View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In-laws and outlaws, updated

I should have done this 2 months ago but with all the health issues Jeri and I have been dealing with, the move back to the mainland, doctors appointments and proceedures, I spaced out and didn't get it done.  

Milly Kirby turned 100 back in Sept. 27.  I have only met two other people who were 100 years old.  One was a friend of my dad and the other was a man I met in Ecuador.  I wrote the following tribute to Milly back in feb. 2011 when she was 94, wanting to say what was on my heart while she was still with us, never imanging that she would live another 6+years.  It is still a rare occasion for one to live to be 100, just .00173% of the population, yet our family has been privilaged to watch a love one go through that process.  At the rate I am going she will out live me.  Like the old time x watch adds. she keeps taking a licking and keeps on ticking!

Marriage is not just the joining the lives of two people into one, it is the beginning of a melting pot that starts the process of blending the families of the bride and groom, especially the parents.  Throughout history our books, movies, plays and stand-up comics have had a field day spinning tales of mother-in-laws that were depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Some have played off of Rodney Dangerfield and said "Take my mother-in-law   -  Please!"  I have heard stories from friends who related how their mother-in-law was either domineering, controlling, interfering, in their face and space continually or some combination of all of the above.   Some mother-in-laws have caused so much friction as to completely destroy marriages.  Adam and Eve did not have to contend with that, nor did Jeri and I.  We were blessed with almost perfect mother-in-laws.  But today, I want to share about just one, my mother-in-law, Mildred Bess (Burlingame) Kirby. 

She was born 9-27-1916 in Chicago, Illinois.  She was the youngest of five children -  three sisters and a brother.  Her dad owned a bus line and when they decided to move to California in 1920 he sold all but one bus using it as their mode of transportation.  The five kids ranged in age from 13 to 3 and it took them 6 weeks to make the journey.  Every night they would pitch a large canvas tent to cook and sleep in. 

When they arrived in San Pedro that tent became their home on a rented vacant lot.  There were many people living in tents at that time, so it wasn't unusual.  About a year or so later, Millie is not sure exactly, her dad bought a lot up the hill from there and set the tent up permanently on a wooden platform.  Sometime later her grandparents moved to California and they all built two small houses on that lot where Milly has many happy memories. 

The kiss - Wedding in Grandma Bess' back yard
Millie met Wilton Kirby in church, they dated and were married in 1935.  She was all of 4'-10' and 95 lbs. soaking wet. They had three daughters; Judie, Jeri and Donna.  Jeri and I started dating when she was 15 and I was 17.  Her dad was just a tad bit intimidating and never said much to me but her mom was always friendly and encouraging. 

I remember writing to Millie while I was stationed at Harlingen, Texas, going through flight school asking for Jeri's ring size.  I was coming home on leave for Christmas of 1959 and wanted to pop the question to Jeri.  Millie wrote back that she felt maybe I should wait and pick out the ring together, but she included the ring size.  That was the first of many times she has made gentle suggestions but never mandates.  It has always been our choices and her support for what ever Jeri and I decided.  As for the ring, I was not patient and purchased the ring anyway.  

When we were married in 1960 we left for Kansas  for 18 months and from there to Newfoundland.  In 1962 Willie and Millie drove 8,000 miles round trip to visit us at Harmon AFB and see the newest of their grand kids, Kris.   They traveled in a pick-up and camper visiting friends and relatives along  the way. 

After I left the Air Force and returned to college in southern California, mom and dad Kirby were always there for the kid's birthdays and holidays.  Millie was famous for her cakes in the shapes of animals and princesses and other various and sundry things.  She made clothes for the kids, gave them books and taught them about plants and flowers.  She was and still is a master gardener.   Whenever we visited,  she would give Jeri all kinds of starts of flowers and whatever.  When she moved into assisted living she asked management if there was a small plot where she could grow a garden and they found one for her.  It's not much but it brings pleasure to her and the other residents and that's what counts.  

Son-in-law Tom and Milly

Mom Kirby is now 94, still spry and clear minded, walks without a cane or walker.  She enjoys spending time at family functions, still attends all the parties that she can, and is now an influence in the lives of her great grand-children.  She is such a joy to talk to and listen to the stories of her childhood from a time that is so different from ours, the war years and the struggles of that time and the early years of Jeri and her sisters.  She is a prize jewel among jewels,  a lady of grace and charm, one that everyone in our family treasures.  

Queen Millie at 90th birthday celebration

Her one flaw - she worries about everything and everybody.  Always has, probably always will.  It just shows how much she cares for every member of her family.

Millie and her three daughters, Donna, Judy and Jeri

Some of the tributes I have written have been about friends after they had passed away.  I wanted to share with you and her my thoughts while Millie was still with us.  She is a blessing sent from God to our family and she has enriched all of our lives.  She may never understand the impact she has had on everyone of us, but she will when she meets her heavenly creator.  She will be rewarded with many crowns to place at the feet of Jesus.  As a Mother-in-law, she has been close to perfection.  She raised her daughters well, taught them how to cook and sew, how to be thrifty, how to recognize value.  Jeri's motto on shopping is "Never pay retail!"  Gee, I wonder where she learned that?

Thanks, Mom, for being such an inspiration to your daughters and son-in-laws.  May God continue to bless you with good health and long life. 

With love, your favorite son-in-law (:=)   Mikey Q

And God has blessed her with good health and long life.  She now wears a pace maker and walks with a walker and sometimes uses a wheel chair.  She still is fairly clear minded, still enjoys sharing her past with her great-grand children and still attends most of the family celebrations and holidays.  She is truly a blessing from God to this family and it has been a great privilege to know her and to be loved by her.  

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