Never an Old Woman

She was an amazing mom of nine children and was your traditional homemaker of the 50’s and 60’s. But was she really? I was fortunate to marry her oldest son and knew her for about 44 years. Before she married in 1945 she was a chemist in a rare metal plant to support WWII. She was a member of Rosie the Riveter, a group honoring the women of the greatest generation who served in the armed services or worked for the war cause.

Each decade she seemed to get younger – not older. In her forties, she learned to drive, then beat uterine cancer and rode from the Midwest to Washington, DC by car with six of her kids along for the ride. They were coming East in the middle of winter for our wedding a week after she completed radiation treatments.

In her fifties she visited us three times to help with our first three children. My own mom was a great Auntie Mame type, but no help with grandchildren. But each time my mother-in-law came, she kept the household together and patiently helped our growing family get along.

In her sixties she set a goal to learn golf and play the game in all 50 states. She and her husband enjoyed meeting that goal, even golfing in Alaska while cruising. She also taught our kids how to play in the snow. I remember visiting her for a Midwest wedding when the snow storm hit. It was a great treat for our California kids. She wrapped plastic around their shoes, took the sled outside and belly-flopped onto it flying down the hill. Oh, and she also had a triple bypass.

In her seventies she moved to Florida with her husband and bought her first convertible. They had a boat and enjoyed riding on the lakes of central Florida. They played golf several times a week. When his sight failed, she would spot the ball for him so he could still play.

In her eighties she finally got a passport. She had never been outside the US, except for Canada. We planned a great cruise of the Norwegian fiords with children, their spouses, and our parents. One night she stayed out with her grandchildren, letting her husband retire early. She joined them at the midnight chocolate buffet and seemed like one of them. I think I turned in before she did. Oh, she also had a double knee replacement. None of this “one at a time” for her!

In her nineties she gave up her last convertible, but she took a three year lease on a Cadillac CTX sports coupe. She was still a good driver when she got sick. Today there are 20 months left on the lease.

So, there was no purple for my mother-in-law in this lifetime. Now her spirit is free and who knows what she is up to. Boomers can learn a lot about living and not aging from this great lady of the “greatest generation.”

Mary Tennyson
Mary Tennyson grew up in the Washington, DC area, went to college in the Midwest, started her career in Boston, and ventured west to California after her husband, Pete, finished law school. She has a BA from Purdue and an MBA from USC. A career/wife/mom, she spent 20 years in the computer software world. In 2008 she founded StashAll®, which manufactures a product line of stylish accessories for the mobility challenged. She and Pete have four grown children and reside in Orange County, CA.
Mary Tennyson
Mary Tennyson

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  1. What a woman! She reminds me of my in-laws in so many ways. My father-in-law just turned 90 and is not about to slow down. Every Sunday morning he prepares breakfast for my wife and I along with our sons and daughters-in-law. Our family looks forward to every Sunday breakfast to hear what my father-in-law is going to say next. He’s a real treasure.

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