aging · Marriage · Mother's Day · Uncategorized

Happy Mother’s Day Bobbie

My mother-in-law Bobbie loved to tell the story of the time Keith gave her a Mother’s Day card that said, “To someone who has been like a mother to me.” She would throw back her head and roar with laughter, because it was so like him to run into the store and grab the first card he could find. But it would have been an appropriate card from me.

I loved my mother-in-law and in many ways I was closer to her than to my own mother. From the first time I visited with Keith in her small house in Paducah, Kentucky, she welcomed me with open arms. She treated me with the same exuberant love that she showered on Keith and his brother Alan, and later on Adam. She would literally do anything for one of us. 

Bobbie and Adam around 1992

Bobbie was a character, a small woman who was funny and smart and exasperating. She was obsessively clean and neat and her house was always spotless. She loved Elvis and Neil Diamond, dessert, classic cars, old movies and CNN.  She was happiest in her home, and loved to have company visit her there.

She was a talker, and back in the days when I was a stay at home mom, we spent hours sitting around the table drinking coffee or out in the yard while Adam played, and she told me the stories of her life. Growing up as the youngest of three sisters in a house with lots of yelling and strife, she vowed that she would never have that in her life. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, yet dropped out of school at 16 to marry her boyfriend in order to get away from home. (She later finished her GED and nursing degree.) She moved with him to his parents’ house in the country, where, in the late 1940’s, they had no electricity or running water. When he became abusive, she left him, something that was unheard of for the times. Keith’s father, Lester, was 12 years her senior and had been friends with her older half-brother. The story goes that he saw her out roller skating when she was a little girl and vowed that someday he would marry her. After her divorce, they got together and had a long and loving marriage until his sudden death from a heart attack when she was just 55.  A few months before she died was the anniversary of his death and she commented to me, “I never thought I would live 20 years without him.” Although she grieved him every day, she chose to not be down and was always upbeat. 

Bobbie and Lester around 1949

Adam was her only grandchild and literally the light of her life. For the first five years after he was born, she drove the 6 hours from western Kentucky to visit, but hated being away from her house. After a particularly difficult drive back in a snowstorm, and with Keith’s brother Alan moving away, she made the hard decision to leave her snug little home with all her memories and move into a new house overlooking a pond a few miles from us. I was frankly worried about having her so close – now she would see how we really lived! – but she was always careful to allow us our privacy and was never critical of me. Adam loved having Nanny close by to spoil him and they had a special relationship. She loved him totally and unconditonally. She would often say, “My friends think their grandchildren are smart and cute, but Adam really is the smartest!”  He was 14 when she died and when he got his license a few years later, he wished he could have taken her for a drive. “Nanny would have loved that.”

Visiting in the yard

She could be frustratingly stubborn and independent. One swelterng summer afternoon after she moved to Resaca, she had some friends from Paducah visiting. I went by to say hello and found them sitting in a thin slice of shade on the back porch. Her air conditioning had gone out and she was sure no one would come out on a Sunday to fix it, so she had just accepted that they would be hot.  “We’ve all lived without air conditioning before,” she said. The temperature in her house was about 90, and no way could they sleep there. I got on the phone and had someone out to fix it within the hour.  She would have never asked us for help.

Smoking was her biggest weakness. She knew it was bad for her, but chose to smoke. Like my mother, she had always been able to eat whatever she liked and stay thin until she hit her 30’s and 40’s, when she began struggling with her weight. She once quit smoking and gained 10 pounds in a week, and swore never to do that again. As she told her doctor, “I don’t drink and I’m not having sex, so don’t take away my cigarettes.”

She also loved sweets and her motto was, “Eat dessert first in case you run out of room.” She battled her cholesterol, but would sacrifice in order to have a huge slice of pie. In the end she died of a stomach aneurysm, probably caused from the smoking, but I wished she had enjoyed more pie and worried less about her cholesterol.

One of the traits I loved the most about her was her honesty. She didn’t believe in sugar coating the past.  Even though she and Les had a strong marriage, she admitted that she remained angry with him over some things even after his death. I grew up in a strait-laced family where appearances were important, and being with Bobbie was a breath of fresh air. She taught me that marriage is work and that no matter how strong our personalities, sometimes we have to give in to keep the peace, and that a wife needs to make her husband feel special. 

