April 2, 2011

A Message from my Mother-in-Law

By the time I met her, my mother-in-law was no longer capable of recognizing even Joe, her youngest child. But through the almost impenetrable haze that enveloped her 95-year-old mind, she remembered one thing - Bessie Adelia Bailey Meserve Dennett was a lady.

No, she wasn't a member of any aristocracy or landed gentry. She was a farmer's daughter, the last surviving of the seven Bailey siblings who grew up in the Riverton area of Portland.

On our last visit, we found "Ma" sitting beside a sunny window, watching her favorite afternoon TV game show. When we came into the room, she greeted us with a smile and polite hello. Then, with a mighty effort at pretending to know us, she bade us take a seat and began a brief and (for us) painful conversation. At least twice she asked Joe what he did for a living, three times how many children we had. And then, having heard if not comprehended his answers, she said kindly but firmly, "Thank you for dropping by. It's always good to see you. But knowing you have a busy schedule and many errands to run, I won't take any more of your time." Thus ended our final "audience" with a grand and lovely lady.

Several years later, we received a wonderful surprise gift from our daughter in Topeka - a framed half sheet of paper with several lines typed many decades ago on an ancient Smith Corona. A final message from the mother my husband will always hold in the highest regard.

"How to Live a Hundred Years Happily"

"Quit looking for a knock in your human motor.
"Learn to like work.
"Learn to have a hobby.
"Learn to like people.
"Learn to be satisfied.
"Learn to accept adversity.
"Learn to say the cheerful, humorous thing.
"Learn to meet your problems with decision."

"The key is:  I'm going to keep my attitude and my thinking as pleasant and as cheerful as possible."

We have no idea where she found this list of goals, or whether she coined them herself, but she believed them and happily lived by them.

And she achieved them all.

All, that is, but one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ©2011 Rough Magic Creations.


  1. Well done, Honey! Ma would be proud of you!

  2. Lovely post, and those old pictures are wonderful! That one in the rocking chair, with the dog at her feet is a real treasure. :)

  3. Enjoyed your posting - wonderful photos and story. Heartwarming!

  4. Lovely post and wise words, Mollie!! (waving to Joe!) xo

  5. Lovely history and pics, thanks for sharing. Found you on On Fire team on Etsy and happy to share blogs with you.

  6. What a lovely story. I found your blog on On Fire for Handmade Blog post page. I had to share such a wonderfully written story and the photos are just outstanding. Thank you for sharing her story with us.


  7. Thank you all so very much for your lovely comments on this. Joe tells me "Ma" what really something - for example, if little Joey went to get his hair cut and the barber didn't get it short enough, back Joe went for a second session. "The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is about a week." According to my mother in law.