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 Category:  Biographical Non-Fiction
  Posted: January 12, 2018      Views: 59

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I am a retired teacher but am not tired. I love writing from personal experience and try to add a "twist" at the end of all my work. I owned and operated a fine dining restaraunt on the water for 4 years. This was challenging and rewarding. There - more...

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A n emotional letter to an aging family member.
"Dear Elizabeth" by Brigitte Elko

Dear Elizabeth,

Locked inside me are feelings that I wish to share with you. You have made a difference in my life. Before you depart this earthly home, I need to tell you that you have left your mark upon my heart.

I had been anticipating the meeting with you for many weeks. Finally, we came face to face, me and my soon to be mother-in-law. You were so tall in stature and very self-assured. Your visual scrutiny made me feel so small and insignificant. You welcomed me with cold blue eyes behind those horn rimmed spectacles that appeared to have the magical power of seeing through the target object, me. Remember, I saw you through the eyes of youth? (In recall, yes, you were tall but your eyes were filled with wisdom not coldness.) Intimidated? Who me?
Well, maybe a little bit. I was not marrying you though; I rationalized and began to bridge the gap of two strangers, by talking incessantly. Can you remember all I blurted out? I sure cannot. I so wanted you to like me.

Eventually, you accepted me as a member of your family. Your son had your love. I hoped that there was some left for me. Was there?
Maybe. I did not recognize what you were giving me at the time. I do now. After many years, many shared experiences, such as family dinners, weddings, funerals, and parties. I did something to make you proud. I made you a grandmother. You began to treat me with more respect as I mothered my children and fulfilled the needs of my farmer husband, your son. I allowed and welcomed your advice; after all, I was a novice at the monumental tasks of mothering. Thank you for all of those things. I will always be grateful that my children had a grandmother that enjoyed them and loved them. In fact, for almost twenty years, we never had an argument. I learned early on to listen earnestly, nod in agreement, and then do things myself, in my way. Little did I realize that my ways became much like yours.

Remember how quickly time slipped by?
Before we realized it, your son and I had been married for twenty years!

You lived nearby, just a pasture away. We were an extended family and saw each other almost daily.

Then that tragic day came.
Your husband, beloved father, grandfather, brother, my father-in-law, and God's servant died suddenly. This man, who had never been sick a day in his life, left us on the unknown journey of death.
He had taken care of you so lovingly, pampering you, and doing all the things you could no longer do for yourself. For forty-nine years, he surrounded you with his love and comfort. All those years, you uncompromisingly continued in your role as the family matriarch in a grandiose style.
Now, you only had your children and grandchildren. Your daughter lived miles away. We lived within shouting distance and vowed to take care of you. Your now sad eyes trusted us. We were a family.

After the funeral of your husband, you were never quite the same. A chronic infection, hip surgery, and a mild stroke kept you hospitalized for months. It kept us running back and forth to make sure that you had the best private duty nurses available. At this point, you could not even fill your own glass for a drink.

Then you changed!

When you did come home (to your home), there was round the clock home care. You were never alone. As your health improved, you became feisty and high-spirited. There was one way to do things, your way! Needless to say, home nursing did not work out. No one pleased you. Your son and I had made a promise, (before God) to never let you flounder alone. We began to plan the fulfillment of our vow. Planning for your care within our own family unit became a priority, physically and emotionally.

Another surgery landed you in the hospital before we executed your moving to our house. This gave us some time to arrange our household.
Dear Elizabeth, it was hard to ask our sons to move even if it was only up the road to your house, a stone's throw away. We had to make room for you to be with us. Our sons were teenagers, seventeen and eighteen.
We did what we had to do, out of love. Your granddaughter moved to a smaller bedroom to allow you to have her larger one. We all made sacrifices. While all of this shuffling was going on, I tried to recreate your room just as it had been in your own home. The color scheme on the wall and even pictures were what you had been used to for many years. You came home, to our home.
Confusion caused by a stroke and medications kept you from knowing where you were. The frail, arthritic bent sixty seven year old woman that came to live with us was a stranger. You became mother to me, then. You started calling me daughter proudly and fondly. You treated me with love and allowed me to take care of all your needs. This gentle side of your personality had been hidden from me for many years. You brought hard work to me because you required nursing, bathing, feeding, diapering, comfort and patience peppered with love. You were as helpless as a baby was and could not even walk unassisted.

Aside from all the work, there was a positive. You brought my family closer together by sharing your childhood and youth with us as they came to your mind. Your revelations and disorientation, at times, revealed a woman that had been strong and vibrant in a time of change, turbulence, and most of all backbreaking labor of women who ran a household. You shared your grief, the loss of your mother at your tender age of seven. You detailed the horrors of forced labor of children. Your granddaughter was appalled to learn of punishment that meant no food at mealtime so that you would remember transgressions of the day while your stomach rumbled and yearned for food. You carried water, wood, and washed clothes by hand.

This time of our life will never be forgotten. Admired was your strength to persevere. It made me forgive your occasional coldness and judgmental attitude.

We became your world. Your granddaughter became your friend and confidante. You laughed and told jokes; we began to see the person you must have been before life's struggles and hardships made you cynical and hard to love. You were a child again. One night, you even went through the pangs of childbirth. Late one night, your imagined labor began. Your granddaughter brought you a doll that made you happy and content. You cradled that doll in your arms.
Finally, you let us experience "you" as you were early in life. It was difficult to watch you slip away a little day by day, at least physically. Your spunk came back and we enjoyed that, too.

Then the time came, Elizabeth, when we could no longer take care of your needs. This was the downside of having you with us. You became more demanding and not reasonable with your wants.

A nursing home room became your world.

I write this letter, now, to tell you of the events that you may not remember. Your confusion has left you temporarily and I want you to know that mine has left me too.
Mother-in-law, I too, will become old and much like you are now.

Know that I love you.
With love,
Your daughter-in-law

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


Author Notes
A promise made before God should be fulfilled. In this letter, emotions and memories are shared with an aging "lady", a mother-in-law. This was written from the heart and was delivered while she could still comprehend the meaning of the words. Aging is a process that takes its toll and hopefully God's love will see us through.
Pays one point and 2 member cents. Artwork by avmurray at

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