Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our Velveteen Rabbit



My Mother-in-Law, Dorothy, turns 95 years old today.

In honor of her birthday, we will drive over to the town where she lives. We will spend the day with her, first taking her out to breakfast. and then just relaxing in her little home, and serving more food and the cherry pie that she asked for. Hopefully, we will come up with some fun conversations to cheer her up, and make her laugh, and remind her why we still want, and need her, in our lives. And of course, we will give her gifts, for in spite of everything, she is still a gift to us.

Getting old has been very hard on her. She hates it. She hates not being able to do what she wants to do, or go where she wants to go. It's all she can do to walk across the room with her walker. All she can do to lift a simple re-heatable dinner into the new countertop microwave that we had to buy because her arm couldn't lift high enough to reach the regular one. For now, others have to come into her home to cook and to clean for her, someone else has to help her lift her feet into the bed at night, bring up the covers and tuck her in....things she once did for others, once did for herself, now has to be done for her.

But her life still has meaning and value...for she is still loved. That love, and all of her changes through time, remind me of the children's book "The Velveteen Rabbit",for in spite of every thing.....Dorothy is still ours to love. She still does the best that she can...even if she hates how she has to do it...now.

She made my youngest daughter the blue and coral quilt in this photo. It took her the last three years to finish her appliqued umbrella girls and just to put the main pieces together. She had her quilting frame setup in her dining room, and using her walker, she inched painfully around it and tied the whole quilt by herself. She couldn't even push the pedal on her sewing machine when she needed to make the back, or the binding and she wouldn't let me do it for her, or even help her when I offered.And I offered over and over, again.

When I wasn't around, she asked her youngest son, my husband, to finish piecing the back, and later to sew on the binding for her. He barely knew how to turn on a sewing machine and never told me about any of this. It was supposed to be their secret.....she wanted to make it and finish it, 'herself'.

She told him how to make the back..."you sew the big piece to the little piece" she said. So, he did. It never occurred to him to use sewing pins and his piecing was as crooked as can be, but he did it with her watching. She told him how to put on the binding. She hated that is was too loose and floppy and the batting didn't extend inside. But they did it together ,and it was hers to do.

For whatever reason, she chose not to criticize him, or tell him how it should have been done. She accepted that's how it is for her now, and was glad that it was done. She presented it to my youngest daughter, right before Christmas.

And to my child, this gift of the last quilt her grandmother will ever make, was a treasure...just as Grandma is...even on her worst and most crabby and falling apart days. For there is a sad part of her Grandma that believes that she is 'ugly' now, though we tell her over and over and over that she is still beautiful. For Dorothy is our own little 'Velveteen Rabbit' and she was, is, and will always be, beautiful to us.....and to anyone who truly knows her.

An excerpt from
The Velveteen Rabbit:

"That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily,

or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off,

and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real

you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


And Dorothy, and her quilt, and every thing she still tries so hard to do for herself, and for us...is beautiful.... and we love her still.

Happy Birthday Mom/Dorothy/Grandma/Greatgrandma/
We love you just the way you are!


In honor of her birthday: a gift for all of you

Free e-Book: The Velveteen Rabbit

20 comments:

  1. Oh Michele,
    Once again you've struck that heartchord. I love the Velveteen Rabbit. How you tell of your mother-in-law had me in tears. She is wonderfully loved. Your husband is one-of-a-kind to have taken on quilting for his mom in spite of the fact that you were right there and willing. Your daughter has a treasure. Actually, you all have a priceless treasure.

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  2. Beautiful post. Next year let us know ahead and we can flood her snailmailbox with cards.

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  3. Amen to that special story, one of my favorites...and one that applies to many of my patients each day!!

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  4. I don't recall ever reading the Velveteen Rabbit, but how aptly you incorporated it with your mom-in-love. Brought tears to my eyes...I turn 50 in a few weeks and maybe I'm seeing myself as old, tired looking, and able to do less and less because of my health...:( Cherish family NOW while I can...

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  5. What an awesome story! The excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit is so fitting! Wow, you really touched my heart!! I hope you have many more special days with your mother-in-law. The way your son helped her is so amazingly touching. God bless!!

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  6. So very sweet. Maybe you should read this post to her.

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  7. Thank you for this post. My mother lived to be almost 97, and while she was not a quilter, she was a stitcher and a crocheter and a sewer; we all have potholders and samplers and afghans that she made. We treasure them because she left us love in every stitch.
    Have you ever "interviewed" your MIL about her life? My family videoed my mother answering questions from all of us that we put in a fishbowl. She would pull one out, and her answers were spontaneous and full of stories, some of which we had never heard before. And now that she is gone, we can watch that video and hear her voice again. Priceless!

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  8. What a lovely, lovely post. I don't use this word much, but you & your family are blessed.

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  9. Hiya Wonderful,

    I meant to PM this to you, but I thought your AAQI followers would like to see it too. This lady is the niece of a very dear friend of mine who I've recently caught up with after 40 odd years. Her Mum, and my friend's sister, has got the lurgy.

    Please take a look.

    http://www.kateowens.com/index.html

    I'm going to make some quilts in memory of her Mum who is a wonderful person.

    You MiL sounds like my Mum.

    xxx

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  10. What a great quote! Happy Bday to your precious Mom!

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  11. Michele, you have such a gift with the elderly...you love on them in such a special way. It's beautiful to read and I'm sure absolutely beautiful to see. May God richly reward you. Hugs

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  12. Hugs to you, your MIL and your family. Thank you for this post.

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  13. Amazing post...thank you for sharing.

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  14. Beautiful blog post and I love the Velveteen Rabbit quote.

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  15. Happy birthday to Dorothy! What a heart-warming story.

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  16. A very happy birthday wish to Dorothy. She is truly a treasure and how wise you are to understand both the gift and the giver. Much love, hugs, Finn

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  17. Oh Michele, seeing Dorothy's picture reminds me of my granny, who is 90 and a seamstress when young. You are very lucky to have her, at 95. She must be a treasure in your family. Please tell Dorothy that I think she's beautiful, and I truly think so. ^^

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  18. Hi Dear,
    Happy Birthday to Dorothy. How much she has seen in her life!
    Our Aunt Mattie and Uncle Don( in North Carolina) are 94 & 96. Up until very recently, they were both very active. Now they have the same issues you describe here. Uncle Don is proud of the fact that he got up at 6 am and took a walk every morning of his adult life. He also never took any medication-not even aspirin. It makes him sad that that record is now broken... I hope that I can have a life as full as they had and be as well as they have managed at that age. Uncle Don worked for the Vanderbilts who have a mansion across the bay from our house. He was in charge of maintenance of the seaplane and yacht. Great stories there.

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  19. A very happy birthday to your wonderful mother-in-law! Please, tell her she really is beautiful!

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  20. Such a lovely piece you've written.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.