Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Goodbye, Elno

We buried my mother in law today.

Technically, she was my ex-mother in law, but she'd been my mother in law far longer than an ex...nearly 30 years in fact, and she was the only one I've ever really had, or ever will have, for that matter.

As mothers in law go, she was about as good as one could ask for. She was always willing to help or offer advice if asked, but never...ever...stuck her nose in where it wasn't welcome.

When Julie and I joined her family, she treated Julie as if she were her own grandchild. I imagine it was easy for her to do that...she and her husband had adopted two ex and, when he was 11, a baby girl. Though she wasn't a biological mother or grandmother to anyone, you'd never know it. The "Elno" came about when my then 3 year old Julie was unable to pronounce "Eleanor"...and the nickname stuck.

She was quiet and, for the most part, uncomplaining...except when it was hot. Then she was like a bear with a sore ass. Ooooo, boy...we knew to just stay away if the temperature got above 85 or so. She had a dry, wry sense of humor, a quick smile and wasn't prone to gossip...something that can rarely be said of one when one lives in a small town.

Gossip in a small town, is sorta like a hobby. But she had plenty of other hobbies to keep her occupied. She was a Yahtzee player extraordinaire. Pinochle and Solitaire, too. She was an excellent seamstress and cook and she looooved to shop...she could shop me under the table. She was a deacon in her church, a member of the Dorcas Society, Eastern Star, Rebekahs, the VFW and American Legion Auxiliaries. She'd owned and operated her own business and worked as a cook at one of the local schools.

Elno was a quiet, unassuming woman who'd been married to her high school sweetheart for over 50 years. She kept the home fires burning while he was somewhere in the Phillipines during World War II. After he returned from the war, they weren't blessed with children of their own, so they adopted two. They loved them and nurtured them as if they were their own and provided them with everything they needed.

Unfortunately, one of them chose to take full advantage of that kindness and love and repaid them with nothing but problems. She didn't even show up for the funeral. That's a story for another time, though.

In her life, she suffered the outrageous hurts of that same child, buried parents, brothers, sisters in law and a husband. Through it all, her friends, her faith and an inner strength...a pragmatism about life...kept her going. She just...kept on...because that was the way she handled everything. She wasn't a crier and there was never any drama...even when things were rough.

Even after my ex husband and I were divorced, she treated me with nothing but kindness and respect. She certainly could have chosen to cut me out of her life entirely. She could have chosen to cut Julie and Karsin out. She could have chosen to denigrate and revile me...she certainly had the right. But she didn't do any of those things because she just wasn't like that.

Towards the end of her life, several illnesses rendered her unable to care for herself and she moved into a nursing home. Even there, she made the best of it...because that's the way she was. Though she would have liked to stay at home, she knew that she just wasn't able to do so and she accepted it...she just...kept on. She really wanted nothing more than to go be with her husband...89 years on this earth is a long time...she was ready and it was time. I was glad I was able to see her a couple times before she died. The last time, I told her I loved her...I don't think I'd ever done that before. I think she knew it, but I'd just never said the words before.

I like to think she'd have liked her funeral. It was short and sweet and to the point. Pretty much like her. Knowing how she hated the heat, I'm pretty sure she was happy with her final resting place...on a bit of a hill, under a shady sycamore tree, next to her beloved husband.


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