Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In Memory of My Mother-in-Law Matilda

Matilda looked great in red!
I have been thinking a lot about death lately. Not in the morbid sense (well, perhaps a little), but in the OMG, I can't believe how many family and friends have died in the last two years. And naturally, one begins to think about the time limits we all have. I used to think I had all the time in the world to do all the things I dreamed about—writing that book; becoming a choreographer; learning how to draw/paint; traveling the world; watching my children get married and have their own families. Now I am more realistic. I know my time is limited, and honestly, that makes me very sad because I'm not ready. Yeah, I know; nobody is.

August 1953 with Doug
This Sunday, we will have an unveiling for my mother-in-law Matilda. I miss her. Several pictures of her are in my office. I take great comfort in surrounding myself with my loved ones, and I confess, when work throws me a question, I look at one of those pictures and start talking to it. (None has answered—yet!)

I miss the messages she would leave on our answering machine. Unlike my mother's "Hello; it's your mother" (as if I would not know her voice?), my mother-in-law never identified herself. Her message always began with "Are you people there?" For some reason, she always referred to Doug and me as "you people." I wasn't sure if it was because she saw us as a unit, a huge mass, or if she wasn't quite sure which one of us she wanted to talk to, so she lumped us together. Of course, she did that in person as well. "What did you people do this weekend?"

Reading with Russell
I miss her knowledge of politics and world events. She loved to watch CNN and CSPAN and read Time and Newsweek. She was always up-to-date on who was who and what they were doing. While I didn't always agree with her opinions (and yes, as demure as she seemed, she had some very strong ones), I always admired that she had them. She was not shy about letting us know what politicos she thought were doing a lousy job.

Visiting with Perri at MICA
I miss her sense of humor. It's hard to believe that this petite proper lady loved watching old Marx Brothers movies. But she did, and her laugh was infectious. That she shared that love with Perri makes it even more special. There were many sleepovers at Grandma Matilda's where after a dinner out, they'd be in their pajamas watching A Day at the Races or a Night at the Opera.

I miss her cooking. Doug and his sisters did not grow up on canned string beans like Bruce and I did (probably why I have such an aversion to them to this day). Nope. Matilda cooked real vegetables, and they tasted great. Her lentil soup, her creamed spinach, her artichokes, and yes, even her string beans were the best. I'm honored that she even shared a few of her recipes with me.

I miss our conversations. She shared stories about her parents and growing up in Paterson; she conveyed her worries about her daughters; she expressed pride in Doug and, indeed, all her children; she talked about movies, and politics, and (my favorite) her grandchildren. We shared many tears and many smiles together.

So this Sunday at her unveiling, instead of thinking about death, I will think about her life, about her accomplishments, and about the greatest joy she gave me—her son.

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