Bill and I are coming up on 23 years of marriage, preceded by a three-year engagement. So I have been intimately acquainted with Bill’s mom for 26 years or so. I don’t know (and it would be nearly impossible to even guess) how many times in those 26 years we have visited her or she has visited us.
What I can tell you is that every single time we have been together, she has enriched my life. Aren’t I so lucky to be able to say that?
I wrote a blog post about my exceptional mother-in-law awhile back. You can read about her here.
But having spent the past week with this woman, who is about a month shy of being 98 years of age (and don’t tell her I told you that), I was struck by how graciously she is growing old.
What really impresses me is how she handles the natural way of things as you age. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a woman who never complains. I never trust non-complainers anyway. Wilma told me on a number of occasions during this past week that it bothers her that she can’t see very well, and her inability to hear without her hearing aids annoys the heck out of her. She apologizes for being slow and needing help getting in and out of the car. She can’t remember a lot of names and many words escape her, and that frustrates her. But what she doesn’t do is whine. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. Or if she does, she keeps it to herself.
Just imagine what it’s like to outlive all of your friends. For all intents and purposes, she has. She told me that makes her sad. But it doesn’t make her whine.
Here’s a funny story about something that happened this past week. (Likely funnier to me than it is to Wilma.)
Wilma is an exceptionally beautiful woman. Funny to say that about someone creeping up to the century mark, but it’s true. She has a complexion that I can only dream about. It’s as if she never spent a day in the sun. I would be astonished if a stranger was able to guess her age. Once a week she has her beautiful snow white hair styled in the salon into a beautiful, natural, soft wave. Guests in the dining room at her retirement community are required to dress nicely for dinner. Wilma ALWAYS looks pretty. She wears makeup (although she did tell me this past week that she’s stopped wearing lipstick; enough is enough, I guess) and always has on pretty jewelry. She really cares about how she looks, and it shows.
One day this past week, Bill and Wilma and I went out for breakfast at the Original Pancake House a few miles from her apartment. We were enjoying our breakfast when we noticed that it had begun to rain. Of course we had not brought an umbrella. Bill and I NEVER have an umbrella when we need it.
By time we were finished with breakfast, it was pouring rain. After we paid the bill, Bill said to us, “You stay here and I will go get the car. We can sit in this little area and wait for the rain to stop.”
Wilma and I sat down and Bill went to get the car. As he drove up, Wilma gets up from the chair and began heading to the door.
“We’re supposed to wait here for him until the rain stops,” I explained to her.
“Nonsense,” she said sharply. “I don’t mind getting wet. Let’s go out to the car.”
One doesn’t argue with Wilma. Or at least I’m too afraid to argue with Wilma.
Ladies and gentlemen, it was coming down in sheets. Furthermore, it isn’t like she can exactly sprint to the car and leap into the front seat. She uses a walker, for heaven’s sake! Needless to say, we were all soaking wet by time we got into the car. Drenched. Quite literally dripping water.
Little was said on the way home, though I knew Bill was frustrated that we hadn’t waited as he had suggested. As she got out of the car at the entryway to the retirement community, Wilma said, “Well, I can’t go inside looking like this.”
I calmly explained to her that she really had no other choice. It was the only way to get to her apartment.
It seriously took a great deal of persuading on my part to convince her that she had to walk through the lobby to get to the elevator that would take her to her apartment. Persuading, and a promise that I would run shotgun and let her know if anyone was coming. Of course, many people were coming, and she nearly died of embarrassment.
And for the next few days, she wouldn’t leave the apartment because her hair was straight. Finally, Monday morning I found an old curling iron, blew off the dust, and did my best impression of a hair stylist, which, frankly, is lousy. It’s why I have short hair. But I did a good enough job that she agreed to go out to dinner with us on Monday evening.
This story is not to complain about her at all. In fact, I was duly impressed that a woman nearly 98 years old still cares enough to look her very best. I, on the other hand, have no qualms about looking like a wet chicken. Sigh.
God bless Wilma. She is an inspiration to me in many ways. Maybe I’ll dig out my makeup.