Mack Williams: My mother-in-law’s triumph

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 18, 2016

This isn’t about cliched stuff concerning strong-willed mothers-in-law triumphant over sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, but something much more important, the will to live.

For a number of months, my mother-in-law, Doris Moore of Yanceyville, has been slowly regaining mobility following a mini-stroke and ongoing nerve problems in her back and legs.

Confined to wheelchair, then walker, she had progressed to the point where we were recently able to take her on a long-needed outing to Alamance Arts in Graham, North Carolina.

When using a walker, Doris says: “Come on, old girl, you can do it!” When I was on a walker for 2 months, instead of full sentences, I just repeated a few words, each consisting of only a few letters.

This type of health problem was a first for Doris. Another great “first” for her was coming south from New York after marrying Hoyt Moore (from Yanceyville, in the Coast Guard, stationed in New York in WWII).

Some speak disparagingly of New York (the old barbecue sauce commercial: (“It’s from NEW YORK CITY!”). But if I ever encounter the ghost of the “Chairman of the Board” (Frank Sinatra), I will only sing the praises of that great city of commerce, art, music, history and science (and I might actually sing Frank’s song about it, too).

One night, we watched an old tour of New York: “12 Minute Version of Sing, Sing, Sing With a Swing, live at Carnegie Hall-You Tube.” Doris enjoyed seeing places frequented while growing up: American Museum of Natural History, Broadway, Chinatown, etc. While watching, she tapped a foot to Benny Goodman’s music.

So there was Doris, a “Yankee in Yanceyville,” which for that time (1940s) was almost as rare as “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” (Having mentioned “Frank,” I feel it only fair to bring up Twain’s story, since “Bing” starred in the film version.)

Doris said horses and mules were still being tied up in Yanceyville’s town square when she arrived.

Doris’ grandfather had owned and operated a restaurant in New York; and of course, having lived there, she was used to a variety of cuisine. When Doris yearned for spaghetti in Yanceyville, no spaghetti noodles were to be had, so she ordered them by mail.

At the time, Doris’ mother-in-law, Eliza, asked: ”Why do you you want to eat them worms?” (Doris’ mother-in-law was the proverbial “tough cookie;” but she never had to go to a rest home, as Doris and Hoyt took her into their home for the last several years of her life.)

Doris earned the respect of the Southerners, one especially, Clarence Lilly Pemberton, Esq. for whom she worked as secretary. Although “Mr. Pem” has been deceased for some years now, I can still hear his oft-repeated pronouncement: “The blond’s got a brain!” (Doris is blond, there being a goodly amount of Germanic DNA present.)

Earlier, always being good with facts and figures, Doris had worked at Yanceyville’s Northwestern Bank.

Doris was chairman of the Republican Party in Caswell County at a time when some local people still viewed Republicans as carpet-baggers and scallywags. Why, when I announced “Republican” at the polling place, several people turned around and stared!

While chairman of the Board of Elections in Caswell, a bee stung Doris’ arm during her tour of precincts on election day. A man offered to spit tobacco juice on her arm to “take the sting out,” thinking it the “gentlemanly” thing to do; but being a lady, she refused.

Doris ran “Doris Moore’s Tax Service” up until a few years ago.

Back to Doris’ “outing”: We took her to Alamance Arts, where some of the glass art of the world-renowned Dale Chihuly is on display until Oct. 1. (Forgive my “analogous humor,” but on our way there, I made reference to “Dale Cthulhu” and “Dale Gillooly,” one a fictional creature of horror, and the other a non-fictional “creature” who helped engineer something horrible to Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 Winter Olympics.)

Doris enjoyed the exhibit of beautiful hand-blown glass immensely, as did my daughter Rachel, son Jeremy, his wife Rose, and me.

But a couple of those great glass chandeliers, “tentacles” flaring in all directions, did remind me of Cthulhu.

On the way home, remembering a docent telling us how difficult it was for Alamance Arts to acquire this world-class exhibit, I reflected upon another rarity in”those parts” of the northern Piedmont many years ago: spaghetti.

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