I had a dream a few nights ago about a cousin that I could ask for advice following the death of my mother. Her name was Margaret, and she had a sister named Julia. I always knew that they were both there for me when I needed them. They both were from Pauls Valley, and I loved growing up going to their houses to visit, playing with their children that were my cousins, having fun. Margaret and Julia drove from Oklahoma to New Mexico when Don died. I came home from the funeral home one day, and there they were, both sitting on the floor of my bedroom, looking at pictures. That surprise lightened my day. Margaret came back into my life in a big way when I returned to Oklahoma while in a bad marriage, filed for divorce in l986, and then had to sell my house in l989 and move into an apartment. To my surprise, Margaret moved from the apartment where she lived into an apartment in my apartment complex.
Margaret seemed to have less fear than normal, a positive attitude, and was interesting to watch. I attribute that to her family and their unconditional love. She married young, had a baby (another of my favorite cousins, Judy.) As it turned out, Margaret’s young, good-looking husband was an alcoholic. Having enough of his escapades, she picked up their baby and turned to her family. When women did not get a divorce, and not many women worked, she divorced, got a job with a bank, and went to work to help support both she and Judy. Eventually, she became involved with her sister’s brother-in-law and married again. This time she stayed married for years until he finally said enough of the wrong things to her. The last ugly thing he said to her caused her to stop in the middle of cooking dinner. She turned off the stove, packed a bag, and left. She was 65 then. I was on the phone with her daughter Judy, who lived not far from my apartment in Norman when the doorbell rang. Judy returned to the phone saying, “Susanne, Mother is here with her suitcase. Apparently, she left J.D. and is going to file for divorce. I better get off the phone and see about this.” It was true. After owning her own business and leaving everything behind, Margaret began looking for jobs that she, sixty-five years of age, could qualify for the next day. She planned to begin again! J.D. begged her to return to him, but she was not about to do so. As soon as possible, she moved into her own apartment. Not liking her apartment, she decided to move into the complex I was now living in.
After moving into the apartment downstairs, she was asked to be the house mother for the Chi Omega house at Oklahoma University. This job brought her a raise and more vacation, plus she loved the girls. Are you noticing that she had no fear of change? She definitely was also open to new possibilities with every step forward she chose to make. She encouraged me to keep stepping forward and was the inspiration I needed for my losses. I met Al, who lived upstairs two doors from me. I soon noticed that Margaret was visiting me more. She had noticed Al. Al was from the Isle of Man. He called himself a Buddhist Christian, was about Margaret’s age, and I introduced them. The two of them were talking for hours at a time. Eventually, she and Al called, asking for a meeting with Judy and me. They wanted our permission to move in together, explaining how much money they could each save. Both had come from two bad marriages. Judy and I both said, “Yes.” They were living together by the following week! That was quick. This was in the late l980’s. Margaret was in her late 70’s. Al was a little older. They explained that, at their age, they needed to hurry if they were going to try this! Margaret’s siblings got quite upset. They thought they were living in sin. This was in the late ’80s. Margaret and Al did marry about a year later and lived happily married until Al died five years later.
John and I married, and I moved to Pauls Valley. Not long after Al died, Margaret decided to move back to Pauls Valley. She rented a house suggested by a rental agency here. It was across the street from us. Several years later, and having some health problems, she decided to move into an assisted living center here in Pauls Valley, the Willows. When moving, she telephoned John. She said that she wanted to bring us some jelly. John said, “Come on.” She walked over and brought KY Jelly, not the jelly we were expecting. We laughed and laughed about that. She lived in the Willows until she ran out of money, completely out. She next moved in with Judy. With neither of them liking this, she moved into the nursing home in Norman, not far from Judy’s. Margaret was beginning to have problems with dementia but could cover that up pretty well. After moving into the nursing home, she began telling stories about her life with Al. She kept saying that they used to go whaling. It was not true, but she told an amazing story to all of the people sitting at her table and to others, including her doctor. The story had so much detail that everyone believed her. John, Judy, and I did not realize people believed her stories. But then Sandy, her granddaughter, received a telephone call from the doctor. She grabbed the phone because he rarely called, and she feared the worse. But here is what he said, “Sandy, your grandmother told me that you were writing a book about Al’s adventures in whaling. Do you have a copy? I want to read it.” We were amazed that he thought it was true! Margaret thought her stories were so true that she convinced others they were true. Amazing!
Al was in a mustard pot. When Al died five years after they married, he was cremated. His children spread his ashes. However, Margaret kept some of his ashes to mix with hers when she died. She did not know what to do with them. John and I gave her a mustard pot, a small crock, that perfectly held the ashes. She filled it and put it in her cupboard in the kitchen, moving it every time she moved. When moving into the Willows, she left Al and telephoned us, saying, “Will you bring Al to bring me? He is sitting on the kitchen counter.” We did take him to her. When she moved from the Willows to Judy’s and then to the nursing home, she lost Al somewhere along the way. We all looked for him and eventually found him. I took him to the nursing home. By the time she died at 98 at the nursing home, no one could find Al again. Where is Al?
Obviously, Margaret had ups and downs, but she remained “open” to new possibilities throughout her life. She called one day and asked what I was doing for lunch. I told her that I had plans to go to lunch with a young friend who asked to talk with me. She announced that she was going with us. I reluctantly agreed but decided my young friend might gain something like “a bit of wisdom” from Margaret. Sure enough, this young lady posed a question to Margaret. She asked, “When in your life were you the happiest?” Margaret replied quickly, “From 80 to 85. It took me that long to take the time to learn about me, which then helped me lose negative patterns and gain new ways of having a great marriage.” This young lady was surprised that she said from 80 to 85 were her happiest years. She also stated that at 85, she was still learning and growing and could not wait to see what new possibilities God would bring next.
LESSON: Pay attention to what God sends and stay open to new ideas and new possibilities. Do new things. Go to a seminar that might bring new “aha’s” or “new ideas.” (Margaret even came to a few of my seminars in her late 70’s.”) In her 80’s, she and three others in their 80’s went to Colorado and hired a guide to take them on a one-day river rafting trip. The guide almost backed out when he saw who hired him.
Margaret was an Elder cousin/friend that showed me how one could have ups and downs at any age, set new goals, be open to what might come next, and remain happy within.
She was a gift. I do not know if she intended to stay close to me and then to John and me or if God just kept opening the space for her to be close.
I had the opportunity to do things for both John’s Mom and Margaret that I could not do with my own mother since she died when I was in my late 20’s. I took them to doctor appointments, for emergency room visits, etc. They were both a joy to be around even when they felt bad.
A positive attitude and opening to the joy we each have within is a huge help for our own health and happiness in life. I had a good example of a person that did this and had the courage to be true to herself!
I had the opportunity to attend her marriage to Al, officiate Al’s funeral, and then co-officiate with another cousin Margaret’s funeral.