Norma Gwin: she is to this son-in-law the mother-in-law from …. heaven. That title of mother-in-law never sounded worthy enough of such a woman. I prefer the French equivalent – la belle mère – which means “beautiful mother” in translation. She not only produced two beautiful daughters, she allowed me…, NO … assisted me in my pursuit of her first-born beauty, Joy Gwin, Anita’s older sister. During my short courtship of Joy….. 6 or 7 years …. Norma never lost faith that I should be part of the family. Always kind, generous and above all patient…. though her husband Lester on occasion would propose a shotgun as a tool-of-persuasion to unblock my stalling. She never called me ‘fruit head’ as did Lester, but always addressed me lovingly, pronouncing my foreign name with that unique Okie accent into which Joy would slip whenever we visited Shawnee or when she spoke on the phone with folks back home. But who am I to talk about funny accents. I will always be grateful to Norma for serving as my intermediary whenever Joy was trying hard to make me irrelevant and ignore me. She would invite me to their home up north where we all met many moons ago, and be the peacemaker, or spark facilitator when I seemed to need that kind of jolt.
Over the years I have heard a lot about Norma the competent and pretty nurse, Norma the mother, Norma the wife of Lester. I heard about the years she spent without Lester who was in Europe fighting for other people’s freedom, from which my family benefited greatly. In fact, we theorize that Lester and I played together in the snow of that awful but last winter of WWII when I was about 5 years old. Norma and daughter Anita have been digging into the Gwin archives to find pictures and communications from that period in order to enshrine the memories of Lester’s and Norma’s all-too-brief life together.
Norma raised her children well, teaching them various fundamental skills that a future son-in-law could only admire and take advantage of…. Norma instilled the love of cooking into her daughters, making my home a first class restaurant, well, at least most of the time. Norma taught her daughters neatness, order and house deep cleaning… to which I got to contribute on occasion. Joy never permitted me to leave dirty dishes around after dinner; she taught me how to wash them and how to clean the kitchen after a delicious dinner… all thanks to Norma’s teachings; no complaints, in retrospect.
The great Chinese teacher known as Confucius is reputed to have counseled the males of this world that “if you want pretty nurse, you must be patient”. Well I was a patient of Norma’s all my married life. Medical advice was readily given whenever I had a cold, or toe fungus, dry skin or a mysterious pain in my body. The free advice was always worth it… I wonder what she would say about that Ebola thing?…
Well Norma, you are now reunited with your Lester and my Joy in eternal life, without pain and without this fruit head to worry about. The rest of us will catch up with y’all…. though I hope later rather than sooner. Eternal peace to you, my “beautiful mother” .