One of the things I’ve learned in life, is there are many ways to be a mother, and as many ways to leave a legacy. Last night my Mother-in-law of 42 years passed away. She was, in my eyes, an unconventional Mom in many ways. She was much more one to sit back and let you learn the hard way than pave the way. She was only 100 lbs, a tiny little woman but she made up for her size with her spunkiness. She had her principles and ideas, and stuck with them till the very end. She was determined to always be in control, rarely showed her emotions, and had kind of a hard shell around her soft heart. When she found out she had lung cancer she did a few tests to find out where it was, did some radiation and was done. In her own way she wanted to just live it out. She held on to that to the end and if she could have written her own death, this is how it would have ended.
The first time I met Eileen, I had just moved to Stanley after graduating from high school. My apartment was above the creamery and across from the post office. She came out of the post office with her Dad Emil, and saw me. She came across the street and introduced herself and then her Dad, in her finest, Finish accent. I liked her immediately, and she liked me, (probably more than Kerry did at that point). She had heard about me, as the girl that used the heel of my cowboy boot to land a blow on Kerry’s foot, in a soft loafer, when he wouldn't keep his hands to himself! I think she recognized one spunky female to another, and found it funny! She’d tease him that he would marry me one day, and he’d say, “I am not marrying that damn tomboy, if she's the last one” (personally, I think he was harboring some anger yet, ha). Whenever Eileen was coming into Stanley though, she would call me, and we’d have lunch or coffee at the pool hall. Eventually Kerry’s ego healed, and she was right he did marry me.
When we were first married we would go home on the weekends, from Minot, to our parents. We’d spend Friday nights, and some of Sat at my Moms, and then go to Eileen’s farm every Saturday night where she and Wilfred lived with Lisa and Joey. She was the exact opposite of my own Mom. My Mom was against makeup, which she and I fought about all the time ( I wanted to look like Cher, and she was keeping me from it)… Eileen had a vanity in her room with ALL kinds of makeup, a MAKEUP MIRROR, and hairspray! It was the place where she sat in front of the mirror and put her hair in pin curls with bobby pins. When she took them out it dropped down into wavy pretty shoulder length hair, no fish tail ends or anything. She was a master at that pin curling! My Mom was vehemently against smoking, and Eileen smoked a lot, in her favorite brown rocking chair, with one leg curled up under her, her long cigarette filter in her fingers. My Mom rushed to take care of the whole family cooking big meals, and Eileen would say something like, “there’s meat in the freezer, if you guys want to cook something to eat”. Eileen and I talked about the latest songs on the radio, and the cutest country stars. My own Mom never talked about men at all. Eileen was forty, and I was eighteen back then.
She and I were both strong women with ideas of our own, so over the years we had little spats about religion mostly. She was Jehovahs Witness and I was Lutheran and she likened Kerry becoming Lutheran, to joining the moonies! Laughable now, some of those spats! She was tough as nails and I never saw her cry in all these years. I saw her get emotional once when I gave her I counted cross stitch hoop with a verse I’d embroidered that said:
You are the mother I received
the day I wed your son.
And I just want to thank you, Mom,
for the things that you have done.
You have given me a gracious man
with whom I share my life.
You are his lovely mother and
I his lucky wife.
You used to pat his little headand now I hold his hand.
You raised in love a little boy,
then gave me a man
She loved that cross stitch, and I'm sure she still has it somewhere.
I respected that she was cut from a different cloth, and she liked that about herself too. She often told stories of her independence and determination to do what she wanted at a young age. She never liked school much. She liked to be her own person and march to her own drum. I’ll always remember her fur hats (she hated to be cold), and her wedge shoes with white anklets. She liked to crochet and was good at it.
Eileen loved her kids and grandkids thats for sure. Kerry grew up with some scars from “kids having kids” like she called it, and she never wanted to apologize or show weakness so she stuck to her belief that “we did the best we could with what we knew”, and until we walked a mile in her shoes we’d have to accept that. Kerry just had to accept that, but had some anger he had to deal with, that spilled over on to the rest of us, as a family. That being said, he loved her unconditionally. She always worried about him, and his diabetes, and she loved him. He will miss knowing she is not on the other end of the phone, or not sitting in her usual chair. A Mom’s presence is always a comfort, and like I've said before ... you still feel like an orphaned animal looking for their mother, no matter how old you are. Kerry admired her spunk too, and wondered how a lil lady like her could still hold her own with people twice her size? Her kids love to tell the story of when they were fighting non stop one day, and all of a sudden she jumped up and stormed out of the house screaming, “go ahead, kill each other”! And flew down the road in a dust cloud. They said they all stopped fighting, and banded together wondering where Mom went! She came back to a quiet house! There's that act just crazy enough to keep them from pushing you that far ever again theory! My kids got their own stories like this!
She liked to play words with friends lately, and scrabble back in the day. She loved words, and writing letters and had many pen pals from all over the country! She and I talked through Facebook several times a week, and the last time I talked to her was two weeks ago. She had been having some pain at home and not been up and around much. She was in her chair and Lisa brought her the phone. I ask how she was, she said, “not very good”. I said, “Yes, you sound kind of puny", and she chuckled and said, “I feel pretty puny”. Kerry and Kelly walked through the door to see her, so I told her I loved her, and she said she loved me, and that was the last time I talked directly to her.
So there you go, an example of different of ways to be a mother. Many ways to still have wonderful results! She has lots of people who loved her dearly, and that little lady impacted many. Lord give her families the strength they need, to deal with the coming days of funeral planning, a funeral, the goodbye and the emptiness afterward. God Bless Eileen Julia Meiers.