Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Recipe for Love

I just got back from a quick trip to Douglas this weekend. On Thursday, Teresa talked to Mary and Mary told her she wasn't feeling just right. Teresa wanted to get back to Douglas right away when she heard this. We had planned on going down to see Mary next weekend because we have a three day weekend, but decided to take Teresa down on Friday. We left as soon as we could get away from school. Teresa, Judy, and I , along with Judy's two teenagers, went down. I wanted to get the holy water from Knock in Ireland to her as soon as possible.

Judy had spoken to Mary's niece and she asked Judy if she would talk to Mary about some things that they were having a difficult time doing. Since Judy was a hospice social worker, she is able to to talk about topics that are so sensitive. I'm glad it was not me, because that is absolutely something I cannot do.

Saturday morning the three of us went to see Mary. She is now staying at her sister's house. It was very difficult for me to see her as she looks so gaunt and so sick. I want to remember her in happier times like these pictures. However, she was in a very "chipper" mood and was so glad to see us.

To describe in words what Mary means to me is not easy. Mary has been a part of my life forever. There was never a time when she hasn't been there. In this day and age of people moving from place to place and job to job, and relationship to relationship, Mary's story is amazing.

I have always known the story about how Mary came to our family. I talked to Teresa about it yesterday to make sure that I had the facts straight. In 1946, my aunt, Dot, had just had twin girls. She had two other very small children. She was coming for an extended visit to Douglas. My grandfather felt that some help was needed in the house so that Dot could get some rest. So he asked Teresa to try to find someone. Teresa contacted a lady who had done some housework for them and she said she had a younger sister who was looking for work. She told her that she didn't speak any English. So Mary, age about 15, arrived at the house and has never left.

Throughout my childhood, she was there every day to take care of us. She cleaned the house, did the laundry, disciplined us, and loved us dearly, as we did her. Many of my cousins spent summers in Douglas and Mary did the same for them. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I never ate lunch at school because we always came home to lunch that Mary fixed for us.

When we spent summers in Douglas when my kids were little, she was there for them, too. By that time, she only worked at our house three days a week and worked for the parish priest the other two. My mom and Teresa made sure that she had health insurance through the church and always paid social security for her. I learned so much from having Mary as part of our family. I learned how important it is to treat people who work for you with dignity and respect which is what my mom and Teresa did. They made sure that she had a retirement account and insurance. I learned that no matter what job anyone does to make a house (or organization) work, it is important and should be respected.

One of my favorite stories about Mary that we have laughed with her over the years was how she potty trained Patrick. He will probably not be thrilled that I put this in, but I am not sure he reads my blog anyway. He was two and a half and was still not potty trained and wasn't interested in being potty trained. I had tried, but to no avail so I just gave up and figured some day he would decide it was important. We would go to Douglas for the summer as soon as school was out. There is a small built in pool in the backyard that my uncle, Johnny, built for us one summer. I remember hearing a bunch of commotion outside and Mary speaking very firmly to Patrick. She had the the hose and was hosing him down without his swimming trunks on and speaking to him very firmly about not being potty trained. From that day forward, Patrick no longer needed diapers!!!

During those summers, Mary taught me how to make green and red chili meat and beans. I was telling her yesterday that I recently fixed over 100 pounds of roast into green chili for our school carnival. It is Mary's recipe that has been such a hit at our school carnival for so many years.
But her recipe for love is what has meant the most. I know that she has loved Judy and me unconditionally. She has also loved our kids as well as so many of our cousins just as she would have her own children. Mary never married and dedicated her life to our family. She also has many nieces and nephews who love her dearly.

After she retired, she continued to come to the house several days a week for various reasons. She continued to do the laundry, to fix lunch, to help Teresa with my mom for those few years, and to be a part of our family. She took care of the house while Teresa was up here in the valley. When we went to Douglas, the first thing she did was come over and make tortillas for us. There are no better tortillas than Mary's!!! I missed those tortillas this weekend.

Two years ago, her nieces and nephews gave her a surprise party for her 75th birthday and we were all able to be a part of that.

I am so glad that we went to see her this weekend. I know that she is at peace. I was amazed that she and Judy were able to talk about her wishes for a funeral and where to be buried. At one point, she looked over at me and laughed and said something about me not being able to talk about these things. She knew that I was having a hard time holding it together. How well she knows me!!

Teresa is staying in Douglas for awhile. I know it is because she wants to be there if Mary needs anything. If any of our cousins want to send a card to Mary, just send it to Teresa and she will make sure that she gets it.
As I said, Mary is at peace and is accepting of her illness. I know it is because of the life she has lead and her faith. She had such a huge part in raising Judy and I and I thank her for all of that she gave us. Mary has very little in the way of material possessions, but she more than makes us for that with her gentle spirit and her gift of love. Our family is blessed to have had her as part of it for almost 63 years!

We went to say good-bye to her this morning before we left. I know that we will get back down there again soon, as Kerri and Patrick want to go to see her.

There are so many recipes in the world. I am glad I learned how to make such great Mexican food from Mary. But her recipe for love is something I wish everyone could follow every day. Mary is an incredible lady without much education or worldly goods, but what she has given to our family can never be measured by a cup of this or a tablespoon of that.

5 remarks:

Anonymous said...

Sheila--What a beautiful tribute to an incredible lady! I can't even count the number of times that as we were on our way to Douglas late after school, you called ahead and, sure enough, Mary had the masa cakes or tortillas and red chile on the stove ready for us when we got there late. I've never tasted better food! You could tell, as we would sit with Mary in the living room after dinner, of the love and admiration she had for you and your family as she would laugh and add her part to stories about earlier days. She is such a loving and devoted lady who DID make this world a better place! (Well done, Mary!) I'll continue to keep Mary in my prayers. Dottie

Anonymous said...

I just have to say how much I love Mary, and that when she finally decides her time on earth is complete, I will miss her just as much as I miss my grandma and will miss Teresa (in 40 years when she decides all her good work is complete, too).


Anonymous said... prayers are with all of you and your dear Mary. Throughout all these years you have always spoken with such love for Mary. These special Mexican woman came into our families when they were so young and they embraced us as we did them with respect and love. What a lesson for today's world! As you know, the Sanders had their sweet Dolores who entered their lives at around 14 and you had your sweet Mary. How much they taught us as young children about respect, dedication, love and caring for others. We have been blessed to have them in our lives.
Let not your heart be troubled...Mary has her Teresa with her now.

Anonymous said...

What special memories all of you have for your dear sweet Mary. Of course I LOVED the potty training story. Please thank Mary for me as I would have hated to have to be the one to potty train Patrick in kindergarten :)
Love you lots,

Clare Denton said...

I feel very lucky to have actually met Mary long ago at your house in Douglas (and actually taste the famous tortillas) when Sandi and I came down there to visit. I know she was very important to your family and you will all miss her much. What a great blog you have and so many memories and wonderful people in your life!