Tag Archives: Mother-In-Law

I fell out of the Crazie tree and hit every branch on the way down – Part Two

Cuckoo Clan

p_v11agy64zae0464This week we start with my parents, Lewis and Virginia. (If you missed last week, click here.)

Mom grew up an only child, an unwanted one at that. My Great Aunt Margie told me that when Mom was little, if you asked her name, she’d say, “No, No, Virginia!” In grade school she was molested by the janitor. She ran home and told her mother who said never to speak about it again.

Mom graduated early from high school and went away to K-State at sixteen.  She said the minute she left her mother’s house, her life began and she rarely returned home.

Dad’s upbringing was the opposite. He had two sisters and was the beloved boy in his family. He served at the end of WWII, but the only danger he saw was while guarding AWOL prisoners.

Escorting a soldier to the privy, the guy stopped in his tracks and said “Would you shoot me if I ran?”

“I don’t honestly know,” Dad said, shaking in his boots. “Should we find out?”

In their last year of college, Dad as president of his fraternity, asked a popular girl to  the fall dance. At the last minute she cancelled so Dad called a young woman that had been hanging around him. Mom was so excited to be going with Dad she wore the name tag with the other girl’s name printed on it through the entire event. (Why I hate name tags.) Dad said Mom set her sites on him and he never had a chance and, besides, he didn’t have the heart to send her back to her miserable mother.

Mom and Kathleen eating popsiclesSo she packed away her taffeta dresses, her girdles, stockings and her high heels and moved with Dad to the family farm. Picture a less glamorous version of the TV show, Green Acres.

Dad neglected to mention to her that farm wives fix dinner (lunch to you city folk) for the men and the hired help working in the fields. The morning after their honeymoon, Mom’s new mother-in-law arrived early to help cook, only to find Mom in bed, reading a book.

Cooking was not Mom’s strong point so I can only imagine what got served that day. After that, Mom was relegated to setting the table and washing dishes while the farm women fried chickens, mashed potatoes, opened jars of their home-canned vegetables and served pie.

Dad with uncles in front yard

This picture of Dad is the way I like to remember him. Tall and lean with a dark farmer’s tan covering his arms. He was a heavy smoker and would roll the bottom of his jeans into a thick cuff where he shook the ashes.

Dad graduated with a degree in agriculture and was chomping at the bit to apply everything he’d learned. Unfortunately, Grandpa liked the old system and that’s the way it stayed.

The land (and the house we lived in) belonged to my Grandpa who would decide, on occasion, to pay Dad a share of the farm income. My entire childhood I heard Mom yelling at Dad, “You go over there and get our money right now!”

I said to my older sister the other day, “Remember mayonnaise sandwiches? I loved those.” She sighed. “Do you remember we had them because there wasn’t any food in the house?”

When Mom and Dad could no longer feed the family on what the farm made, Mom went back to school and became a teacher. Dad worked extra jobs where he could — laying asphalt for the city, helping Uncle Harold collect change from his juke box machines, and one long miserable year as a realtor.

He once applied for a job with a chemical company and they called him in for an interview. He had to take a train to the main office and was gone for a couple of days. Mom cried the entire time, terrified that he would take it because it would mean he would be gone a lot. They offered him the job but he turned it down.

Making money was something Mom and Dad never figured out how to do. But, one thing they were good at, was having kids.

ONE

ONE

TWO

TWO

THREE

THREE

FOUR

FOUR

FIVE

FIVE

SIX

SIX

SEVEN

SEVEN

And a few years later…

EIGHT

EIGHT

Tons of Fun

Tons of Fun

With Dad’s passive personality and Mom’s fiery one, it made for quite a roller coaster ride for us kids, but our parents were devoted to us and I never for one moment, even during my worst teenage years of hating my parents, felt unloved by them. We ran to Mom when we needed a hug and to Dad if we needed an ice cream cone.

It’s true, they didn’t know a thing about making money, but they did know how to make a family.

I would do whole thing over again, exactly the same way.

I fell out of the Crazie tree and hit every branch on the way down.

Two Branches From the Crazie Tree

Mom's Parents

Mom’s Parents

Nellie and Walter  were city folk and lived in Kansas City. Grandmother, who worked as a legal secretary well into her eighties, was a tiny tyrant. She was written up in the newspaper because, when a purse snatcher tried to grab her pocketbook, she refused to let go and beat him with her umbrella. I know, I know. She looks so sweet. That’s what everyone said when they met her. Here’s just a small dose of her horribleness. When Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Grandmother sent a Get Well card with the following note. “At least now you’ll be able to lose those extra pounds.”

Grandfather was a tall, quiet man.  He was the personal driver and property manager for a wealthy businessman. When I think of Grandfather, I picture him sitting with his knees to his chest in the too-small chair assigned to him by Grandmother , smoking a cigarette and nursing one of his bourbon and waters (without the water). He taught me the importance of learning things the hard way. He loved to play Monopoly and it didn’t matter if you were five or fifty, if he could bankrupt you he would because that’s how the game was played.

Dad's Parents

Dad’s Parents

Ben and Irma, were farmers who lived in Tecumseh.

