For Henrietta

A diminutive woman of no more than five feet tall, I would guess.  Up to my chest, no less.  Frail you might think at first glance.  Ha, ha!  Don’t let her size fool you.  She was capable of growing ten feet tall in no more than a minute.  Soon, she could stand higher than skyscrapers in clouds of blue.

I never saw my mother-in-law afraid of anything.  Hardly, I guess.  Every winter, together with the love of her life, she visited the sunsets of Phoenix where the weather was warm and the pool water aqua clear.  My little family of four helped to rent both of them a car that first year.

It had been a long time since my father-in-law drove off the farm of Michigan where cherry’s bloomed in pink and cobs of corn turned yellow.  Behind the wheel he might have been a bit nervous in lanes of congestion with hazes of grey.  I sat in the back with “Hank,” where she bit her lip till it nearly bled.  Still, not a word came out of her pursed lips.  Instead, she folded her shaking hands.  What was in her mind?  Probably a lot of love together with more of hopefulness.

We made it to their winter apartment with relieved smiles on faces strained.  Windows opened in December to screens of black wire looking at fields of cotton just plucked.  So different from where they had just come or what they were used to.  Home.  Such a big change for them.  Seats on a sunken sofa while drinking sweating bottles of cool water. Lots of open mouths chatting with babies on laps.  Kisses and hugs.  Happiness to see “Grandma” smelling flower sweet, nearly white hair with skin-so-soft.  “Grandpa” too, dressed in pressed trousers with matching plaid cap on top of shakers of pepper and salt.  Love was in the air.

Today is special you see because my mother-in-law would have been 91 years old.  I lost her nearly three years ago this summer.  Together with her beloved husband of 67 years and her nine children, I sing “Happy Birthday” to her with love in my heart.

For you, Henrietta, from all of us here.  Missing, Hank…..

34 thoughts on “For Henrietta

  1. Hi Kim – I have never met you, but Hank was my mom Emma Jane’s sister. I can remember when I was young taking trips to “the farm” and visit’s from Hank and the family at the cottages. We cousins had so much fun and firmly set in my memory is Hank’s wonderful laugh watching all that fun. She was a wonderful person to have as an aunt and we all loved her.

    Your tribute to her was lovely. I enjoyed seeing all the pictures from later life as my pictures are all of a young Hank. I have passed those pictures on to Deb. I can tell you that she was missed by her sister Emma, too. Mom was just heartbroken and didn’t last too much longer herself. With Hank’s passing she just kind of gave up. She said she didn’t want to be the last of her family. Mom spent a lot of time telling stories from their childhood to whomever in the family or nursing home would listen and Hank was often the star. My own children grew up loving stories of the four Gwatkin kids told by their grandma.

    I am assuming you are the person who wrote the books on children with childhood illnesses. Mom had copies of those books and they made their way all around the bingo parlor – “My sister’s daughter-in-law wrote these.” I found them with her other mementos after she passed away. I also recognized them myself when waiting to pick up a prescription in my local pharmacy. I found them set out for people to read while they waited for their meds.

    Many wonderful memories were brought back to me with your tribute to Hank. Thank you. “Happy Birthday, Aunt Hank” and would you please give my best to Uncle Goose.


    • Nancy, how special to ‘meet’ you! I cried while reading your kind words and thoughtful message. To hear of “Hank’s” sisters with all of the cousins is amazing. Nothing like it. My heart is so touched. I read this aloud to my husband, Gary, who can not believe it. Although younger at the time, he remembers you together with your dear mother, and has asked me to pass it on to all of his brothers and sisters who will be so happy to ‘hear’ from you. All are still in Michigan! Soon, we will be driving there for a reunion in the middle of August.
      Yes, I am the one who wrote the children’s books so long ago. A smile on my face to hear of your mother speaking of them at the Bingo Parlor! So sweet, it delights me so. I can not wait to tell my son, Jayson, who is now all grown-up. The first book was written for him, you know.
      Thank your again, Nancy, for what you’ve given me today. I did not plan to write a post about “Hank.” Found myself sitting at my desk with words spitting out. I believe it was meant to be because of you, Nancy. God works in mysterious ways. This was His gift to me, or perhaps a ‘message’ from Hank. My heart to you and your family from all of ours. Blessings.


  2. I too, loved my mother in law and I was just remarking to my ex-husband the other day that Evelyn would have been 90 this year… she’s been gone 25 years. Thank you for sharing your memories and bringing me a warm feeling for I had a “Henrietta” too!


  3. How wonderful it is Kim that writing about your mother in law brought another relative back into your life. it’s great to read such a positive post about a mother in law too. 🙂


  4. A beautiful ode to your mother in law. She lived up to 91, what a life that must have been. And quite feisty she seemed, a little warrior of life, tough. I like that, she is quite an inspiration too.


    • Thanks, Charlie. Yes, she was an Air Force wife, raised nice children, lost three, always positive and full of laughter in spite of any hardship that came her way. An inspiration for sure!


  5. A beautiful nostalgic post Kim, great memories to cherish, your mother in law looks like she might have been a feisty girl in her days.
    Great family pics to hold pride of place in your families albums.


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