LUCY BURDETTE: My mother-in-law died two weeks ago—it was a sad and wrenching time, even though she was 102 and lived a wonderful life. All seven of her children were there to see her out, along with four in-laws.
Dorothy was a little suspicious of me when I arrived on the scene in 1991. John had experienced an unpleasant divorce, and she was very protective of her chicks. How could she be certain that I would treat him well?
In 1995, I was a nervous new golfer when I invited her to our club’s member-guest—my first foray into competition. (She had taken up the game at age 40, and was especially known for her putting expertise.) As we were eating breakfast before the tournament, our talk turned to dreams.
I said: “I dreamed last night that we got lost on the golf course.”
She said: “I dreamed they told me I was too old to enter.”
We laughed and laughed, and became fast friends after that. She wasn’t one to brag about her offspring, though she didn’t allow anyone to say anything bad about them either. She read most of my books, right up to the time when her macular degeneration prevented her from reading even large print. But she still carried the large print edition of MURDER WITH GANACHE tucked under her arm in the assisted living facility, so the other “inmates” could see that her daughter-in-law was a writer.
Of course, we've all been thinking about her legacy. Here are a few of the things I learned from her example:
|The Brady Bunch, 1959|
2. Keep moving! As I mentioned, she took up golf at 40 and played into her 90’s. Whenever we visited, she had planned a schedule of events that could have laid out a much younger person—bridge, visits to the library, golf, cooking, theater…And when she moved to assisted living in Maine, she went on every outing the activities director planned, and attended most of the in-house sessions, including a daily discussion of current events.
3. Hydrate. My sister-in-law Lisa said this one perfectly—she considered coffee and manhattans/martinis to be excellent ways to hydrate.
4. Embrace your age. She was uncomfortable at first with people pointing her out as a centenarian, but she finally gave that up and took whatever came. With the help of Lisa and other family, she threw a giant 100th birthday weekend that pulled the whole extended family together. (This was the chocolate cake I made for her at 102--she'd already devoured the coconut cake made by my sister-in-law Lisa.)
And one more irresistible photo from Julia Child's birthday celebration at Lisa's house. Note the pearls and the cookbooks...
What memorable life lessons do you carry with you from a special person?