Posts Tagged ‘Nina’

Mama’s House

We lost her last May. Our lives will never be the same. She fiercely loved her family, her home and her yard. In fact, my beautiful mom-in-law had a LOT of interests. Crafts, ceramics, decorations, gifts from a multitude of loved ones; it all had to go somewhere. We spent the summer cleaning out her house. Merciful heavens at the junk treasure! That old saying was never more true.

“No kid ever says when their parents die, ‘I wish they’d had more stuff!’”

Though we got the inside sorted, the outside would certainly not meet her standards. The woman would have surely cut back her giant snowball bush by now. Like all true southern women, she swept her patio every day. And even though she could hardly drag her bad leg, she would have already raked leaves several times. Yard work was her passion. When the pile of leaves got too large to push any further, she’d rake them onto an old blue sheet then pull them to the ditch. Then she would haul the hosepipe there so she could soak them down. That way they would stay put until the city crew came by to vacuum them up. Mama had a system. God forbid that anyone suggest otherwise.

We live across the road from her house. Currently her yard is covered with autumn leaves accompanied by a wreath in pink spring flowers on the door. Mama would not be pleased. She changed her wreaths religiously with each season. It comforts me however to imagine her in her new home. She made it clear that she loved the Lord so it’s easy to picture her in Gloryland visiting with my own mama. The two of them probably have more important things to chat about than leaves in the yard or wreaths on the door.

Man I hope so.

While I write this, an appraiser and a potential buyer are inspecting her house. Before they came, I removed the pink wreath. I left it as long as possible since it was the last one she hung before she died. Hopefully they’ll be able to see past the leaves to the lovely home Mama kept for over fifty years.

I know it’s crazy. Though I hope it sells, my heart hurts at the possibility. I keep thinking about taking her a loaf of cranberry pumpkin bread. It was her favorite and I have cranberries in the freezer that she bought me. My husband commented that we won’t know which yahoos to vote for this year since Mama’s not here to give us the scoop. His sister Gail still picks up the phone to call her as they were used to talking several times a day. His other sister Jo stops by sometimes just to sweep the patio.

Christmas will be the hardest I think. She would have turned ninety-two on Christmas Day. The whole family always met at her house on Christmas Eve for steaks with a side of mayhem. This year someone else’s family will likely fill the space. When they move in I hope they’ll love and appreciate the house as much as Mama did.

Maybe I’ll take them a loaf of cranberry pumpkin bread to welcome them home.

I’m sure Mama would be pleased.

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The Rest of the Story

It was the first day of Spring. We had just received the terrible cancer diagnosis for my beloved mom-in-law Nina. The first surgeon she visited spoke words we were not prepared to hear. “I can’t do surgery because if I were to take all of the cancer out I would not even be able to close you back up.”

I began gathering photos of Nina in preparation for… I cannot even speak the word.

Anyone who knows her also knows that she hates having her picture taken. Therefore the task would not be easy. Oh we had plenty of pictures, but nearly all of them have her wagging a finger in the direction of the photographer with a death threat hanging in mid-air. This woman is not to be trifled with. I joked with her one happy day that if she didn’t stop putting the stink-eye on those trying to capture her pretty image we’d have to resort to using all those ugly photos at her memorial. That would teach her!

Beautiful silver hair frames her lovely face. Her skin is smooth and nearly wrinkle-free. She and her son joke that all the butter they consume keeps the wrinkles pushed out from the inside. She was able to attend the graduation of her granddaughter Desani where someone snapped a gorgeous picture of the two of them. She showed it to me and said, “When I die just Photoshop my head onto all those other bad pictures.” Note to self: Never try to teach Nina a lesson.Nina & Desi

For those of us who live in Salisbury, Dr. Black is a household name. He and Nina go way back. He’s treated many members of her family for cancer starting with her husband. Even now while Dr. Black is in the midst of trying to retire he’s committed to treating Nina’s sister until the end. The only criticism I’ve ever heard her speak of him is that she cannot understand why he doesn’t wear socks. Something about his naked ankles has always been a little disconcerting to her. Nina has baked him and his staff many a pan of brownies. She was saddened to hear of Dr. Black’s retirement, but took right up with his associate Dr. Brinkley. Perhaps the fact that he wears socks gives him cred. She loved him immediately because he joked with her and understood her sense of humor. The three of them have a running disagreement on whether brownies should contain nuts or not. Dr. Black poked his head into her exam room one day and said, “Don’t you let him talk you out of putting nuts in the brownies!”

