The following piece was written in 1994 as a tribute to my mother-in-law, Mary Milan Gunn, who died on April 29, 1996. It was originally published in the New Mexico State University spring edition of Inscriptions and was actually my first published work.
Between Here and There
Somewhere between here and there lies Mary' s mind... Where it briefly rests depends upon the day, the hour, the minute. Eighty five years of struggling, working, giving and loving tucked away in a golden box with no key for the rest of the world.
Family, life long friends, fellow board and committee members, church members, those touched by her existence- astray in the maze of her mind.
Perhaps Mary is better off not understanding the daily happenings of the world; that her friends are no longer alive; that her family finds it unbearable to visit, not recognizing the person before them.
Those who care about the total person know her body needs protection from her mind. They are left to deal with well meaning people who simply do not understand that she needs a safe place.
How sad it is for the body to be here and the mind to be there. If only they could be united once more.
by Barbara L.Gunn 2004
This time of year always reminds me of Mary. Every spring she would make a 30 mile trip from New Laguna to Grants, NM in search of the pecan meal, which was the main ingredient for the Spanish sweet breads she made. They were given to very special recipients, such as her nieces and nephews. The delicious treat had a whole egg baked into the bread.
I can't ever think of Mary without remembering the parties on Easter Sunday that overflowed her large home. On that day everyone for miles around became family whether they were biologically related or not. People stopped by all day long to visit and eat until they were tired and full.
The food always included her famous baked chicken. The pieces were first swished around in mayonnaise then given another bath in crushed corn flakes. Her favorite seasoning on everything was lemon pepper. I always worried because she had a habit of leaving the cooked chicken sitting out too long. Nobody ever got sick as far as I know. Mary also had a bad habit of leaving a pan of butter on the stove to melt and going about more important business, which could include gardening. I have no idea why, but it never started a house fire. Perhaps she had an angel watching over her.
I think what I am most grateful for when it comes to my mother-in-law is the fact that she accepted my two sons from a previous marriage as her very own grandchildren at first sight. She never gave a moments notice to the fact that they were not biologically hers. Later on when my daughter was born Mary regarded her as the best gift she had ever received. Sadly her last brother died about a month later. It was clear that the baby helped to ease her pain.
I believe Mary is one of the best gifts I gave my three children. She may not have always been a perfect mother-in-law, few women are, but she was always a perfect grandmother to my children.