My mother-in-law [you can divorce your husband but it is hard to say “ex-mother-in-law”] was diagnosed with cancer six or seven weeks ago. They discovered she had colon and lung cancer. Further examination revealed liver and brain cancer as well. This clearly had been going on for some time. She has been in a nursing home since, and declining in health. The kids went with their father to see her and Mae texted me that Grandma had no breasts. I immediately called my SIL to ask if they had done a double mastectomy on a woman who was dying of four other kinds of cancer, and she said, “No. She just has no breasts, she’s old.” I guess her hospital gown looked empty to Mae.


I had the kids today so we planned to go to the Festival of Hope, a cancer support fundraiser. I walked the 5K which I have discovered is the length of Dad’s driveway. I went stag but found some friends to walk with. The kids ran and each got last place in their age group. Clearly athleticism runs in someone else’s family. The older three ran a half mile while the youngest about a quarter. We put Grandma’s name on our badges and everything. I had about 50 yards left of my walk and I wanted to see what my time looked like. At that moment my phone rang, and it was my SIL telling me Gertrude had died.

My MIL was a trying woman. Without saying anything unkind of the dead, she had a very hard life, but she didn’t add much sugar to her lemonade. Her husband didn’t do much to make life easier for her either. I wrote this a few years ago.

I love to ask people how they met their spouse.  Sometimes you get a beautiful nostalgic story and sometimes you get to watch two people argue.  Either way it is bound to be interesting.  

I spent all day with my mother-in-law a while back.  She has lots of things on her mind, so to keep her distracted, I asked her some questions.  This is what I learned.  To give you a frame of reference, my mother-in-law got married in 1945.  She met her husband in 1943 at a barn dance in Norden, Nebraska when she was 16, he was 20.  Leo was the oldest son of a farmer, and was needed at home.  Gertrude admitted looking back, she might have been uncomfortable letting her 16 year-old daughters date 20 year-old men.  They set up housekeeping in a small home near a creek in the canyon bottoms near the NiobraraRiver.  They moved to a larger, three bedroom house around 1954.  In 1967 they built their own spacious home with four bathrooms and eight bedrooms.

All told, she had eleven kids.  The oldest was born in 1948 and the youngest in 1968.  Originally she cooked on a three burner fuel-oil stove.  Later on they bought a combination stove which would burn wood or cobs on one side and had gas burners on the other.  When they first married you could not buy a new washing machine due to the war recovery efforts.  She hung up her washboard sometime after their first anniversary, when they got a wringer washing machine.  Their first refrigerator, a propane model, came in 1952.  Prior to this she kept the milk in a pan of water she changed throughout the day to keep it cool.  She got electricity in her home, for just an iron and lights when she was pregnant with her third child in 1953.  They installed (cold) running water (picture a hand pump and a basin) and an electric clothes dryer when she had five kids in 1958.  They lived 15 miles from the locker plant and had six young kids when they bought their first freezer, now she has three freezers and lives alone.  They got a TV in 1960.  The automatic clothes washer came when she had nine kids in 1965.  In 1967 they built a house with an unspeakable luxury, an indoor toilet.  At the time they had 10 children.  Everyone bathed in round tin tub in the kitchen until they moved to the new house.  They installed their first dishwasher in 1992.