What will Salisbury do without Dr. Black?

What will we do without our beloved Nina? My heart grieves at the thought.

Last Spring I wrote a story called Daffodils of Hope which ended with a request that you pray for her. Here’s the rest of the story. Dr. Brinkley immediately started breast cancer treatment which has shrunk the tumors so much that everyone is amazed. Nina has had no terrible side effects, has not had to endure chemo or radiation. We had no idea such a hormone therapy existed. At this point it’s looking like she may not even require surgery. God willing, Nina will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on Christmas day.

Never once did Dr. Brinkley treat her as though she were too old to hope. With each visit he listened intently as she and her children asked questions and relayed symptoms. In fact he listened so well that at times there was actual silence in the room as he processed our concerns. How rare is that? If you know the Clark clan you’ll certainly appreciate that abnormality.

Thank you doctors Black and Brinkley for treating her and many others so well. Thank you to all who prayed for our beloved Nina.

And thank You Lord that I won’t have to be learning how to use Photoshop anytime soon.


The Lord took Nina home on May 3, 2017. Her memorial service included lots of pictures with stern looks at the camera. But they just made us laugh as we remembered this lovely lady. The picture above with her granddaughter Desani is who she truly was. We miss her so much already. Thank the Lord we know where she is as she fully trusted her Savior when He said He would never leave nor forsake her. Praise God she is pain free, smiling, and out of the way of all those pesky cameras.

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As we sat waiting for her name to be called for yet another medical test, my sweet mom-in-law explained why she could no longer pull heavy bales of hay or large flower pots with her left arm. Not because she’s dragging a line hooked to her oxygen tank; nor because she has a replacement knee which has come apart within her leg; and certainly not because she is eighty nine.

But get this. It’s because she’s afraid her pacemaker will pop out. I asked if that would be similar to the Butterball thermometer which pops out when the turkey is done. Thankfully her hearing is not what it used to be either. I’m pretty sure she can still whip me.

This woman has always been able to work circles around anyone and everyone. When one of her knee replacements went bad she refused to quit. Afraid of being put to sleep for surgery she continued to keep up her yard by dragging a plastic chair around with her so she could stop and take a break. Don’t misunderstand. She has family who gladly does the mowing and other things. But so far as the flowers that’s strictly her domain. She has a vision of how things are to look and will not be deterred. Nina is one of the stubbornest women I’ve ever met.

Did I say stubborn? What I meant was… strong.

Her strength is about to come in very handy. You see, she just found out she has extensive advanced cancer.

I can hardly write the words.

This beloved mom-in-law of mine has always been the strong one. She has been the one to take care of those in need. Her attitude has always been so positive that you wonder if she’s for real.

At this point we only know bits and pieces. Her very kind doctor assured her that her breathing is good enough and she’ll be fine under anesthesia. So she has consented to surgery. She even commented, “When we get all this mess taken care of I might just have my knee done.”

Yes, she is for real.

As she entertained the ladies in the waiting room who were also there for breast ultrasounds [and the fear that comes with another test after a mammogram] I looked at her once again with admiring eyes. She joked that maybe while they have her “under” they could fix her knee if they just didn’t get in each other’s way. Perhaps we could also have Sally her beautician to be there to do her hair and someone at the other end to do her toenails. She smiled her mischievous smile which, as always, included freshly applied lipstick. Thick silver hair framed her signature pearl earrings and pleasant face as she anticipated being a brand new woman.

