Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Mother-in-law, My Friend

I grew up with mother-in-law jokes about the overprotective, interfering, always siding with her son or daughter mother of the bride or groom, but none of them applied to mine. Dorothy was the best friend I ever had, always in my corner, always rooting for us in our marriage from the first, helping us raise our three sons in Huntington, Indiana and never complaining about the many impositions we inadvertantly thrust on her during hectic times.

When I started dating Barbara, ten years my junior, it was Dorothy who thought I might be the right man for her despite my chequered artist-musician, twenty-jobs-a-year past. I was a high school teacher now and had a steady future. And it was Dorothy who nudged her Barbara my way, and was thrilled when we asked their blessing of Dexter and her. We announced our intentions in their living room, and Dorothy broke out in a whoop and a smile ear to ear and clapped her hands. "We'd like your blessing," I said.

She leaned over to Dexter and said, "Well, what do you think?"
"Sounds like a fait accompli, don't it?" Dexter grinned.
"Well--" I chuckled.
"Sounds fine by me," Dorothy said.
"Don't think she could do any better?" Dad kidded with his characteristic dry humor.

We got a ring and got engaged, and set a date for the following March 17, ten days after Barbara turned nineteen. I had already taught at the high school her senior year and we had begun dating near the end of that year, going to Ft. Wayne to movies and getting together at her house to watch tv. Our courtship had been low-key and a little furtive till she graduated, but I knew she was the girl I wanted to settle down with and hopefully start a family.

And Mom was the best friend our marriage had. When we'd quarrel or get upset, I'd ask Dorothy's advice and she'd step in and smooth out the bumps; she was always there for us. Dexter was a frequent presence also, but I never knew what he might bring over. One morning in late spring he showed up with a tiller and plowed us a garden to tend, On the lot next to another house we move to later he started several rows of corn.

Dexter died this late October just before his Halloween birthday, at ninety-three, after several years in the nursing home. We went to his funeral in Huntington just eight weeks ago.

This afternoon Mom died as well, very quickly. She was eighty-eight, and again, only a few weeks away from her birthday February 22. She had "left us" for all intents many years before, poor soul, with acute Alzheimers, and in recent years she often couldn't recognize us for a time when we'd visit, then not at all. But when we went up for Dad's funeral eight weeks ago and visited her, she recognized some of us and even laughed a little when Stephen told her jokes. We got it on videotape, that last visit, to hold onto now. It was the last time she showed any spark of the woman we have loved for so many close years together. By yesterday she had stopped eating and drinking and was taking on fluid in the lungs, and they put her in hospice in Fort Wayne. I got the call to expect the worst within hours earlier today, and by the time Barb got home from school her brother called with the confirmation of their mother's passing.

No, I can't think of any of those mother-in-law jokes I heard growing up. Dorothy basically erased them from my memory with all her friendship, kindness, and love. I feel like I've lost one of the best friends I ever had.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Worlds of Warcraft and Supermonitors

This is my first blog this year, so I wonder what to report. I guess I'll just express thanks for a great Christmas and New Year's holiday period to my incredible family, whose visit these past days made Barb and me so happy and full of cheer!

I got to see my sons and daughter-in-law, and spend some time with my grandson and granddaughter too. I even got to speak with my New York son because he's a major game-player of World of Warcraft, the incredibly imaginative game from Blizzard corporation of California that produces mages, gnomes, healers, dragons, mechanical chickens to ride around on, shapeshifters and other medieval spirits galore. Since both Scott and Barb play it many hours a day and Mark joins the raids whenever he's not designing sounds in Manhattan, I got a lot of ear time.

This year might be called the year of the big monitor. Barb's always looking for a bigger screen for her WOW quests, and I had already returned the wide screen HP monitor that came with her computer to her desk before Scott arrived and wired in his even larger 21" monitor. Then we bought him a flat panel high-def 32" Visio, and after hooking in a slingbox so he can get cable channels slung to it, he used it for a WOW monitor! That meant Barb got to use his 21" one, which she loved.

We also got Steve and Rhonda a big 52" tv for their new house, which they richly deserved. Their help for Mark's back surgery since June saved us all many thousands in costs. But Scott seized the first chance he got to set it up as even a more humongous 52" high def monitor for WOW, sending his 32" Visio over to Barb to use and making his originally very large 21" monitor look like a handheld toy screen.

They all went home to Kissimmee and Hernando in central and northern Florida today, taking all the big, beautiful, colorful WOW tv/monitors with them, alas. Barb went into shock to see her puny widescreen HP back on her desk. I think she wants a wall.