The key to her positive attitude was her deep faith. She had not had an easy life, yet I never knew her to wallow in self-pity or fall into depression. She had a special place in her house where she read her Bible each morning and I am sure the many prayers she sent up for me and Keith and Adam were what got us through. 

She has been gone 12 years now, but it doesn’t seem like it. Instead of sadness, I feel happy when I think of her. I am happy she got to see Adam almost grown, that she died quickly and did not have to go through a long drawn out illness, that she never had to move out of her house or lose her mind. However trite it sounds, she was pure love toward us her family and I was privileged to be included. 

We will soon be adding a daughter to our family and I am thrilled.  Jess and her mother have a close relationship and she will probably not need me in the way I needed Bobbie, but I am looking forward to the years ahead and all that holds for her and Adam. I hope and pray I can be the support and cheerleader for her that Bobbie was for me. 

Adam and his grandparents
Marriage · Uncategorized

Married at First Sight

What  if a panel of experts chose your future spouse for you and you did not even lay eyes on him/her until the moment you walked down the aisle? Would you trust them enough to make this decision for you?  Apparently lots of single men and women thought so, and the result is “Married at First Sight”, the new reality show on the FYI channel. I am slightly embarressed to say that it has hooked me.

I’m not much for reality TV and I especially hate the Bachelor and Bachelorette – come hang out at a middle school for awhile and you will see the kind of jealousy and drama that happens on those shows. I will admit to watching The Bachelorette this summer in order to see Aaron Murray’s brother, but it mostly makes me gag. I hate the beautiful girls who can’t stand not having some guy fall in love with them and I hate the premise that going out on dates at beautiful places around the world will give you a basis for deciding with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Anyone can fall in love sipping champagne on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean! But what happens when you have to come back to the real world of jobs and rent and in-laws and deciding who is going to clean the toilet? “Married at First Sight” at least has a little toe in the real world.

Arranged marriages were the norm until about a hundred years ago. The thinking was that if you had similar backgrounds and came from good families then you would get along and maybe even grow to love each other. Marriage was built more on working together than on some sort of physical attraction or “chemistry”.  That system had some merits, especially if the man and woman were both basically good people and wanted the same things out of life. With the high rate of divorce these days, maybe we need to revisit this custom, since traditional dating doesn’t seem to be working too well for some folks.

The idea of the show is that a panel of ‘experts’ – two psychologists (one named Dr. Pepper), a sexologist, and a “spiritual advisor”, put the questionnaires completed by the applicants through a computer program and then came up with 3 couples that they felt would make good matches. The three women and three men are all in their late 20’s and early 30’s, attractive, but not in the perfect way of the Bachelor show, and live in the vicinity of New York City. I feel very invested in them. Over the last several weeks, we have watched them find out they were chosen, go through a whirl-wind of planning a wedding and getting married in about a week, seeing their new husband/wife as they walked down the aisle, saying ‘I do”, having a reception and spending the night with this stranger. They then went on nice honeymoons, and came back to their lives as married couples.

Whas has appealed to me about the show is that they are living their real lives, not in some artificial mansion or on a desert island somewhere. It has been criticized for devaluing marriage, but I think the opposite is true.  Most romantic movies and reality shows like the Bachelor stop at the “I do’s”, but the difficult part starts then. “Married at First Sight” shows that marriage takes compromise and sacrifice. The three couples are all trying to make their relationships work and the struggles they are going through are ones faced by all married couples at some point. Every emotion they have gone through in their five short weeks of marriage are ones I have experienced in my 28 years with Keith – good and bad. Blending your life with another person is not always easy, even in the best of circumstances. Everyone faces that moment after the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon when you suddenly say – “Who exactly have I married?”  The “Married at First Sight” newlyweds are literally asking that question.

Tomorrow is the 6th week since the weddings and supposedly they will decide to stay together or get a divorce. I see 2 out of the 3 couples definitly making it. I am pulling for them.

Are there any other fans out there? What are your feelings on the show?