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Wilma, we will miss you.

December 15, 2011 - Michael Palmer
It has been one tough week, or was it two weeks?

My mother-in-law, Wilma (Ochsenbine) Beck died last Sunday evening at the age of 74 years. She experienced some dizziness and after being checked into the emergency room coded and was revived for a short time.

She had a chance to talk with her husband and son, but coded a second time and did not recover before my wife arrived at the hospital from work.

It was 13 years to the day that my sister-in-law had died. The comparisons in the events were eerie because in each case my wife had been at work, been called by her father at work and told the bad news. Then was called on her drive to the hospital by her brother with the sad news that her sister and now mother had passed away.

When my wife called me I was in the process of roughing in some walls in our bathroom, which we are currently in the process of remodeling. That project was put on hold and we began the task of burying a loved one. We had to make arrangements to get two grandchildren home, one in Washington state and my son from Nebraska.

Wilma's family is from the Barnesville area and some live near St. Louis Missouri where her brother has his brood. They would all also be traveling in for the funeral.

Both my wife and myself are fortunate to work for companies that not only allow time off for relatives funerals, but also go the extra mile to offer condolences and help out wherever possible, that is especially true of co-workers.

Wilma truly was the matriarch of my wife's family. Every year we would gather with a house full of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends for Thanksgiving dinner at “Grans” house.

Wilma was also the queen of Christmas Eve. That night was reserved the past 30 years for an all out celebration at Wilma's. When my children were just pre-schoolers it was a fabulous frenzy of toys, gifts and wrapping paper as her two brothers and her sister gathered together with their children to celebrate the holiday with “Kissin' Granny,” as she became known by the many kids who she truly loved to see.

It was kept a secret, but Wilma had been diagnosed with an illness over a year ago, one that she did not wish to share with anyone but her husband Ray. It is not known if that played a role in her death, but at this point it really does not matter.

Ray protested when the ladies wanted to put up a Christmas tree in Wilma's house. He stated that there would be no more Christmas there. Like most men, when our firm orders are followed to the letter, Ray watched the tree go up despite his objections. When everyone had left and we asked if he wanted it taken down he rescinded the earlier order and we are planning to go in and open gifts with him Christmas Eve. He may lock the door and tell us to get lost, but I doubt it.

He always played the role of the grumpy old scrooge, but deep down he enjoyed the whole night of mess and confusion as much as Wilma.

While Wilma and I did not start off our relationship on the best of terms, I eventually grew on her and eventually held the title of her favorite son-in-law.

While thinking back on the three decades I had been privileged to know Wilma, I recalled the first words she ever spoke to me, “Don't you get my daughter pregnant!”

The exclamation point is not a typing error.

We may have disagreed on religious details, but our core values were the same and that impressed her. She eventually rescinded that order and changed her tune to, “When am I going to see some grand babies?”

She dearly loved little children and spoiled them at every opportunity. She often hand crafted gifts for them, which they appreciate more now that they are older.

She had crocheted a little blanket for my grand daughter Zoey just before she died. That is now a family treasure.

We will go to her house this Dec. 24 and spend the evening with Grandpa Ray if he will let us. IT will not be the same. Just as when my mother was no longer with us for the holidays, the tradition died with her. Despite our best efforts to cook the same food and open gifts together, we realized it would not and could not ever be the same.

Now the family will shift their holiday tradition to a new location, just like when Wilma hosted her first Christmas Eve. She was famous for her homemade noodles, taco salad and of course passing out kisses.

Life goes on.

My wife will now assume the role of family matriarch. Which means I get to be the grumpy old Scrooge.... No? I think I would much prefer to be Santa Claus, I mean it will not take much coloring to fill in the rest of the beard to white and I have the build for the suit.

Wilma, we will miss you.


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