Out of the mouths of babes….

Apocryphally, mothers-in-law and sons-in-law aren’t meant to get on.

No-one told Elisa, Ms jb’s Mum.

And if anyone told me, I either didn’t hear, wasn’t paying attention (the excuses I use more and more  as time passes….) or I didn’t believe them.

We got on just fine, but then it’s difficult not to get on with someone who never complained about her lot in life, is honest, direct, witty, outrageous and hard-working.

Talk about hard-working….

Born into the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic, a child through the Great Depression and the early years of the 3rd Reich, left school to work on relatives’ farms for no pay (“not even a sandwich for lunch” she’d say) at 14, lost both parents as a very young woman.

Married Ms jb’s Dad, built up an existence – farm buildings with her bare hands – from nothing with little or no machinery in the early days.

She had sayings like “Man verdät sich nit mie wie in de Lök” (“People will disappoint you more than you’ll ever imagine” and “So wie du kommst gegangen, so wirst du auch empfangen”  (“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”)

Talk about direct….

If she didn’t like someone, they knew it.

Prince Charles was “that turd”.

She was brought up to agree with everything that the Catholic church preached.

Not Elisa in her later years.

I thought I was hearing things when she ripped into the dogmatic positions of the bishop of Cologne.

She died last month at 91, following a series of strokes caused by carotid artery stenosis and a hard last 3 months, unable to swallow easily or speak at all.

It’s easy to say that it’s for the best (which it is), but it doesn’t make the hole she left any smaller.

She’d gradually been drifting into dementia over the past few years, as proud as anything of the fact that she couldn’t remember anything “between 12 and mid-day” and asking Ms jb on occasion “Tell me, dear, who ARE you?” and then being mortified when Ms jb said “Muuuu-uuum!”.

She’d look around, grin and then say in a conspiratorial tone “I stole that picture from the church, you know”.

“That picture” was an image of her at 4 with her parents that I’d photographed from the original, developed and printed myself with Ilford chemicals and paper and sepia toned.

Indignation all round.

I’m still not sure that she wasn’t having us all on.

I’d say “Elisa (her real name was Elisabeth and everyone called her “Liesschen”) if you keep this up, you won’t go to heaven”.

To which she’d say ” Me? Heaven? Ha! I’m going to hell. My HUSBAND’s the one who’s going to heaven….”

Ms jb got lots of nice words and thoughts when Elisa died.

From people you’d expect to hear from, of course, but also special words from people we know in a networked sort of way, but have never met.

You know who you are.


And the one that still makes me catch my breath.

Ms jb was in the cemetery a few days after the funeral with her great-niece, just 2 and a half, and having a weep.

Eva: “Why are you crying?”
Ms jb: “Well, I’m pretty sad that Gran died, you know?”
Eva (takes Ms jb’s hand): “But she’s not SICK any more. And she’s in heaven and she’s looking after me”

So she made it after all…..

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7 Responses to Out of the mouths of babes….

  1. Rute says:

    Children see it always in the right way.

  2. Kate says:

    That child Eva is sensitive beyond her years. I believe that Elisa, a wise woman indeed, is looking after both you and Al. A lovely memorial to someone important in your life.

  3. Gudrun Meuren says:

    Das hast du wunderschön geschrieben. Ich bin sehr ergriffen !

  4. Meg in Nelson says:

    Very sorry to hear about A’s mum. But, wow, she is not sick any more. And I assume you made it home in time.

  5. So many mothers-in-law would give anything to have such a good relationship with their children’s spouses. My mother didn’t stick around long enough to get to know John very well. However, I’m fortunate that his mother and I are good friends. It is good fortune, too, because when you marry a person you get their family in the bargain. How good that you will miss so fine a person.

  6. Pingback: Elisa would have told him something else #1700 « Mainz Daily Photo

  7. Pingback: Close to home | You Must Be From Away

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