Melancholy Moods In Autumn, A Time of Mourning
Melancholy Fall Memories,
Fall is my favorite time of year, but for my husband it brings a period of melancholy. He lost both of his parents in the fall. I never got to know my in-laws well. We lived in opposite corners of the country from the time I met them (two days before our wedding) until the time of their deaths. They lived in a small town in southwest Georgia, we’ve lived in Washington and Oregon all of our married life.
My mother-in-law was wonderfully artistic. I think she had talent enough for a career in art, but she was shy about her crafts. I’m not sure she realized how much joy her art brought to others. Her finest, I think, are her counted cross-stitch pictures with all the shadings of a fine painting. We have one of her paintings of a magnolia branch, hanging in our room. I don’t think she had any training. She was naturally gifted. I never saw her when she wasn’t busy on a project. She was a perfectionist. I have her old sewing box, now. It’s filled with “practice” samples of her cross-stitch. She had to get it just right.
The first time I met her she gave me a gift. It was a handbag, wooden, lined with velvet and satin ribbon trim. On the outside, prints of tiny, detailed pictures of a French marketplace covered it. They were Anton Pieck prints. The wood and painting were as smooth as silk. It looked as if it had been hand painted and not glued, lacquered and sanded repeatedly to get that silky finish.
They were always kind to me. As I said, they met me two days before I married their first-born child. I was skinny and gauche, as far from a polished Southern girl as I could be. I’m sure meeting me the first time was a disappointment, but they didn’t say so. The only thing my future mother-in-law said was, “She’s so tiny.” I wore no makeup but a bit of lip gloss and blusher when rainy, Northwest rains washed all the color from my skin. My hair wasn’t styled, even for my wedding. I’d never had a manicure or pedicure in my life. (I’ve since learned the joy of nail care through my daughters-in-law.) I dressed in a casual, Pacific Northwest style, not realizing it was a style. I wasn’t polished, but I loved their son with my whole heart and often told them so. I guess it made up for my other faults, plus we lived 3,000 miles away, so they didn’t witness my daily life.
To me, Louise, my mother-in-law, always looked fragile in appearance but she was the epitome of a steel magnolia. If you ever “messed” with one of her children you would be sorry. At the same time she held her children to high standards and they are a credit to her. Sadly, Alzheimer’s stole her mind and her amazing creativity. Many people with Alzheimer’s become fractious, she just got sweeter. She died in September, 2009.
My father-in-law passed away in October, 2011. To me he was more enigmatic. He had a great sense of humor but I was never sure what he was thinking. He was an accountant, careful with money and generous with it too. He was athletic, playing baseball for Davidson College. His country called him for duty in WWII before graduation. He returned from a ship steaming across the Pacific to his young wife and son when the war ended. He went back to Davidson College and finished his degree. I’m thankful he made it home. I never felt like I knew him very well but I know my husband loved him. I know he loved our children and what mother can resist someone who loves her children?
We, my husband and I, regret we weren’t able to help with the caregiving for either of my in-laws. All the burden fell on my husband’s brother and sister who were both working full-time, living in other cities, and making long, weekend trips to care for them. I miss them, but in the fall, my husband pines for them. One thing I have learned from losing family members, your body always remembers the season of loss, even if your conscious mind doesn’t.
Do you have special memories of parents you cared for? Does it trigger sadness at that time of year?
Have a good caregiving day,