Monday, January 02, 2006

RIP Edith Jones 

She was old when I knew her -- the family matriarch, widowed decades earlier, long a solo presence in the life of my in-law family. Though a vague persona down the road apiece when I first met Darcie's family, by the time we married ten years ago she was in the house next door to Darcie's parents, and we visited her often, cleaning her garden, raking leaves in the fall, chatting on the porch, washing the windows in the spring.

She was opinionated, and -- truthfully -- often oddly so. Her closest relatives found themselves on "the bad list" for the most minor transgressions, often without even realizing how they got there. Early in our acquaintance I got myself in hot water at a holiday dinner by defending the recently-learned concept of situational ethics; it was months before she was willing to forgive, and there's no knowing if she truly ever forgot.

She was religious, a commited churchgoer and knitter for church sales until her very last driving days. Rumor has it that when she first learned I was Jewish, she asked if I was "one of those Jews for Jesus, at least" -- figuring, with little knowledge of the true JfJ credo, that belief in Jesus would be a saving grace for a grandson-in-law.

Edith was always given the head of the table at any gathering, where she could hold court with reminiscence: of growing up one of seven siblings on the farm, life with husband Harry home and off in the military, her years in the classroom. It became a kind of family tradition for those of us in the grandchild generation to run new prospective mates through the tiral by fire -- I did it for years; Josh's girlfriend Clay reminds me that I made it a point of handing the responsibility to her the first time we met; most recently, Alicia's husband Matt has held the honor -- and his own -- with aplomb.

Her family -- three daughters, six grandchildren -- loved her very much, and with good reason. She loved my children, and was gentle and firm with them in turn. And, in case it isn't obvious, I liked her a lot, which is more than most of us can say for our grandmother-in-laws, isn't it?

Edith never wanted to grow infirm in her old age. She was a trouper for so long this last year, watching her TV and filling every surface in the house with jigsaw puzzles in various stages of completion as always, even as the memory started to go, the body started to betray. It surely saddened her to have to move towards assisted living these last few weeks, initially prompted by a stay in the hospital.

She seemed healthier Friday, coming off a half hour of physical therapy for a short chat and plenty of close contact with four generations of her family. But last night Edith ended up in the hospital again, and today Darcie's father called to let us know that Edith did not make it.

It's what she wanted, but whether Edith was right about the world and its afterlife is not the point. The point is, though it took a little longer than she intended, she went out the way she lived -- on her own terms, flying solo, and sure of herself. I'm proud to have known her, and know that she is happier where she is now. Goodbye, old gal. We'll miss you terribly.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM |

Give my best to Darcie and her family.

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