35+ Years without One Cross Word or…

BobLee
February13/ 2020

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Feb 13, 2020

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35+ Years without One Cross Word or…

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Nancy Hunter Stiegemeyer – 92 – of Cape Girardeau, Mo passed away at 11 PM on February 11, 2020.  She is survived by one daughter – Blondie – three sons … five grandchildren … three awesome great-grandchildren … and one smart-aleck son-in-law with his very own website.

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Mother-in-law jokes have been a staple of comedy routines since Henny was a Young Man.  There must be some truth to the stereotype of mothers-in-law being a burden / curse that many sons and daughters-in-law’s must bear to join a family via the bonds of matrimony.

I cannot speak to that from any personal experiences over the past 35+ years.  In the same way I cannot speak to how difficult it must be to learn Mandarin Chinese… cook a souffle … or bungee jump blindfolded.  I have no personal experiences with those either.

Over the 35+ years that I was The Best / Only  son-in-law that Nancy Stiegemeyer ever had.  She and I never had a cross word… a disapproving glance… or the slightest indication that either of us had “issues” with the other.

OK, I never confirmed that from her POV, but I have no reason to assume otherwise.

Unless one is (1) a jackass sports fan i.e. “a board monkey”… or (2) a goggle-eyed, spittle-spewing liberal lunatic, I am a pretty easy-going fellow to get along with.   Nancy was certainly neither of those yucky sorts at all.

Nancy was a very accommodating, Hail-Lady-Well-Met.  Much loved and admired by all who knew her allowing for the likelihood of those 1-2 lifelong enemies we all seem to acquire somehow.

A widow for the past 28 years, Nancy lived in the same home on Camellia Drive in Cape Girardeau, MO where she and Bob raised their daughter and three sons.  Seven years ago, macular degeneration and various aging-related mobility issues necessitated her moving to a progressive assisted living center only a mile from the home for 55 years.

For a voracious reader like Nancy was all her life… macular degeneration is as cruel an affliction has can be imagined.  She dealt with it.

Nancy’s final years were a familiar experience to ones I’m sure many of you have gone thru.  It is emotional for all concerned.  It is The Cycle of Life.  It is Reality.  It sucks!

To what I ascribe as a lasting tribute to The Family Nancy raised… and the adults they became… this Reverse Care-giving Experience did NOT divide the siblings AT ALL as is so often the case.

One son – an advertising executive in Kansas City – took over the financial management of Nancy’s life.  … Another son – a lawyer in St Louis – made the four hour round-trips to “check on Mom” as often as possible.   … Daughter Blondie and a 3rd son in Raleigh provided moral support, cards and letters and visits as often as practical.

The two of them and yours truly managed the  – Move Mom Out Of Her Home Into The Assisted Living Center – which is every bit as emotionally-taxing as everyone who has done it can attest.

Everyone willingly did what they could in providing for the best loving care possible.  For her last year, Nancy was progressively unaware of her surroundings.  Sound familiar?

If you have not gone thru such an experience and think… Heck, thats what any normal family would/should do… think again.  Reverse-care giving can split siblings quicker than Politics at Thanksgiving or “Who gets Dad’s pocket watch or that special Christmas ornament”.

Nancy and Bob’s four kids  – were Raised Right.

To be fair… our 35+ years of in-law harmony could be related to the fact that we lived 1,000 miles apart pretty much that whole time.  Absence can indeed make the heart grow fonder… or at least not harder.   But those multi-dozen annual 14 hour “car trips to Grandma’s” were never a burden.  Thanks to Cracker Barrels and Interstate all but the last two hours.

I was Raised Right too.  Thats simply “what you do”.

Apparently that Raised Right stuff has passed to the next generation.  One granddaughter – a grad student at UCLA – is flying in for the service.  As soon as It Happened Tuesday night, Kid and Pastor Danny began plans to make the 5-hour road trip from Madison with two amazing 2 y/o twins and 3-week old Baby Danny… and Nanny-In-Residence Blondie.

“Not coming” would have been understood by all… but was never given a thought.    Bro-in-law Hunter and I will fly in Sunday.  It is “what you do”.

I’ve opined in various columns over the years on the subject of Obituaries.  They are “ads” that a family buys in the local print media upon the passing of a loved one.  Beyond the first 25 or so words… you pay “by the word”.   With newspapers being cash-poor these days, they welcome ones that begin ….

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He/she was born in …. and attended first grade at …. …. …. she played Blanche in the high school production of Streetcar Named Desire and briefly considered a theater career but …. … … … first job out of college was …

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If an Obituary contains anything like that… you’re looking at 750-1000 words and a bill approaching $1,000 not including a picture.  Such obits often get red-lined down to 500 words when the newspaper sales guy says “fine… that’ll be …”.

The Obituary ordeal is often compared to the “pick out a casket” ordeal.  The family is emotionally vulnerable in both circumstances. The sellers know that.

NOTE:  When I was doing all that for my Mom 18 years ago, I was dealing with two very evil aunts who I once publicly described as – one witch short of the opening scene of Macbeth.  Blondie would later refer to that period as “…sawing two limbs off the family tree… with a chain saw”.

There was no such high drama this time around.

