Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving to My Mother-in-Law, Part II

Family reunion at a fishing resort in Arkansas.
Gerald (G3), my husband, Marcia.

 Older women have been a blessing in my adult life, especially my mother-in-law. In 2008, I wrote Thanksgiving to my Mother-in-Law. Absent the connection to her son, it’s doubtful our paths would have crossed: her privileged world wouldn’t have allowed it, nor would my independent, occasionally outrageous spirit. We both like to read and she adored my children. Marcia traveled out to see us in Los Angeles on a yearly basis, something my own mother neglected to do. 


Marcia bringing in the first catch


We had a few escapades: early in my marriage she took some of my husband’s laundry out of the dryer and was horrified at the condition of his socks and underwear. I worked outside of the home and didn’t do my husband’s laundry, nor did I shop for him. She took it upon herself to go through his sock and underwear drawer and remove all the tattered clothing. I warned her that he wouldn’t like it but, “Well, as long as he understands that I had nothing to do with it.” She put his stuff in a brown paper bag intending to take it out to the trash, but left it next to his easy chair. Gerald came home from work and was delighted to find what he thought was a bag of treats. Woohoo! The fireworks went off. He was furious and, of course, blamed me. Marcia stepped in and took responsibility. Undaunted, he took the bag of clothes that Goodwill probably wouldn’t have accepted and dumped them back in his drawer. That set up a tradition of her gifting him every year with socks. 
Her oldest dancing with his mom


Now that I think of those days, Marcia must have been horrified at how her Harvard Law School son and his strong-minded wife lived. We still slept with our mattress on the floor, which had been cool when we were living together but grew difficult for me to get in and out of as my pregnancy progressed. Never occurred to me to get a real bed until Marcia said it might help ease the pain in my back. 

She was also the one who sent out announcements for our marriage and told me to go register. My parents were absentee with advice, admonitions and good ideas. We laughed a lot together, with g&t’s tinkling during the cocktail hour and I am so grateful for that. The geography and privilege of Marcia’s life dictated that she would always be sheltered and spoiled (her word and one spoken with pride). She was forced into independence in her later years. Traveling alone to come out and see us was a big deal. She taught me to stay involved with my children’s lives and what it means to have family. She taught me that whenever you love, you risk loss. 
Poker in Arkansas surrounded by family

Marcia’s 2013 Engagement Planner is more than the usual dentist and Drs’ appts, birthdays, brunches and bridge games. It’s a diary where she noted her fears and prayers for her sons, her joy when the news was good and her abiding sorrow when it was not. In it is a story of hope layered with loss. It doesn’t reveal the totality of Marcia–all her transitions in life–but it is a gift to those she left behind.

Dec 23, 2012: Miss Kitty* party 
Dec. 2012: Notations on Johnny’s* surgery, “Good news!” Each subsequent day of his pain noted. 
January 1, 2013: Lost Winter (she contracted pneumonia) 
March 27: G3* coming 
April 2: My first day to drive since Jan. 
April 4: lunch 
April 5: Bridge 
May: Dr. Pop, Ricky’s* doctor 
May 8: Eb* & Sandra coming.
May 11: G3 coming. 
May 15: George* coming 
May 16: Stint in Rick’s chest for chemo. 
May 19: Rick had oatmeal for dinner, ate about half all the time chocking and said he liked it but couldn’t get it down. John is doing well and I thank God. 
May 20: Rick has tests. Ate 2 eggs and kept them down. 
May 21: More tests. Banana pudding–good! Stuffed potatoes. Kept them down. 
May 23: John birthday 
May 29: Kitty moving. George? 1st chemo Ricky. 
May 30: Rick did well for his first chemo. 
June 6: Rick is eating a little bit better, his heartburn is better. No meds yet. Blood work ok. 
June 16: Rich* is here; Rick is weak. 
June-July: Rich is here, been a big help. Ricky not eating well. In hospital now. Thank God Ricky is in the hospital to get help. Lung? I think Ricky is relieved to be in hospital once he got there. We are going to take turns feeding Ricky. It has to work. I want him home for as long as I can have him. I pray that will happen. Rick not eating. Eb coming. Ricky on too many meds. Rich is here doing a great job. 
July 10: Sallie’s* birthday. 
July 13: Ricky is coming home. Hospice. 
July 14: Eb left. It was hard. 
July 15-24: I pray that Rick will feel better at home and be more aware. Ricky not eating. Not eating or drinking
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July 25: We lost Ricky at 12:45 a.m. (no more pain). Rick is now with Jesus and his dad. He is no longer in pain. He died at home where he wanted to be. I wish I could have gone with Ricky, but I have to be strong. I still have three wonderful children left. I have to be there for them as long as I can for Eb, John and Sal. 
July 29: Ricky’s service. It was beautiful. The pain I feel is unbelievable. No one should ever lose a child. If I could have one sign from Ricky-that he is happy where he is-in my heart I know he’s okay. I still want a sign. 
July 31: Birthday card for Eric.* 
August 3: The American vets came and took away Ricky’s clothes. That was hard. 
August 13: Picked up acknowledgements. The pain is almost not bearable. 
August 16: I slept all day. Didn’t feel well. 
August 18: Cindy is coming to bring pictures of everyone at the house (wake) after Ricky’s service. Will I ever get out of this pain? I miss Ricky so much and still can’t believe he is gone.
August 19: Eb sent me a book on grief, a good book. 
August 23: Eb birthday. 
August 25: Gone a month. Unbelievable. 
Sept 1: Brunch with a lot of family. I wish I could have Ricky back. It’s so hard. 
Sept 2-8: I need to write my notes. I have to do this but it makes it so final. And I know in my heart that it is. Ricky-I will never get over that he’s gone. I need to get out of this house. I don’t want to live here anymore. 
Sept 9-15: I never realized how many friends Ricky had. He touched so many lives-also realize how many friends I have. Worked on Notes. Worked on Notes. Hair cut and lunch. The mail for Rick keeps coming in. Memorial cards, etc. I hope to answer all of them, going to take a lot of time. 
Sept 16: I miss my Ricky. Why doesn’t it get better? 
Sept 18: Cat Scan Kitty 
Oct 2: George 
Oct 6: George 
Oct 11: Janet* came by. She came in crying. I don’t think she ever stopped loving Rick. I think he felt the same way about her. I will never get over this pain. 

Marcia went into the hospital on Nov. 8 complaining of shortness of breath. She walked in unaided but was diagnosed with lung cancer. She asked her family to let her go. 

*Miss Kitty, a longstanding friend. Listen to the recording below. 
*John, her third oldest child.
*G3, my youngest son, named for his father and grandfather. 
*Ricky, her second oldest child. 
*Eb, nickname for her oldest child (my husband) 
*George, Miss Kitty’s dog who Marcia babysat. 
*Rich, Ricky’s son. 
*Sallie, her youngest. 
*Eric, my oldest son.
*Janet, Ricky’s ex-wife.

With permission from Miss Kitty (Katherine Lammons). Two minutes on her friend, Marcia.


Memphis Autumn

All photos by S. Ramos O'Briant