Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The “Perfect” Storm

I just went through one of those perfect storms in the course of two short weeks.
  • We moved our FAMILY office. Exciting, but SO MUCH work!
  • In between offices, we met all the deadlines for this issue of FAMILY Magazine.
  • My beloved mother-in-law lost her battle with cancer.
I fully realize how complicated the relationship with a mother-in-law can be. I have heard story after story of the mother-in-law from “down under.” As mothers, we can relate to wanting to hang on to our little boys. That whole letting go thing is never easy.

I count myself among the luckiest daughters-in-law. Ever. I strive to be the mother-in-law that Doug’s mom Tudy was to me. She was such a great lady and much loved by everyone on all sides of our family.

Tudy was her nickname. Mildred was her given name. When she was born, her older brother could not say Mildred, and he called her Tudy. The name stuck – it certainly fit her better than Mildred. She was just as happy, loving and fun as the name Tudy sounds.

Tudy and I hit it off right from the beginning and developed a strong friendship over the years. After all we both loved my husband and wanted his life to be filled with joy and happiness. Our friendship is what I will miss the most.

One of my fondest memories came not long after we met. During a visit, Tudy and I were having a great conversation one evening when my husband announced he was going to bed. Tudy and I chatted well into the night. Doug wasn’t sure what to do with us the next morning. He may have been a bit jealous that his two “women” were leaving him out or maybe he was worried he was the primary topic of our girl talk.

Tudy’s fun loving approach to life doesn’t mean she had it easy. Doug’s father died suddenly and left her a widow at fifty. It was the year before Doug and I married – so I’ve been lucky to be part of Tudy’s clan for over 30 years! We even tried (unsuccessfully) to get Tudy to come live closer to us many times over the years.

Tudy didn’t need us to keep her company – she was born and raised in Newton, Kansas and had no desire to leave. She had so many great friends there. She was an award winning bowler. She made quilts and was such a great seamstress; she even made her share of wedding dresses over the years. She also loved to play bridge. In typical Tudy style, her bridge group was famous not for cards, but for its annual steak cookout. Never a tired moment. In addition to friends and activities, Tudy lived surrounded by family – nieces, nephews, grand and great-grandkids.

After Tudy had spent ten years on her own, she married Don. The perfect match for the second act of her life. Our youngest, Brittany, was her attendant in their wedding. Tudy and Brittany adored each other. Sadly, Tudy’s goal was to make it to Brittany’s wedding in March 2014. She will be there in spirit and fondly remembered by all.

Don treated Tudy like a queen. Retired from the Marines and Army, he’s a hard worker and lives life to the fullest. We loved to travel with Don and Tudy. We have so many great memories of our trips and adventures. We had hoped for one more trip. A safari to Africa. Given that none of us is afraid of the outdoors or wild things, it would have been a wonderful experience.

Tudy fought cancer for three long, difficult years. She never gave up and had Don at her side, supporting her in so many ways. It saddens me to know how disappointed she was to realize she would miss Brittany’s wedding.

Brittany was en route from Florida to say goodbye to Tudy and was able to talk to her one last time by phone. Even in her struggle, Tudy almost burst out laughing when she realized Brittany was on the line.

Being a part of Tudy’s family has given me so much joy and pleasure. Tudy taught me to enjoy the moment, find the positive in all people and to decide what I want in life and go after it. She also passed down our famous tradition of baking cookies for the kids on their first day of school each year.

Sadly this year, the back to school cookies didn’t happen in the midst of my “perfect storm.” I’m thinking of heading to the kitchen to make a special batch just for Tudy. We use her recipes for our holiday cookies as well so she’ll still take center stage at that party.

We’ll mourn and appreciate Tudy in equal parts these next few months. We’ll support Don who’s life has a physical as well as an emotional void created by Tudy’s absence. We’ll also never forget the lessons she’s taught us. Starting with embracing the inevitable storms – even if we can appreciate them only after they’ve passed…

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