Grandma Irma was my dream grandma–literally. She died before I was born, and from what I’ve heard, she would have been someone who smelled of fresh-baked cookies and always ready to wrap me in a hug. I miss her.

p_v11agy64zae0426Grandpa Ben never said more than a dozen words to me, yet I remember him wiping away tears at the news of a new grandchild arriving. He lived in a crumbling hundred-year-old stone house just a quarter mile from us. He wasn’t a very committed farmer, as every day after dinner (lunch to you city folk) he’d change out of his overalls, get cleaned up and drive to town to play pool for the afternoon. In his eighties, while scrutinizing a neighboring field, he drove his car into the ditch. Not one to miss his afternoon of billiards, he walked the half mile home, started up a tractor, pulled his car from the ditch, returned the tractor and walked the half mile back to his car. He lived well into his nineties and at his funeral a dozen sharply dressed men from his pool hall told us all about a “Benny” we’d never known.

Wedding Day for Mom and Dad

Wedding Day for Mom and Dad

My parents, Lewie and Ginger, had two separate wedding receptions, one upstairs, because Dad’s family was filled with senior officials from the Kansas Dry Forces. And one downstairs because  Mom’s family was filled with people who drank massive quantities of bourbon and water (only without the water.)

Their honeymoon didn’t go so well. Just to say the word “Ozarks” caused sparks to shoot from her eyes. Turns out, humidity transformed Mom into the Wicked Witch of the Plains. The trip was so bad, Mom never stepped foot in the Ozarks again.

But, they managed to survive the honeymoon and produce this crazie *clan.

Janet, Larry, Tom, Rick, John, Teresa, Mike

Janet, Larry, Tom, Rick, John, Teresa, Mike

*Plus one more.

Craig

Craig

Tune in next week as we explore the lives of Lewie and Ginger and their Crazie Clan.

I Don’t Own My Hair

IS IT GROWING OUT YET?

My sister and I have a pact:  We don’t make major changes to our hair without calling the other one first.

A couple of weeks ago I violated this pact.  I didn’t plan to or anything.  I just went in to get a trim on a haircut that I’d actually gotten a few compliments on.  But then, at the salon I saw a picture of (insert angels singing and harps strumming)   The Haircut of My Dreams.

Straight bangs across the forehead and straight bob.  It looked simple yet funky, exactly what a woman going through a mid-life crisis needed.

Now, I’m not stupid.  I mean, I did realize that the woman in the picture was probably a teenager and that her hair was shiny and red, but it was straight and one thing my hair has always been is straight.

The first time I married, I inherited a mother-in-law who owned a beauty parlor — not a salon but an old-fashioned beauty parlor.  Where women sporting pink curlers sat under dryers and came out flourishing bouffant hairdos that challenged gravity.   She considered my baby-fine, straight hair as a personal insult and tried everything in her arsenal.  And yet, week after week, the minute I walked out her door, it all fell into a stringy mess.  The closest she came to any kind of success was the year she put in a perm, had me wait an hour and then put in a second perm.  I rocked that 70’s afro for at least a week.

Now I was sitting in a comfortable chair, in a beautifully appointed hair salon imagining myself walking out the door with the hippest haircut.  I did ask Pamela if she thought I was too old for the cut and being the kind, yet honest person that she is, she said, “You could do it, you just have to OWN it.”

I told her to go for it and closed my eyes, imagining when I opened them, I’d own my hair like this woman.

Owning your look.

It didn’t happen.  Because, evidently – I don’t own my hair.  Well…and also because I’m not twenty…and I have wrinkles…and I don’t walk around wearing bright red lipstick all the time.

In Pamela’s defense, I’d begged for this haircut and, being the professional that she is, she let me come back a week later so she could undo what I couldn’t own. (Free of charge I might add – go see her at Alquemie Salon.)

I tried whining to my sister but she reminded me that, “that’s what a pact is for.”

Will I learn from this embarrassing mistake?  I doubt it.  I was going through some of my mother’s old journals and came across this entry – “Teresa arrived with another of her crazy haircuts.  I couldn’t say anything nice so just kept quiet.”

Hmmm, now that I think about it, everyone has been very quiet around me lately.

———————

Thanks for coming to Crazie Town.  I appreciate all the tourists who visit and especially all the people who invested in a time share opportunity (i.e. subscribers).

Talk to you next week!

Old People Could Rule The World

I’m blessed (as a writer, anyway) to have a family filled with colorful characters.  My mother-in-law, Althea, is a perfect example.  We joke that she never had a thought in her head that didn’t come out of her mouth.  But, I always know where I stand with her and I love her very much.

One of my favorite stories about Althea happened on a holiday at my house. I was giving thanks for how well we all got along even though we had such a diverse group.

“We have people that are old and young, black and white.  We have democrats and republicans, gay people and straight people…”

“Wait one minute,” Althea shouted from the back of the group.

Everyone froze – except the gay couple who were inching their way toward the exit.

“I want to know which one of you is a democrat!” she demanded.

That would be me, by the way, but I have decided to stay safely in the closet.

Since then, Althea’s had a stroke and is living in an assisted living facility near us.  I can only imagine how difficult it is for someone as independent as my mother-in-law to be told when to wake up, when to eat, when to shower.

I went to visit her earlier this week and arrived at shower time.  As the nurse was undressing her, Althea asked that the nurse scratch her back.

“I’ll do it when you get in the shower.”

As Althea inched her walker from the bed toward the bathroom she asked again.  “Scratch my back?”

“When you get in the shower,” the nurse repeated.

Althea made it to the entrance of the shower and stopped.

“Scratch my back,” she demanded.

“I told you, I’d do it when you got in the shower.  Now please, just get in and sit down.”

Althea looked the nurse right in the eye and said, “I’ll get in the shower when you scratch my back.”

The two adversaries stood glaring at each other.  Finally the nurse reached out and scratched Althea’s back.

Score:    Naked Old Lady-1/Nurse-0

I’m hoping I’ll be half as strong-willed as she is when I’m 87.  How about you?