Wednesday, November 23, 2011

~a Heavy Heart, a Little Salt & Just Because~

This is a hard entry to write. However, I feel very compelled to put my feelings into words. My mind races, memories come crashing and tears just won't stop pouring
these days. It seems I am able to compose myself for a few hours only to have a downpouring of new tears after little hoots have a question, insight or I recall or talk about something to someone. Just when I think I can not possibly have anymore tears left.. a new reserve becomes available. And I do know that for every tear that I shed...I am not even close to the sadness felt by my husband, father in law or my husband's siblings. We lost a very special person 2 days ago. And it is still hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that my mil is gone.

I met Jeri, my future mil 23 yrs ago. My initial impression was of a friendly and feisty woman who was not afraid to speak her mind. She was warm and funny. And I liked her immediately. She reminded me quite a bit of my MawMaw. She said what she meant (usually) and stuck to her guns on what she believed in (always). She was what I like to call Salty. Not in a bad way.. cause I happen to adore salty foods much better than sugary ones. Any decent cook knows that it is SALT that is vital in every recipe. Even sweet chocolaty dishes call for salt. It is the salt that brings out and balances the sweetness. And most cooks are always asking "Does it need more salt?" And that was Jeri.. she was the salt. She spoke her mind, was the key ingredient in her family and added the spiciness to family gatherings. And it isn't until just this mimute that I realize how we needed that Salt in our lives. The courseness at times in words, the glue in our relationships and the brassy flavor of unpredictability.

As time went on and she later became my MIL our relationship grew.(and for the record.. MIL is Mom in Law..there is a distinct difference! =D ) I LOVED spending hours talking with her. She was the most generous person I have ever known. She lost her mother when she was just out of high school and this loss made an unforgetable impression upon her life and the choices that she made. She was a natural athlete and was awarded a collgiate scholarship that went unused. She married young and had 5 kids in 6 yrs. I can only imagine how much she needed and missed her mom for advice and guidance and maybe just a loving shoulder to cry upon when times got hard and uncertain. And times did get really harsh at times. But she dug in and persevered. I truly admire how she made it through some very dark days.

When it came time for my wedding Jeri handed me some money and gave me a big hug and kiss. Those hugs & kisses are what I will miss most since she was so full of love. She told me that when she had become a bride, her MIL did the same thing with the instruction to go pick out a beautiful negligee. This meant so much to her as it did me. She appreciated her MIL & FIL so much for the love and guidance they bestowed upon her..esp. when she was missing her mom so much. And I plan on continuing this family tradition if given a chance to the bride my son chooses to marry. (If I'm not senile in my old age) =D
And she did it...Just Because..

To know Jeri was to know her family. Her family WAS her life. It was the only thing she wanted. And she devoted her entire life to her kids,grandkids and great grandchildren. If she wasn't involved with her kids she felt disconnected. Her home was always full of activity, people and food. She was the best self taught cook. I loved being in the kitchen with her. And her hundreds of recipe books and her guidance was always a terrific inspiration in my own kitchen endeavors. I wouldn't like to put a number on the phone calls I made to ask advice or help w/a dish I was making and needed help. And bless her heart.. she was beyond gracious when she discovered that this native Texas girl could NOT cook rice if it wasn't concealed in a handy little bag. Laugh.. you better believe it.. I was marrying into one of the most Cajun of families. Both parents were born and raised deep in Cajun country. So..I learned early on how to make a decent pot of rice. And I know that she will be looking down from heaven laughing out loud at my attempts at the so far unreachable decent Roux...just because.... My attempts at "her" gravy I have a better chance at achieving. Her voice will always be in my head and her laughing at my attempts.

She was so witty and funny. And I loved laughing and chatting into the wee morning hours with her. We had such deep and wonderful talks. I loved hearing about all the family history stuff and events. I feel so blessed that she shared them with me so I can pass them down to our Hoots. A sense of history and family belonging has always been very important to I feel grateful that she wanted me to share her family history with them too. In this way, the family members that have passed on will not be forgotten and will be known...Just Because...

She was a natural athlete as I wrote earlier. Recently, I learned that her gift for golf came later in life. She took to it like a pro. Literally an amateur Pro. The very first golf tournament she entered she won after having no official lessons. But her love of the game was so strong she was practicing and playing in the rain, frigid, windy and heatstroke hot weather. And her passion paid off. She became one of the top ranked women golfers in the State of Texas. It afforded her the opportunity to make great new friends, travel to fun destinations and spend quality time w/my FIL whom she loved deeply. It was such a hard sacrifice when she had to retire due to declining health in recent years. Before she retired, we enjoyed meeting up with her at her tournaments when she would be closer to us in location.

