I have a confession….
I love my in-laws.
I thought I was lucky just to find a great guy to marry, but to find a great guy who has great parents… almost unheard of.
They are the most unselfish, giving, loving people I know. And I’m grateful that my children have had the opportunity to grow up just a few blocks from them.
I met Fred and Rose a few months after my hubby and I started dating.
From the beginning they were very accepting of me, and treated me like family. As our young relationship progressed, I found myself excited to visit with them. Many nights we would get together to play cards and mooch meals.
A few times a month, my hubby’s whole family would meet at his Mom and Dad’s house to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays…. and everytime, it was fun!
When we got engaged, I was ecstatic to be able to change my name to his, and officially be a part of his family.
Fred and Rose actually grew up a few houses from each other, in the town they (and we as well) still live in today. Fred is 5 years older and would play with her older brothers. She talks about forcing him to have tea with her as a young girl.
They both have 8 brothers and sisters a piece. Not uncommon for this area at the time – everyone being a good Catholic and all.
After they married, Fred joined the Air Force, and she traveled with him for a while before they settled back down in our small town. She had two children before my hubby. With him, she had some difficulties. He was born prematurely and needed two blood transfusions after he was born. The doctor recommended she not have any more children. She agreed, but I think she was a bit heartbroken about not being able to have a bigger family.
At that time, Fred was a big, burly construction worker, building quite a few of the homes in the area – including his own. When my hubby was in 6th grade, though, Fred underwent open heart surgery. They gave him a life expectancy of 10 years. That was over 35 years ago.
His surgery required him to give up construction, so he and Rose bought a restaurant they called Shake ‘n Burger. She worked as a secretary at our small elementary school during this time, so the kids were expected to work there and help out.
Eventually, restaurant ownership became too much for them. The kids were going on to college, so Fred took a job as a cook in a nearby home for the developmentally disabled.
Money was a little tight for them, although my hubby claims he never felt deprived. If he wanted something, though, he had to work for it. (A concept well over our own kids’ heads.)
As we began having children of our own, we built a house only a few blocks from them.
Growing up, I rarely saw my grandparents as my dad was in the Air Force and we traveled frequently. Because of that, I wanted my own children to be able to spend time with and get to know their grandparents.
Having them so close has been wonderful. We had 4 children in 5 1/2 years, so Rose’s help came in handy. She was always willing to watch some or all of the kids, whenever needed. If they had to stay home sick, she would come over. If I needed to go to the store, she would relieve me of a few of them to make it easier on me. When they started school, she would invite them over 2 at a time, once a week, to play games, eat ice cream, go for a treat, etc. Even today, our youngest child, 13 years old now, goes over once or twice a week to play Rummy and have a snack. Their relationship with our children is what has kept us from moving out of this area to somewhere warm and sunny all year round. Every time we really consider moving, we think about our children and their grandparents, and we decide their relationship is more important.
Over the past 10 years, Fred has had many complications with his health. He eventually had to retire from his cooking job. He underwent heart surgery for the second time. He’s battled appendicitis and had his appendix removed. Recently he was diagnosed with colon cancer, and had most of his colon removed. Since then, he’s had a few obstructions that has caused his stomach to massively bloat, and both times he’s had to undergo surgery. The older he became, the more worried we were that his heart wouldn’t be able to withstand another surgery. Amazingly, he would pull through every time, but he’s in and out of the hospital quite frequently.
Each time, Rose would unselfishly give up her walks, her bowling and her bingo playing to stay at the hospital, or be home with him while he recovered. She would still make time for our children, and she would still have the family over for birthday and anniversary dinners.
About a month ago, Fred was once again admitted into the hospital for surgery. While my hubby was waiting with Rose, she began complaining about some pain in her stomach. It was obvious she was in pain, but she declined going to the doctor until Fred was home. Finally, she couldn’t take it and scheduled an appointment. The pain was chalked up to stress from having Fred in the hospital so many times recently.
After a few days, she wasn’t feeling any better, so she went back. After more tests, they determined it was gall stones. They went in to remove the stones and her gall bladder, and saw a tumor growing on her intestines, near her liver.
Another appointment was scheduled to remove the tumor and do a biopsy. They let us know it was cancerous, and she would need chemo. They encouraged her to get stronger and gain weight. (She was down to 100 pounds by this point.)
They wouldn’t send her home from the hospital without full medical care, so at the doctor’s insistence, the family decided to move her into the nursing home for a week, while we waited to speak with the cancer doctor. She fought it, of course, which really weighed on my husband, as he wondered if he should be doing more for her. She’d been away from home for a couple of weeks, and meanwhile, her husband has been home alone, very frail, very weak, and although the family has been taking turns going over there, it was difficult for them to be apart. Plus, now that the tumor was removed, she was feeling much better.
We were in Nashville when my sister-in-law called and asked our opinion on bringing her home earlier. Hubby immediately told her to do it. We hadn’t spoken to the cancer doctor yet, but if she could get around easily, she needed to be home with Fred.
A few days after we returned from our trip, the family met with her doctor.
The news has devastated us all.
She has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It’s spreading quickly, and it’s not curable. She’s too little for radiation, but she could start a small dose of chemo. Then if she’s able to handle that, they’ll continue with the chemo treatment. We listened sadly as all the side effects were explained. He wanted to wait a while before starting. She wanted to start immediately.
Memorial Day weekend was possibly the last “good” weekend she would have for a while before starting chemo. It made the gathering at the clubhouse lake with the family all that more special.
The news has been difficult for the whole family. We’ve explained the situation to all our children. The hardest part was telling our 13 year old daughter. She is Rose’s only granddaughter out of 7 grandchildren, and they’ve become very close over the years.
All this time we’ve prepared ourselves for Fred to leave us, and never in a million years would we have guessed Rose may go first.
We’re hoping for a miracle, of course, and hoping the chemo will do it’s part in giving us a few more years with her.
Perhaps you all can keep them in your prayers as well. They’re great people, Rose and Fred, known affectionately by most as