampa Tom had planted many years ago. It was a necessary action but at the same time it seemed like such a sad thing to see Grampa's overgrown hedge and beautifully huge tree taken down. I thought Katie would be sad when she saw it but with her usual upbeat attitude she said "there were way too many trees in this yard. They were stinkers to cut around." She always has a way to looking at the bright side and it sure made me feel better!. Love, Mona