Cheeky Mother-in-Law: A Tribute

The elderly woman cautiously maneuvered her walker into the small lab area of the doctor's office. I took her arm and gently helped her sit down. A familiar, friendly nurse approached her and asked "What finger should I use to get your blood sample today?"

"Oh it doesn't matter.", the white-haired patient replied. The nurse took her middle finger and started to clean it with an alcohol pad. Suddenly, the lady jerked her hand away. "Not that finger!" she blurted. "That's the one I always use when I'm out in traffic!"

The nurse just stood there with a shocked expression as her patient waved her middle finger in the air. When she laid her hand back down on the table, she had a twinkle in her eye and a cheeky smirk. The nurse visibly relaxed, then chuckled. So did I.

The elderly jokester was my mother-in-law. I think she was 89 at the time.

"Cheeky" is not a common term here in the US, but one definition I found describes Mom's sense of humor perfectly: "irreverent, usually in an endearing or amusing way".

Mom lived to celebrate her 94th birthday. I suspect that her ability to make others smile was one key to her longevity.

This woman was a survivor with a benevolent heart. She endured a difficult childhood during the Great Depression. As an adult she suffered multiple miscarriages, widowhood and many more painful losses through the years.

I've so enjoyed the captivating stories Mom shared with us. She was almost old enough to be my grandmother. What a blessing to have learned from her experiences and perspective on life.

We had a unique relationship. This is not only because I've been married to her son for many years and she was a loving grandma to my children. It's also because I was her caregiver and she was mine.

Mom was 80 and had been a widow for more than ten years when her health started to decline. She voluntarily gave up driving. My husband was her only child, so it was up to us to assist her.

He worked full-time. I was available to help and I'd had some basic medical training. I became her main chauffeur and part-time helper. This eventually led to my full-time, live-in caregiver role.

My own mother had died about fifteen years prior to this time. I had a close relationship with my mama; she was absolutely irreplaceable. After she died, though, I was eventually adopted.

My mom-in-law had welcomed me into her life many years before. Over time, I knew beyond a doubt that she had taken me in. I had a home in her heart.

I've always believed the old cliche' that says laughter is the best medicine. A more current version of it is this quote "Every time you find some humor in a difficult situation, you win."

Mom was a most courageous role model for those quotes. Losing one's health over time (the ability to breathe freely, to stand, to walk) is certainly one of life's most difficult situations. She was a fighter through it all!

Somehow, Mom maintained that dry wit and perfect timing for her oh-so-funny comments and actions.

What a gift to her loved ones! The ability make us laugh when we were grieving, stressed or simply didn't know what to do.

A dreaded day came three years ago. It was the day we all hoped would never happen: Mom moved into a nursing home for long-term care.

Coincidentally, I was going through menopause at the same time. I tried not to complain about my uncomfortable symptoms, but Mom was well aware of what was going on. She'd been there, done that!

One evening when I was visiting her, my face suddenly flushed and I quickly unzipped my sweater. Mom looked at me and asked "Hot flash?" I nodded yes. She urged me to stand closer, right next to her bed. Then she immediately flipped the switch on the CPAP machine and pushed the tube right up to my face. "There! Now doesn't that cool air feel good?"

Wow! I hadn't seen her move that fast in a long time! I was a bit stunned! I'm not sure if the cool air or the unexpected laughter helped most, but I definitely felt better.

Ah Mom! Always concerned about others, even when she was in pain. 

Mom grew much weaker during her last year of life. While this was no surprise to us, it was certainly a sorrowful journey.

A few months before her passing, Mom was having a particularly difficult night.

I was straining to hear her because her voice wasn't much louder than a whisper. Every few minutes, she closed her eyes to rest. I said "I can tell that you don't have much strength. Don't try to talk anymore. It's okay."

My tears started welling up. I turned around to get a tissue from my purse.

My emotional moment was abruptly broken. 
I'd just been spanked. Yes. Mom had grabbed a magazine from her bedside table and smacked me right on the butt!

I turned around. My husband was stifling a giggle. Mom just looked at me and said, very quietly but matter-of-factly, "Well, you bent over. I just couldn't resist."

Oh, I recognized that mischievous look on her face!
I knew that spank was actually just a love pat and a "don't be so sad" distraction. 

I love you too, Mom. I love you too! Thank you for the gift of your cheeky sense of humor. I'll carry the funny, healing memories in my heart always.

Rest in peace, Mom. 11/30/18


  1. I love this story! She reminds me of my own Mom who is in Assisted Living with dementia. She will surprise me once in a while when the fog clears and she is her old sarcastic and mischievous self.

    1. Thank you Terry!
      Yes, those moments are precious.

  2. loving story Dianna - I never saw my mother ever again for 20 yrs and couldn't make her death or funeral. Many, many deep memories and regrets Dianna but she survives on in our genes and we see her more vividly in my dear sister!


    1. Thank you Dave. I'm sorry about your sad circumstances regarding your mother. I agree though, that our loved ones live on through the next generations!


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