A framed photograph which hangs in a central spot in my house is of six good-looking fellows, all brothers.
I happen to be married to one of them, so I have earned the right to say that every single time I see the picture, my first thought is this: my mother-in-law was a saint!
The orneriness did not dilute by the time the youngest was born, but instead it continued to blossom. Farm boys at heart, each one has loved to hunt and fish and explore the great outdoors, and each is fiercely loyal to family and to our country; they are true blue, all-American chaps. The photo I am referring to was taken by my son across his uncle’s great pond, the six brothers standing on a dock. It couldn’t be better.
I see the handsome features of my father-in-law, and that lovely, sweet sparkle of my mother-in-law smiling out on us. One story pretty much sums up the rascals. Their mom, Edie, had taken her boys along to the grocery store one summer day. She put the groceries in the back of the family station wagon, and the boys climbed in the back too, as any kid in the 1950s was likely to do.
“Don’t open anything,” she advised them, thinking to herself how far those groceries had to stretch to feed them all.
While driving home, the windows rolled down in the summer heat, Edie noticed many people passing her, waving at her. She sweetly waved back. It crossed her mind that she must be driving awfully slow, or why else would everyone be passing her? So, she sped up a bit and made it home.
The boys all piled out of the car, running to play catch. Edie reminded them they needed to help carry in the groceries first. One of them said, “Ah, Mom, their ain’t any.” She laughed as she opened the back of the station wagon. Then the laughter stopped. All the brown paper bags were empty.
No one would admit whose idea it was, but those boys had lots of fun throwing stuff out the windows the whole way home. Needless to say, they didn’t have nearly as much fun re-tracing the drive, walking on the side of the road to gather up as much as possible. And when their father got home, let’s just say the evening was not a barrel of laughs.
Feeding the hungry
Even though one boy who I have come to know pretty well over the years, speaking for all his brothers, tried to put a spin on it by saying, “We were trying to help feed the hungry people in the world!”
Don Sutherland likely replied, “Nice try, Buster,” before the punishment came down.
Edie was the epitome of a great lady. She had a great laugh and an open heart, loving and accepting everyone. Her home was a welcoming place. She was an incredible cook and baker who could also sew anything, was a giving member of her church and her community, often taking meals to neighbors in need, and she dearly loved her boys, even when they were rascals.
One story I hold dear about my mother-in-law is that she watched her boys swim every summer in the pond at their home, getting after them when they misbehaved. She laid down the law, with no horsing around in the water allowed. Her boys were all strong swimmers, and the rule was they could not invite friends to the pond if they were not already good swimmers.
What she never once told them is that she was scared to death every single day as she sat in the shade by the pond watching them. She did not know how to swim. For her 60th birthday, she gave herself a gift, and kept it a secret until it was realized. She signed up and completed a learn-to-swim class at the YMCA.
In order to pass the final, each person had to jump or dive off the diving board and swim to the side or in to the shallow end. The day she told us about her accomplishment, her eyes sparkling, we all were quietly stunned, because she had done such a great job of keeping her panic hidden all those years.
No one knew she couldn’t swim. She told me later that a parent has to always remain composed so a fear does not get passed along.
“I stood on that diving board and felt scared to death. But I took a deep breath and thought ‘I’ve done lots of harder things than this!’ and jumped right in.”
She was a remarkable, sweet, amazing lady, right to the very end. On her last day of life, she planned and served a funeral dinner at the church, came home and loaded some things in to her car to donate to the needy. As she was walking back in to the house from the garage, she took her last breath.
Several years have passed without her, but she and her beloved hubby live on in those six ornery boys and their ever-growing families. While we miss them dearly, the sparkle remains.
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