Her generosity was immeasurable. There was nothing she would not give. Her love, time, effort and any kind of help you might need..she was there. Because she had spent some really dismal and hard years, she made it her life's goal to over indulge her family. I think that realizing that her mother never got the time or the opportunity, Jeri would repeatedly say.. " I want to see my kids and grandkids enjoy my inheritance while I am here".."The joy is in watching the enjoyment of it". She showed her love best (in her eyes) when she gave something to someone. It meant so much to her. She thrived in spending time, money and attention on her family...Just Because... What we thought was over the top, she viewed as never enough.

She was one of the most complicated people I have ever met. She and I did not see many things the same way. And I recognize that we came from completely different worlds. But, I always was proud of the fact that we could on most occassions respect each other enough to either drop the issue, leave it alone or just agree to disagree and move forward out of respect. We did agree on many issues as well. She adored, loved, fretted, worried and lived her life completely for her children. And it was out of this love that she did what she felt compelled to say, do, and interact. I now recognize that it was always out of the deepest and most compelling of LOVE that she acted. It might not have always been correct or appropriate but it was the core of who she was completely. And for this I will always admire and respect her. And I regret not recognizing or telling her.. sooner.

On several occassions she dropped everything in her life to come and help me out. She stayed to assist with the birth of little hoot and later for a scary major surgery I had to have. Not ever asking anything in return. That was who she was.. drop everything and be here/there... whatever the need. I will forever be grateful for her help. Especially when it also included unexpected income tax preparation while I was recovering from surgery. She went above and beyond...Just Because...

I also admired her so much for the love and care she took in caring for her aging/ailing MIL & FIL. When home healthcare became a necessity, Jeri still went over to bathe and take care of them. They were parents to her and she loved them deeply. Even though it was the healthcare giver's job..she wanted to do it becsuse she knew her meal, her bath and her care were far better than any they would receive. And she also was strong enough and loud enough to insist on citing ill care and finding better care when need be..She had their back.....Just Because...

When I think about it now, I realize I am probably not the person she had ever imagined her son marrying. We usually aim really high for that position for our children. I don't know if I ever really made that goal, but she showed and taught me so much throughout the years. And I am so incredibly thankful for all she did for me and my family; and feel incredibly blessed for all the love she showed. And I hope that the little things I did for her to try and repay her kindness back were enough.

She had always been in poor health. Truth be told, we couldn't believe she had survived the comas, cancer, back surgery and unaccountable bouts w/pneumonia and bronchitis. She was always getting sick and recovering best she could. And Thanksgiving is the time of year that she always fought a major battle. Every year for so many years, she would get sick and then be recovering while she insisted her family gather at her home for the holiday. And every year, she would recover and linger. Battling more crisis throughout. Only this time, she took us all by surprise. The "granted" that we took called margin call due on us all. When the call came Monday night we were taken by surprise. The news earlier in the day was she had improved. Too little too late. There is a huge hole that will never be filled. But I take comfort in knowing that her constant struggles and pains are now of the past. She's breathing deeply for the first time in years. And I'd like to imagine she's playing the best golf and teaching a few how to make the most incredible Gumbo. (and that's another thing.. everyone else loves her chicken gumbo (which is outstanding)..where mine is shrimp often times she would have a creole made for Me.. .. and her son an onion free dressing for him..... Just Because

So MeMe.. I will always try to take to heart and recall all the life lessons you generously taught me. Your patience, love and attention will always be very dear to me. I will most likely not ever flip through the TV channels landing on a western, see a Danielle Steel or other romance novel, cook certain foods,while butchering others =D, order kid's photos, hear your laughing and edgy voice when I do something dumb, enter Cracker Barrel or Cold Water Creek, drink an Amaretto (you got me in love with) or a million other things without thinking of you. You have left such a HUGE imprint on mine and my family's lives that YOU will never be forgotten or erased. We will forever miss you and I will always regret not picking up that phone the last two times. But the question will always be asked: "Is there enough salt?" And the answer will forever be "Never again!!"..and that my friends.. is...
~Just Because~

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