Friday, September 4, 2009

A Life centered around Family

The obituary reads "Mom devoted her life to her family". That was so true of my mother-in-law. She had five kids, lots of grandchildren and some great-grandchildren. She was a stay-at-home mom - she kept a spotless home, and cooked awesome meals. She baked yummy desserts, and she decorated cakes. She was the queen of "doo-funnies" (left-over pastry spread with butter, sprinkled with brown sugar, and rolled up and baked).

She loved to play games when her family visited, and she was not above a little cheating (although she always denied it). She taught her tricks to her son and my daughter, tricks she learned from her parents (who were also avid card-players). Someone in her family visited almost every day. Often her home was the center of family gatherings during traditional holidays, with everyone pitching in with food and cleanup.

Thelma never smoked and she didn't drink. She died this week of cancer of the kidney.

My grandmother was also a woman who devoted her life to her family. She too loved to cook, and everything that came out of her kitchen smelled and tasted great. She was the queen of brownies - she would often call me and say she'd just made a pan, would we be coming over? She knew she'd get my brother to drive all the way from Toronto if she told him she had a pot roast on the stove (my brother's nickname was "Potsie").

Grandma's house was not spotless, nor was it tidy, but it was comfortable, and also a center of family during traditional holidays when she was younger. Grandma was always interested in hearing about our lives, and she had a fantastic memory. She had a habit of mis-using words, but sometimes the way she mis-used them actually sort of made more sense (i.e., the grocery store called "No Frills", for its lower prices and bag-your-own check-out, was "No Thrills" to Grandma).

Grandma never drank but she smoked like a chimney. She died 10 years ago of lung cancer.

Two women, similar and different, but both living their lives focused around their families. Nothing brightened their day more than a visit by a loved one. They were sweet women who asked for very little, but gave so much. They were dependable, you knew you would find them at home almost any time you might drop by (and they always seemed to have treats hanging around - "just in case someone drops by"). They always remembered birthdays and anniversaries. They always worried if one of the family had a cold.

I love to cook, I like to clean my house and do my laundry, and I love to prepare a feast for my immediate family. But I also work and have other interests. My brain cannot remember all the small details of people closest to me. I assume if someone has a cold that they will get better - I might offer a suggestion of aspirin and lots of fluids, but then I get on with my day and the cold is usually forgotten. I might remember a birthday, but often don't get around to sending a card. I am distracted.

Have our lives become too busy now to be 'centered around family'? Or will we too be like Grandma and Thelma when we're older and 'retired'? I would like to think there can be a balance. Living in Mexico will make it a different kind of challenge to keep family close - condensed periods of time together rather than day-to-day, year-to-year. I would like to be remembered as the mother/grandmother who had a great home in Mexico where family loved to get together. Time will tell...


Life's a Beach! said...

Grandma Bowman played this role for me. My mother probably would have played the same role, but we moved across the U.S. when my son was little. It's hard to keep the tight bond alive when family's spread out across the country (or world). So sorry to hear about your mother-in-law.

Islagringo said...

Off topic. Saw you and Miguel close to my house tonight. Honked and waved from my little red car. Kind of obvious you had no idea who was hailing you. I hope someday you will recognize me!

Sue said...

Beck - I think that's what it's going to come to for me too.

Wayne - I did know it was you, but not until you were almost past did I even see your car, so it was a belated wave, sorry. We had just jumped back on the cart after checking the oil - the cart was going as slow as a snail. Welcome back!

Islagringo said...

Guess I should have looked in my rearview mirror! I was too busy trying to find the new driveway entrance to my house!

Bennie said...

What a great post. I hate to hear about your Mother-in-law. She sounded like quite a character.

As did your grandmother. Heck I'd crawl over in snow for brownies. She knew her tricks didn't she?

When you retire and are not so busy you will remember more about the family and worry about who has colds and send cards. You simply don't have time right now to do that.