I prepared this article for yesterday’s Daily prompt, but my internet was down last night and wouldn’t let me post anything. So here it is, albeit belated.
I’ve written this bit about my mother-in-law before, but the Daily prompt word brings back memories of her, so I’ll post it again.
Mom prided herself in being stubborn. She was born in 1908, long before x-rays and other diagnostic tests that would have explained her deformity. An x-ray, when they were finally invented, revealed that she had no hip joints. There’s a technical term for this: congenital hip dysplasia. The newborn’s hip sockets never formed. And there’s a simple cure for it — nowadays.
Back then doctors had no clue. The only explanation they offered back in 1910 was, “Somebody must have dropped this baby.” This made Grandma angry; she knew this wasn’t the case at all. Still, nothing could be done for the child. They just had to accept her condition and make the best of it.
Grandma told her to just sit still and never mind that her siblings were running around, but Mom had no ears for that idea. Enduring constant pain, she did walk. Being number six in a family of fourteen, she wasn’t going to be left out of the action. She wasn’t catered to, either; she was expected to do her share of the work. Overall, she was accepted as an equal and well treated at home. Her father was blind and she was less mobile than her siblings, so she became his eyes, reading to him and doing the family farm book-work.
Mom often commented about how, if her folks went away visiting on a Sunday afternoon and she was home reading a book, when they got home her dad wanted her to repeat the complete story. No matter what it was about, he wanted to hear it all, in detail. Thus she developed a great memory.
At age 3o Mom went to keep house for a couple of bachelors, Walter & Morris Goodnough. The next year she married Walter and they had a baby, a 9-lb boy born by cesarean. (Mom was 4’10” at her tallest, so she told us that in the last months of her pregnancy she was four-foot-square.) “That’s it!” the doctor ordered. “You can’t put your body through this again.”
Mom ignored the pain and walked almost all her life, cooking, canning, cleaning, playing with her son — doing all the things a normal farm wife would do. And she kept walking right up into her 90s. She walked long after arthritis had immobilized some of her cronies. When people would marvel at her ability to keep going, she’d answer, “I’m just so stubborn.”
I benefited in one way from her stubbornness, as she was determined — come what may — that when her son married she was going to get along with her daughter-in-law. She would explain in later years something to the effect that, “When you only have one child and you alienate them by criticizing or fussing with their spouse, then you have no one.” This is a wisdom that would have blessed the lives of a lot of mother-in-laws I’ve known — had they only applied it.
WE, her children, marveled at Mom’s amazing determination. Then again, there were times when her stubbornness really annoyed us, too. For every virtue there’s a vice on the flip side of the coin.
Mom never talked much about her health. In fact, the few times when she was really sick or had been injured in some way, we never heard about it until she was better again. I suspect she didn’t want us to worry, or ask frequently how she was doing. However, often the ones who say, “I just didn’t want you to worry,” give you three times more worries than the ones who come out with the truth, or call for help, and let you worry together with them.
Another downside of Mom’s being stubborn was that she held a few life-long grudges. For instance, back when she was in her twenties on the family farm, she often told us, the XX Dairy didn’t give them a proper grade for the cream they shipped. She never forgot that, and even in her eighties she wouldn’t buy products from that company. We could tell her that the people who did the grading for XX Dairy, as well as the entire management of the company, were all dead and gone. (Probably a lot of their children, too.) It made no difference; by this time she just couldn’t let it go.
Mind you, if I’d struggled through the “Dirty Thirties” on a farm in one of the driest part of the province, I might better understand why the price the XX Dairy paid Grandpa for his cream in those years was so significant to her.
After age 85 Mom developed dementia, but she didn’t realize how bad her memory was until the last few months. Only then did she talk on not wanting to live anymore. She died just two weeks short of her 99th birthday, a week after a serious bout with a ‘flu virus. So she lived a good, long, and happy life in spite of her faults.