No need dear Nina. You will always and forever be one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.Nina

Stubborn yes… but oh!

So beautiful!

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My beautiful mother-in-law Nina donned her voting clothes and matching lipstick. At eighty-nine, she voluntarily gave up driving last year. So we made a date to take her to the polls. Voting is very important to her. For as she often says, “If you don’t vote then you can’t complain.” Lord knows I don’t want to lose that privilege. So off we went.

It’s getting harder and harder for her to move about. But her mind is still very sharp. Sitting in the booth she studied and marked each side of the long ballot. David and I stood at a booth together next to her, helping each other and checking our notes. When we finished, he asked if she needed any help. A firm “No.” came her reply. Proudly she finished then placed her ballot into the machine that looked suspiciously like a shredder. She nodded and smiled at the elderly veteran who guarded the ballot box. From the same generation, these two shared the silent wisdom that comes only with decades of living. “Men and women fought and died for my privilege to vote. I can’t believe there are people who don’t bother going to the polls.” Her conviction rang true.photo 2 (1)

On the way home we took a little tour of Fulton Street with all its beautiful fall foliage. Down several side roads we drove slowly admiring the lovely view. “Go down Church Street” she requested. I’ll show you where we lived when your dad got home from the war. She recalled each neighbor and how hard it was to get a decent apartment back in the day. As we drove through Salisbury, candidates’ posters waved and beckoned from every corner. Though politics can be very divisive, this one thing I think everyone can agree on: Aren’t you glad the political ads are over for now? My mom-in-law offered this wisdom on that subject. “I wish it were against the law for candidates to say anything about their opponents. If they were only allowed to speak of what they personally plan to do if elected, things wouldn’t get so ugly.” Sounds like wisdom to me.

Recent reports indicate the campaign spending between Hagan and Tillis for NC Senate alone is the first to cross the $100 million dollar mark. That’s one hundred MILLION with like seven, no… eight zeros.

I have another idea. What if a candidate put that money to good use in the state, say perhaps the school system? What our teachers could do with just a portion of a hundred million dollars! They’re so used to pinching pennies, no telling what wonderful new things could be accomplished in their classrooms. I dare say the politician who pledged that donation in lieu of bombarding the airwaves and mailboxes would win hands down.

That’s my current soapbox. And according to my mom-in-law, since I voted I still have the right to complain. I hope you voted too. I’d sure hate for Nina to hear otherwise.

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What is Roadsidia? I’m so glad you asked. Roadsidia is a term used by the instructor of the flower arranging class I took at the Davidson County Harvard by the Highway. Even though he was a very successful floral designer, his favorite medium came from beside the road and therefore he named it Roadsidia. I tend to agree. I’ve always been happiest with crafty items made from castoffs. Anytime one can spend nothing and create something beautiful, it’s been a productive day.

Baby bdays 064My mom-in-law has the most beautiful hydrangea bush. She’s been unable to work in her yard this summer due to poor health. Yard work is her therapy. When finally she was able to get outside for a bit of much needed fresh air, she was miffed that things weren’t to her liking. According to her, her yard looked like no one lived in her house. “By dern!” she said. [That’s a Southern lady’s way of cussing.]

“I still live here! There’s no sense in my yard looking like a jungle.”

She also tends to use the term jungle very loosely.

So she pulled a chair around to the front of her house, rested a minute from the exertion, then cut back the dead hydrangeas. She worked as long as she could but had to leave the clippings in her wheelbarrow since her leg is “giving her a fit.” As I dumped the clippings on the curb for pick up, I noticed some of the blossoms were still kind of nice. Of course I scavenged through the pile and shook out the best. I’m a little bit proud of the wreath that emerged from the Roadsidia.



This wonderful God of ours is so creative and wise. I think He loves making something beautiful out of nothing too. He breathed life into dirt, brings beauty from ashes, and diligently designs a plan to complete a great work in our lives.

