Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Nod to Ellen

My first husband's mother passed away on Friday. Martha "Ellen" Stoltenberg Knudsen was quite the woman. I would say she is one of those 2nd wave feminists who lived uncomfortably in a patriarchal-dominant marriage. She was a convert to Mormonism, reared 4 children, and remained independent, particularly enjoying her freedom once her husband passed away (it even says so in her obituary). When Clark and I were divorced, and we went to her home to tell her, she looked at me, pointed her finger at me, and said, "I wish I would have been brave enough to do that." I don't think she was thinking of us, but rather of her own marriage. She was blunt and honest like that, with a twist of Oklahomian humor. She loved language, rich food, fine-art, creating, nature, good books, her children and grandchildren, laughing, and details.

I wish I had somewhere I could share my Ellen stories and listen to those others will tell. But I know that's not possible. One quick story here - Clark and I had traveled back east, he on business, me accompanying him. We had left Tyler and Jenna mostly on their own, but Ellen wanted to spend time with them. One afternoon Tyler called, begging us to tell Granny K that he and Jenna were fine without her. "Last night, she found mushrooms in the fridge. They are old, but she was determined to use them. Mom, she made homemade cream of mushroom soup. It's gross. Please tell her we're fine with the food you have for us." I still laugh at his desperate tone. I think Clark told Ellen they'd be fine if she wanted to go home and sleep in her own bed and not tackle our stairs. 

I was napping at my mother's last fall, as I was recovering from my lumpectomy. I awoke, went downstairs (Mom has a wonderful south facing bedroom that is comfortable and warm), and there sat Ellen, visiting with my mom, waiting for me to wake up, so she could hear, first hand, about "the awful news I've heard." I shared, yet we spent most of our time talking about her still driving (87), and the books she was reading. We read very similar novels, and it was always a treat to share and discuss our latest books.

After leaving our marriage, and thus the Knudsen family, it was Ellen I missed the most. I guess what I want to say here, in my journey blog, is that Ellen taught me how to stay independent and happy (not the wahoo happy, but the content with the journey happy), even when my surroundings weren't enjoyable. She taught me that having a life of my own was just fine, and that one is never too old to learn something new. She taught me that boundaries - including those from divorce, are not impenetrable, and that love can be unconditional.

Rest in peace Ellen - I hope you have a great book for this next portion of your journey.

Ellen and Tempest in November, 2011.

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