It’s been a very busy few weeks — Peggy’s Mama died, travel to Dallas for the funeral, a heart episode while in Dallas hospitalized my Dad, outrunning floods to get back home, Peggy’s first speaking role — and before all that occurred we had offered to host the entire family for Easter. Peggy said “bring it on”!
An old Alabama song says, “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.” The Louisiana corollary is, “If you’re gonna have Easter in Louisiana, you gotta have crawfish.” Not really a toe-tapper, but you get the idea…
We became the central location for family get-togethers when we moved here. Family in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, so it works, and Peggy loves it. This weekend we have twelve people here. If you have a large crowd at your house at Easter that means one thing…
My Dallas girl had to learn about crawfish. My company hosts 10-12 crawfish boils each season, so she’s had a bit of a crash course in the 18 months since we moved here. Still, I was a little surprised when she looked at me and said, “We need to do crawfish on Saturday.”
All is right with the world. I serve a risen Savior and we had crawfish to celebrate. I’m pretty sure I heard God say, “Yeah, you right!”
So, when we moved back to Louisiana my beautiful wife was looking for something to do that would not tie up her time too much and take her away from seeing her mother. We did not know it at the time, but Louisiana has become quite a hub for the entertainment industry. Peggy is a lovely lady, so it did not take long for her to begin being cast in background roles in movies and on TV. It’s not glamorous work but it is fun for her and she gets paid a little bit for doing it.
She has worked with some really big names and gotten to know some very interesting people, but she has not yet had a speaking role in a project. That all changed today!
There is a wonderful feature film being made here in Baton Rouge and Peggy has a small role in the project. The film is currently entitled “Beautifully Broken” and is the true story of the family of one of my closest friends. When they decided the US filming was going to take place in Louisiana, my friend Randy asked Peggy to be a part of the cast playing his wife’s sister. It isn’t the soda counter at Woolworth’s but it’s still pretty cool.
We spent today, Palm Sunday, filming her part in the movie and hanging out with Randy and his wife, Darla. It takes a long time for a film to be made so it probably will not come out until sometime in late 2017 or 2018, but Peggy’s first speaking role is officially in the can. You pick up the lingo when you’re on the set…
Life is funny. We buried Peggy’s Mama less than two weeks ago, and now here we are creating a life-affirming moment with dear friends to share with the world. Maybe I should say God is funny because He is the only one who could put these pieces in place.
And I’m ready for the actress to start supporting me in the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.
We realized something was wrong when we went to her house and saw a few months’ worth of bills laying on the desk. This is only significant if you know that she spent many years running a pediatrician’s office, and every bill that came in was filed as soon as it was paid. She’s wicked smart and incredibly social, so on our too-brief visits to see her she had fooled us fairly easily. However, when she traveled with us over the holidays we had our first glimpse of her away from her home turf. The unpaid bills were now evidence of the journey that was just beginning.
Though we no longer lived in Dallas, Peggy still lived closest of the children — it’s a lot easier to get to Dallas from Houston or Austin than from Tucson or Seattle. It didn’t take the doctors too long to give us the news we did not want to hear. Alzheimer’s is never what you want to hear.
What followed is what so many families have already gone through. Finding a place for her to live that met our picky standards and had a great quality of care. Cleaning out a family home of nearly fifty years, then fixing it up to sell. Watching Peggy battle tirelessly to qualify for the VA benefit that her father earned serving in World War II. The friends asking why we are doing this “to” Mary.
Finally, the deterioration got to the point where Mary no longer could live in her own apartment, even in a memory care facility. We made the decision to move her to a wonderful place here in Baton Rouge so Peggy could be with her every day. We jokingly referred to it as “South Dallas” since Peggy’s mother has never lived anywhere else in her life. Enduring the physical struggles that mirror the mental deterioration, but always with the same sweet spirit. And always recognizing Peggy. And me.
Once she turned the corner on loving me she was all in. And until the day she died she loved me with all her heart.
I sang at her funeral today, and for the first time I could not get through the song I have sung countless times. I was overcome with the thought that this wonderful lady was now fully healed and hanging out with her blessed savior. Fortunately, the congregation knew the words and sang for me when I could not. It was the kind of moment Mary would have loved. No, it was a moment Mary did love. And I loved her.
When Peggy and I started dating, well, let’s just be generous and say that Peggy’s mother did not like me very much. I never really understood why, and I was just arrogant enough not to be too bothered by it. I always figured it was because I was a year older (that seems to matter more when you are 16 and 17) and because Peggy was her family’s golden child.
The longer we stayed together the worse it got. I’ve heard people talk about being treated with disdain by in-laws. Disdain would have been a giant step up in class — seething dislike is more accurate.
I thought it would improve when we got engaged, but the feelings just ramped up at that point. At the church on the day of our wedding, Peggy’s Mama begged her not to go through with it. Fortunately for me Peggy had made up her mind. Anyone who knows her knows what that means.
Our wedded bliss did nothing to soften her feelings toward me. I was always respectful and polite, but I can be forgiven for not being overly demonstrative towards the family. After a little over two years of marriage, we found out Peggy was pregnant. Everyone was predictably excited, especially as Peggy had a very smooth pregnancy (the summer electricity bill in our tiny house is a subject for another time). When we went to the hospital we decided to wait until we had something to tell before we started notifying people.
As stress-free as Peggy’s pregnancy was, the delivery was the exact opposite. She was in labor for more than twenty-four hours before her water broke. We called her parents then and told them we were at Presbyterian Hospital.
Nine hours later the doctor came in and told us that the baby was in distress and we needed to do an emergency caesarean section. We did not have time to tell Peggy’s parents what was happening but asked the nurse to go let them know. Thirty minutes later our son was born and both he and Peggy were healthy.
When I walked out into the waiting room to share the news with Peggy’s mother and father, I hugged them both and shared what had happened. I will never know exactly what happened, but something about that moment finally melted Mary’s resistance. From that day forward she became the greatest mother-in-law that a man could ever have.
Since that day, she has literally spent more than twenty-eight years apologizing to me for the way she acted, and I have spent the same amount of time asking her to not worry about it.
Mary, Peggy’s Mama, went home yesterday.
Over the next few days I will have more to say about this remarkable woman and the remarkable woman she gave to me.
Today I can only think about one thing — she won’t feel the need to apologize anymore.