Mother- in- Law, Margaret

Back in 1988 and 1989 my Mother-in-law, Margaret was diagnosed with cancer of the lower spine after she complained of pain in her leg, and back. It was discovered that cancer had already eaten holes into her spine and was fast eating away more.

Margaret was no easy woman to live with, but still, she at some times , would help my husband and I. and would put us up for a while we looked for another apartment to live in. She also helped my husband with caring for my first daughter as a baby while I worked days. Being a young, inexperience Dad, sometimes he was just didn' know what to do. Specially if the baby got sick. We all got along a lot better though when we didn't actually live with her, and would just love our visiting her.

She always had great pride of her belongings, and took good care of them. Living room furniture was covered in plastic seat covers, and the kitchen was the main seating place for visitors and family alike.

She always was ready to offer cookies and coffee or meals in that kitchen, and would make a big spread of goodies for visitors, weather you were hungry or not. She would go through so much trouble that naturally you would want to have something, just to be sociable with her.
She'd share whatever she could to help someone less fortunate and food was one thing she would have plenty of.

She hated seeing anyone go hungry, because she knew hunger as a young girl growing up in the the 1920's and 1930'. She was always ready to pack up a sack full of goodies for you to take home if you told her that you were short of money and didn't have enough food to make it to payday.

She lost her husband in early 1972 to 6 gunmen that had surrounded him in front of their house in Detroit, to rob him upon his return from work one night. She stood in the front door screaming for her husband to get into the house as the men surrounded him and shot him 6 times at close range. She drug her husband into the house and called police, while the gunmen scattered. They were never caught. He lived 2 days, then died from his wounds. This happened on the eve of his retirement and two days before their 40th wedding anniversary. The family then sold her house and moved her to the suburbs and a peaceful home.

She lived 17 years in the suburbs and that's when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

That's when my husband's 5 of 6 sisters and I decided to helped nurse her and make her last year or so as comfortable as we could. The one sister, lived out of town, and came when she could. We decided to take shifts taking care of her. Some sisters did not work and some did, but we managed a schedule where someone was with her day and night in 12 hour shifts. I took the weekends since I worked weekdays.

At first she could walk with a walker and sit in a chair. Later we had to rent a hospital bed for her and doctors and/or nurses would come to the home to see about her care and increase her medication as needed. Hospice stepped in when things got worse, and as the cancer later spread to her lungs an other organs.

During the long evenings caring for her, we would prepare her meals, and give her her medications as prescribed. We spent many hours talking to her and keeping her spirits up. The most delightful times we had with her is when she shared stories of her life with us.

She told us of times as a young girl with her younger brother in E. St. Louis, Illinois. She was the daughter of fairly poor parents. She told of dressing herself at five and her little brother, and only having bread, butter and sugar to make a meal from while her Mom and Dad worked during the day. Their favorite place to play was along the banks of the Mississippi or in the railroad yards among the train cars. She had fond memories of the fun they would make from found items and little things she experienced. She grew up a tomboy and could play baseball or other games as well as any boy in her neighborhood.

She shared many memories about playing baseball in school as a teen. And she even helped her team win a championship for her school. I was delighted to call her old high school, where she went in Detroit. (her parents moved up here in her teens.) The school was able to find the old yearbook picture of her and her team with mention of their championship and sent me a copy. She was delighted!

She told me a funny story of her Mom and Dad when she was about 6 or 7. It was about a kitten she had found. Her Dad had told her she could never have one. You see, her Dad kept chickens and some pigs for food in the yard and he didn't want a cat killing his young chicks and eating their much needed food. She told a funny story of how she kept the cat, raised it in secret, and taught it to be live in harmony with chickens.

I wrote a short children's story about that incident and even illustrated in. She loved the story so much, that she hoped that someday I could have it published. I really tried, but after many submittals to children's publishers and many letters of refusal I gave up. I still have the original, and have copied it to all the family. Now, I have one medium to publish it, and share it with other people and it will be forthcoming in this blog.

As I was saying, after a year, the cancer took her but she left a little bit more of her with us with the stories she told us, of her life, family history as she knew it, other little pieces of herself she shared. Im happy and honored that I was able to help her during those times, and record some of the information she shared for posterity. And to call her Mom even though I had lost mine to cancer only a few years before. At least I was able to share a special time with her that I will cherish forever............


caroline said...

what a great story! she was a great lady!! and i miss her very much!

Anonymous said...

This story about taking care of your mother-in-law and the one about the cat and chickens just melts my heart.

I am taking a children's literature course at our community college, and it is better than some of the stories in our assignments!!
Thank you for getting it out into the world any which way you can.
ps I found you through Cindyisms, but I will bookmark....