Everyone trusted Kansas City brother to Do it right… How Mom woulda wanted it .   He did an excellent job.  It was lengthy but buried in the middle was The Zinger that every first-rate obituary has GOT to have.

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“Legend has it that Nancy was the first woman to wear a pant suit to a Sunday service at St Andrews Lutheran Church in the late 60s.  She was Mod…”  – WHAMMO!

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I never knew that but I can believe it.  I DO believe it.

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Nancy Stiegemeyer – My Mother-in-law – was a very dear woman … very very intelligent … deeply involved in her church and in her community … with the emotional fortitude of a Modern Day “Pioneer Woman”.

Maybe like a lot of your mothers or grandmothers who grew up in the 30s-40s… dealt with loved ones “going off to war” … a brother lost at Chosin Reservoir … a widow for her last 28 years.   Through it all … raising her family The Right Way. … A Life Well Lived.

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ReRe2

Q:  BobLee, we gots to know… did Nancy understand your notoriously obtuse sense of humor?

A:  No. Probably not.  But neither do Blondie or Kid.  My only hope are ReRe and YaYa.  I think ReRe might be my best chance.  “CarrotTop” has a bit of the whimsy in her.

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Yes. I know about McClatchey (The N&O) declaring bankruptcy.  We’ll get to that crap later.

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More BobLeeSays … CLICK HERE

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BobLee

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Queen City
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Queen City

Prayers to you and Blondies family. She was very fortunate to have normal parents. Not everyone is blessed with that. I’m in a similar stage of life situation. There does not appear to be a blueprint for reverse care giving other than doing the right thing and being completely selfless.

Doug
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Doug

Abundant blessings to the family. A life well lived and a fine tribute.

HokieJay
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HokieJay

Nicely done Sir. I’m sorry for your loss. Kudos to your wife and family for their support. I live in Virginia and it is my pleasure and privilege to manage the affairs of my 104 year old great aunt who lives in Denver. To this day no medication required, she is a rock. Alas, she wonders why she is still here and she is painfully aware of her diminished cognitive abilities but always great company. When you care for someone like that you make damn sure you do the right thing, no alternative.

iratepyrate
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iratepyrate

What a wonderful tribute to a life that was well-lived. And thanks for including that photo at the header of your column. What a beautiful lady! I’m sure she was even more beautiful inside than out.

Deborah Steele
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Deborah Steele

Sorry for the loss of BLondie’s mother and a loss for all of you. What a beautiful tribute to her. Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.

robedixon
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robedixon

Those of us who have been in Blondie’s shoes understand the sorrow and sadness that come with this moment. I tell people you do not understand losing your last parent it leaves you feeling like an orphan. Life is never the same. However since she lived into her 90’s as did my father who lived a very similar life I tell others I consider myself blessed to have had the joy of my father for those many years unlike some who lose their last parent earlier in life. Blondie should take joy there as well. . I got friends who… Read more »

Teena Taylor
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Teena Taylor

So sorry about Blondies mom- sounds as though she had a wonderful life! Sympathies to your entire family

NCSU68Grad
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NCSU68Grad

Wonderful tribute, BL. Condolences to you and Blondie. As was pointed out….the circle of life continues…..and you are privy to a front row seat. . I remember my late MIL. She was in Stage IV of some feminine cancer. I had just retired to open Grand Daddy Day Care and she had an AFIB incident that same week. It was unbelievable as I sat in the hospital. I did not believe her PR….so I held her hand and checked it myself. I could not count that fast. She then rehabed with us for the summer and then later with one… Read more »

Robert Kennel
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Robert Kennel

BobLee,
Poignant truth about what must have been a wonderful lady.
Well said and well felt.
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Almost too close to home with very dear friend losing both father and mother within 2 weeks of each other. Too many obituaries and funerals going on. Flying out next weekend for Elaine’s brother-in-law’s military funeral in California.
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God bless you and Blondie and her whole family.

Tarspartan
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Tarspartan

My condolences on the loss of your MIL. She sounds like she was a fine lady and was well loved.

That being said, this column marks the first time I have laughed at a description of writing an obituary. My daughter (a theater kid) is stealing the line “one witch short of the opening scene of Macbeth.”

Ric '73
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Ric '73

Brings to mind the time my first wife, infant son and I were visiting her mother. A friend picked me up for a night on the town, during which we drank WAY too much, and, upon returning in the wee hours, I snuck into the house, removed my clothes, and crawled into bed, drunk and naked, with my sixty something y/o mother in law. She and my wife had decided to swap rooms to make more space for the baby bed. I think I’ll permanently delete this memory now.

SS.NC
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SS.NC

A keeper. Your genius is in your simplicity, and you are a treasure. Especially for those of us with similar feelings but lacking the ability to put feelings into words. You are a blessed man I thank you.

Charlotte Wuffie
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Charlotte Wuffie

BobLee,
I’m saddened to hear about Blondie’s mom. It sounds like she can be very proud of raising some fine children and had a long life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.🙏

Will Taylor
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Will Taylor

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in celebration of Ms.. Nancy’s 92 years on this earth..job well done. Always know we were all “raised right” growing in K-Town.
Class of 65 friends and classmates