My mother-in-law Joan, just passed away at 91 years of age. I could say the first 89 were heathly happy years, as the last couple were surely a challenge for her. But the reality is, Joan faced many hardships in her long life that most of us will never have to face: living in Britain in the heat of WWII, the early loss of her husband and more profoundly, the loss of a son. And yet, she had the strength, courage and grace to know what she had to do in every circumstance of her life and to look at life optimistically. When she became a widow, with the proverbial nest emptying she knew she had to move to a new home. She moved once again when that house become too much space and garden to handle, and then knew enough to move once again to assisted living. Her timing was exquisite. As real estates agents, my wife and I see the opposite too often. One could use many more superlatives to describe Joan but as matriarch of the Knight family her undying support of each member of the family is the word what stands out the most for me.
Even though I was an extended member of that family I too was the recipient of that support. She became the first investor of my business InCourage, had a keen interest in what was happening and attended many shareholders meetings in person. Before InCourage, I recall being in one of my existential funks and struggling with what to do with my career. I thought I would give motivational speaking a go. My best friend was doing it successfully and hey, I had read a couple of self-help books, so for sure I was qualified! My friend got me a gig and I prepared for weeks. Joan was visiting us for a couple of weeks and asked to read it. At the time, I was quite happy with it, but the truth must be told, it was dreadful babble. I’d be embarrassed to share it now. To give you an idea though, it was entitled “Valuing the Value of our Values”. I’m not sure how I actually pulled it off without getting pulled off the stage but I do remember Joan coming out of the house to the front deck and said it was “jolly good” and encouraged me to keep going with it. Then she corrected my countless grammatical errors.
Which brings up the dark side of Joan. If you had the courage to challenge her to a Scrabble game, you needed to be prepared to back up every word you put down with it’s meaning. Oe – a two toed sloth. Zo – cattle. Spilth – excess from what is split. And if you misspelled something, you’d hear about that too.
“What, pray tell is a Gusett?”
“Umm” (caught) “I can’t define it but I’m sure it’s a word”
She gives you that all-knowing look and asks “By gusett, do you mean a triangular piece let into a garment to strengthen or enlarge it?”
“Yes, yes of course that’s what I meant”
“That’s gusset, not gusett. There’s no such word as gusett. Try again.”
She devoured books and the depth of her knowledge of the English vocabularly was like no one I have met. She could finish a crossword before I’d finish reading the clues. Despite her lack of mercy while thrashing me at Scrabble, I knew she still loved me and would give me her unqualified support whenever I needed it. Her support is her legacy and is by no irony – a seven letter word that she would, little doubt, find a triple-word placement for.