Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Family Photo

Our mothers, 1993

This photo was taken the day after our daughter's wedding--the best party of my life. We had all the out of town wedding guests for brunch--the bride and groom were on their honeymoon. This was perhaps the fourth time our mothers were together, and it was the last. They were 76 and 81. My husband's mother (on the left) died in 1998 and Mom died in 2000.

My mother was rather short--maybe 5'1"--medium complexion, just a bit plump, intellectual, bookish (she wanted to be a librarian), shy, sweet, iron-willed with a missionary spirit, who quietly went about making changes in her sphere of influence to make the world a better place. She was a saint, in the best meaning of the word--and most who knew her say the same. My mother-in-law was tall and fair--maybe 5'7", glamorous, outgoing, stylish, funny, spirited, loaded with charm with "Betty Davis eyes." She was a party girl--and there was never a dull moment when she was around--and most who knew her say the same. Both had grown up in the church with devout parents who were Sunday school teachers. June was a city girl and a good athlete when young; Mom grew up on a farm and preferred to curl up with a book. When I first met June (I think she was 42), she lived in shorts--she had long slender legs. I don't think my mom ever owned any. June made a spaghetti dinner that couldn't be beat, and Mom's pies were to die for.

My mother was five years older, and at the time this photo was taken, both women were about the same height, but my mother looked 10 years younger, in my opinion. Mom could still mow the lawn, work in the garden, walk briskly, and run circles around her daughters--that's a real garden tan you see. My mother-in-law in 1993 could barely hobble from the car into the house, and had a little hop like a wounded sparrow from an improperly healed broken leg. Her moments of clarity were infrequent although we still could see flashes of humor and personality.

My mother-in-law was an alcoholic, a heavy smoker and a picky eater; my mother didn't drink or smoke and was always pushing a second helping of her home grown vegetables and watching everyone's weight, including her own. However, I think it was cigarettes that really destroyed my MIL's health. Fair complexioned, thin women have a problem with osteoporosis, but if they are also smokers, the damage to their bones after menopause is just horrifying. Heavy smokers, women and men, have lower bone density and are at higher risk for fracture. She had several fractures, shoulder, arm, leg, after age 50, and the bones of smokers, women or men, do not heal well. She began smoking as a young teen which means she may have started the damage to her bones in their developmental stage. Older smokers' risk of fracturing a hip increases with age and is about a 71% increase over non-smokers by age 80. Thin men and women who smoke really have a problem. I don't think my mom ever had a broken bone or even a sprain. She hardly ever had a cold. Even photos of June in her mid-50s, show her loss of height.

By the time this photo was taken in 1993, my mother-in-law was sober--she had actually forgotten that she ever drank, and her mind recovered considerably. Although her memory wasn't great, it was possible to have a conversation and enjoy her company. I never heard her say she wanted to quit smoking--she loved it. However, she stopped smoking the last two years of her life, probably because it hurt. And by not polluting her small assisted-living apartment with smoke (she was a widow by then), she again had an improvement in alertness. But sadly, alcohol and cigarettes had stolen the last 30-40 years of her health and ravaged her body, and we grieve for that loss for her and us. We miss them both, especially now during the holiday season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They both sound like beautiful, special women and wonderful mothers. Thanks for sharing your memories of them.