Friday, July 27, 2012


 My mother-in-law passed away about a month ago. I wrote about her in summer institute, right after her passing,  but now I think I want to share here what I wrote.
Here's a photo of her with my children (and one grandchild!) taken with her about a week before she passed.She doesn't look much like the woman in my writing. I hadn't realized, until I was helping to write the life sketch and watched a DVD my daughter had made of Dottie three years ago, how much she had changed from the woman I remember for most of my life--certainly all my adult life.

Here's what I wrote:

Sometimes you just get used to a person's clothing. That's what they wear, what they are. And then, at odd moments, you realize that the clothing is as much a part of them as their laugh or their voice. Dottie always wore bright clothes. And not just bright in color but large bright patterns, too. In the 70s, she wore psychedelic prints--like modern art paintings in colors that shocked the eye to be next to each other: fuschia and chartreuse and mustard and lime and violet. She loved to laugh, to feed people, to give parties. The bright colors seem to reflect her approach to life: full and vibrant.

Dottie was a large woman, so you'd think that she would wear tame colors. But she said that if she was going to be large, she was going to be noticeable at it. And she was. She often changed her hair color--red, black, and then orange for a while when she tried to bleach the black out. Whatever she did, though, she did with flash.

Most of her nine children inherited Dottie's love of color. My husband, for instance, thinks nothing of wearing bright red or yellow shirts. He has always looked for and purchased bright orange swim trunks. Although they make him easy to spot on the beach or in the water, most of us wouldn't pick that color once, let alone for decades. David's sisters wear bright colors and also large, chunky jewelry designed to call attention to the wearer.

When I was pregnant with one of my own children, Dottie gave me a pantsuit--maternity top and bottom--in a bold red plaid. I thanked her, and tried to keep my face impassive. I didn't think I could wear it. After all, I was already as big as a house, a barn, practically. This would just draw attention to it, right? I tried it on. Oh my. I couldn't wear it. No way. I loved Dottie, and I knew it hurt her that I wouldn't wear the outfit, but I just couldn’t.

I want to live life with Dottie’s enthusiasm, with her awareness of herself and her acceptance of that self--but I hope I do it without the bold-colored clothes.