As much joy as it brought me to make something out of nothing, I can just imagine His delight at bringing His children closer to His own image.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” –Ephesians2:10

“And I am certain that God, Who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians1:6

You are beautiful and you are loved.

Don’t ever doubt it.

If a scavenger like me can make something decent out of discarded dead flowers, just think of what Almighty God can do with you!wreath 001



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I was crying mad when my sweet mom-in-law shared that a man had stopped by to do some work for her for free. He talked her out of her house, into the back yard to show her some limbs which he promised to take down out of the goodness of his heart. Suddenly, he got a phone call and left her standing as he hurried around the side of the house and out of sight. We had just read an article in the Salisbury Post about a scam targeting elderly women. The suspects would back an old truck into the victim’s driveway. One man would get the homeowner to walk to the backyard while the other would go into the house and take what they wanted, including their home phones. One poor lady was pushed down and even her walker was taken as they robbed her.

As Nina described the faded red pickup and the man who suddenly had to leave, I felt the rage building. We checked her purse and several other places to see if anything was missing. Her police officer grandson stopped by for a visit and checked again for things I hadn’t thought of. Everything so far was accounted for… except the peace of mind we are normally accustomed to. Being neighbors, we often leave our doors unlocked as we visit. She’s very sharp for eighty-seven, but she lives with a mindset that assures her she can still whip anybody’s tail that should require it. I on the other hand am no longer as confident.

After watching the neighborhood a few days for the faded red truck and the man who had driven us to lockdown, I started feeling a little better. I still often looked out my window toward her house across the road just in case I needed to call the police. Apparently the guy had chosen another neighborhood and moved on to more lucrative prospects. Life resumed.

After a long conversation with my daughter, I plugged up my nearly dead cellphone and went bopping out to the mailbox. About the time I got to the end of the drive I realized I was being watched. There in the yard next to Nina’s was a man in a faded red pickup. He had backed in at an angle sitting with a perfect view of my house.

Lord have mercy! Should I run back to my door or nonchalantly skip up the driveway. Stink! No cellphone! I hope her door is locked. I knew I shouldn’t have drunk that third cup of coffee. I nearly wet my pants trying to get back inside. I ran to get my phone, came back to take a picture and call the cops. But he was gone. I called Nina. Yes, her door was unlocked but not to worry. She would just tell him she didn’t want any help if he came calling again. Being a Southern lady, she cannot imagine not answering her door. In fact, she probably has tea and cobbler made in case he returns. Lord knows we don’t want to be rude.

So if you happen to know any robbers who own a faded red truck please ask them to leave the mill village alone. We have yard work to do. As Nina says, “I will not be a prisoner in my own home!”

I’m glad she’s so independent and stubborn. I just wish it didn’t scare me half to death to know that. However, I pity the fool who tries to take her beloved television. I fully expect to look out one day and see her beating the stew out of that man as he tries to get away.

I just hope her oxygen cord stretches all the way to his truck.

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The shortest day of the year which is also the first day of winter was duly noted that Friday, December 21st. I dreaded the cold days ahead as I thought about how early it gets dark. I really hate checking the clock to see if it’s bedtime just to realize it is only 7:15pm.

Good grief.

My mom-in-law Nina asked that morning, “Do you know what day it is?”

“Yep, the first day of winter,” I replied, hoping I had impressed her with my calendar awareness.

“You know what that means don’t you?” she asked. I had a feeling my answer and hers were not the same.

Cheerfully she went on. “That means spring is just around the corner! From here on out, daytime will last longer because the shortest day of the year has passed! Now it will start getting darker later and later.”

Hmmm…  interesting.

Suddenly I went from the first day of winter to just around the corner from spring.

This great news came from a woman who had been sick since last spring and who must use a cane as she hobbles toward eighty-seven. For the first time in her life her activities are limited.

But according to her… spring is just around the corner.

I think I need a seed catalog.

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!


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