My Dynamic Mother-in-Law

I’ve been blessed with two wonderful mothers-in-law over the years. The first is now deceased and enjoying the blessings of heaven. She was a wonderful woman, and my divorce from her daughter didn’t make me stop loving her.

And now there’s Anna, who has been my mother-in-law for the past thirteen years. She’s ninety now and in reasonably good health. She lost her husband, J.A.–he had only first and middle initials–at the beginning of this year after going downhill almost from the beginning of my marriage to Kathleen,

She loved and supported him in ways Kathleen and I wouldn’t have had the patience to do, even if we had lived closer. But JA’s demise enabled her to do much of her grieving during his final days, especially after he entered hospice. So his funeral was a celebration of his life, complete with military honors.

Many widows at Anna’s age would’ve grieved themselves into the grave. Or at least thrown their hands up in the air at having to fend for themselves.

But not Anna.

She didn’t waste time moving on with her own life. Yes, she gets some help from her two sons–one lives close enough to be more help than the other–but she still lives by herself at Bellevue Woods, a retirement community owned and operated by Bellevue Baptist Church. “Retirement,” not “Assisted Living.” She doesn’t need that.

Although she rarely drives, she does drive to the Methodist church she faithfully attends. She also stays busy in community activities.

When one of Kathleen’s brothers gave his mom a laptop for her ninetieth birthday, she willingly started learning the basics. She still gets excited when she sees a response  to an email she has sent.

She accompanied one of her sons on a road trip from Memphis to Texas to visit family members she hadn’t seen in a while. How wonderful that she was willing to do that once–and to accept the fact that riding that long in a car is not something she’ll do again.

Even more important to Kathleen and me, she will be flying to Richmond (arriving tomorrow) to visit us for Thanksgiving this year. Although Anna must change planes in Atlanta–that’s an ordeal even for younger, more mobile people–Kathleen has arranged for wheelchair transport between terminals.

What’s extra-special about this trip is it’s the first time she’s been free to visit us in the thirteen years Kathleen and I have been married. Not for lack of a desire to come, though. But because JA’s needs tied her closely to home.

I haven’t seen Anna in two or three years, but Kathleen is probably more accustomed to the fact that her mother has aged and slowed down. But that doesn’t change who she is or how I feel about her. Kathleen normally talks to her mom by phone once a week–I hope we can teach her to use Skype while she’s here!–and she always, ALWAYS has Kathleen tell me she loves me.

What more could I ask for in a dynamic mother-in-law?

What about you? Do you have a favorite relative or in-law? How about sharing a little about him or her?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

My Favorite In-Law-In-Law

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When a guy gets married—I suppose this is true for women as well—he doesn’t necessarily know as much about the family he’s marrying into as he thinks he does.

No, this isn’t a negative story about my in-laws. I love and respect my mother-in-law and father-in-law as if they were my own parents—most of the time, anyhow—and Kathleen’s brothers and their families are pretty cool characters, too. No complaints.

But the family member I didn’t expect to become interested in is one step removed from being my in-law. That’s why I’m referring to him as an in-law-in-law. He’s the father of one of my wife’s sister-in-laws.

Before I tell you about him, I need to explain something. I’ve met a few well-known people in my life. I shook Spiro Agnew’s hand before he became vice president and got into so much trouble. I shook Paul Ryan’s hand, too, and commend him for not getting into any trouble after not becoming vice president.

But entertainers are higher on my interest list than politicians. One of my favorite people is a comedian and actor named Torry Martin. You’ve never heard of him? Hang on. You probably will eventually. I know him ever so slightly, although I’m not sure whether he knows he knows me or not.

Anyhow, famous people fascinate me.

And the most fascinating famous person I’ve ever met turned out to be that in-law-in-law you’ve been wondering if I’d ever get around to finishing my story about. Especially since he’s not famous in the usual way.

Drum roll, please. Let me introduce you to Stan Kesler. Google him, and you’ll find out far more than I can tell you in a single post. And go visit Sun Studios in Memphis if you want to get a real feel for his accomplishments.

He wrote or co-authored some of Elvis’s earliest hits, including his first gold record, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” At least one of Stan’s gold records is on display at Graceland. He has two more at home.

Even though I lost interest in Elvis when he started doing movies, Stan’s accomplishments fascinate me. The fact that he engineered a couple of Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs’ records is pretty interesting, too—even though I couldn’t stand “Woolly Bully.”

And he played bass on one of Jerry Lee Lewis’s hits—a song I actually used to own a 45 rpm recording of. Sure, they mixed the bass so low in the recording you can barely hear it, but it’s there nonetheless.

I met Stan at a special anniversary celebration for my parents-in-law. Didn’t really get to talk to him much then. Just enough to know I really wanted to talk to him more. Especially since he’s an older fellow and in poor health.

My mom-in-law was kind enough to invite him for lunch one time when Kathleen and I came to Memphis for a visit. I shared a few of my original songs with him. Despite his deafness—or maybe because of it—he said I played better than some of the guitarists he’d worked with over the years. My! Somebody grab my feet and bring me down to earth again.

I doubt that I’ll ever get to visit with Stan again. Not in this life, anyhow. But I’ll never forget him—or quit talking about him. Who wants to talk about Spiro Agnew or Paul Ryan when he can talk about Stan Kesler?

By the way, there’s a great article about Stan in a recent edition of Memphis’s Commercial Appeal newspaper. One of the pictures at the top of this post is of the beginning section.


Who’s the best-known person you’ve ever met? Leave a comment and let us know, please.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,