There were visiting speakers from out of state tonight, a mother and son, and we went to hear. One of the perks of college towns and all that.
At the end, Ann, the widowed mother (not to mention a professor), told the story of why she’d never met her mother-in-law: the woman had died when Ann’s husband had been two.
His mother had contracted childbed fever (I could have added, and it was immediately before penicillin became available. Like a month. So close.)
Her sister Frances had come to visit her in the hospital, where in grief she implored her sister not to die.
Her sister, fully aware she was losing that fight, asked her visitor, a young mom herself, Frances? Where are your children?
A surprised, Well, I left them with…! They’re in good hands…! I won’t be away from them for long, it’s okay!
And that was Frances’s answer, the words echoing through the years to come and in memories past: her own mother had died when she was eight. Her grown sister had taken her in.
Frances took in the motherless newborn and raised him with her own five children for six years till his father felt he could cope with the day to day, while Ann’s late husband would be taken care of by the older surviving sister till then.
I went up afterwards to mother and son and said, Let me re-introduce myself. (I think I’d been a child the last time I’d seen her and not much more than that for him.)
Frances is my grandmother. Her daughter Frances is my mother.
I got a gasp and a hug and a “How is your mom?! I LOVE your mom!” and in an instant the world became a smaller, better place.
Mom and Dad? Ann says hi!
(Background chatter after that: Your mom was always so energetic. Is she still energetic? Is she…? …Oh yes she’s still energetic and they’re both in great health! …Oh good!)
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