I’d like to tell you about The Queen……not the Queen of England, but The Queen of Iowa! You didn’t know there was one, did you? This queen is someone I’ve had in my life since I was 19 years old, and has been like a second mother to me, even though I don’t get to see or talk to her much anymore. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately…..
Joan Yvonne Wendt Williams…..The Queen. I will get to why she has that title later, but for now, I want to tell you why she deserves it. Joan was my mother in-law for 23 years, and is the grandmother to my children. In fact, I was the one who made her a grandmother for the first time in 1989! Her son and I may not see eye to eye on much of anything, and the divorce strained the whole family relationship, but I still consider her my family, especially since I’ve lost my own mother. When you lose your mother, you lose a huge part of yourself. And when you divorce, you also lose another part of your family.
From the first time I met her in 1984, wearing my bathing suit (aghhh!), she was friendly, warm, and loving, and acted like she had known me my whole life. For the first few years of knowing her, she was in an unhappy situation with her marriage. Through hard work, she came through it on the other side, stronger, more independent, and happier. It was hard for her to take that step, but she did it, and she has deserved every day of peace and happiness it has brought her since. She stood up for me several times in some uncomfortable situations during that time period, and I have never thanked her for that, even though I appreciated it so much. I’m not even sure she would remember doing it because it is so second nature for her to do that sort of thing.
She was raised in a small town in Iowa, married young, as most girls did in the late 1950’s, and raised 4 children. She lost a child shortly after birth, which I know is still painful for her. I’ve been to the cemetery with her a few times to place flowers or pinwheels on her daughter’s grave. She has talked to me about that time, and I could feel the pain myself through her words, even though she was so strong and composed telling me about it. This is just one of the few things that made her such a strong woman.
Her own mother in-law, Florence, was a good woman, and was good to her too, but…..difficult. I knew Florence well, and I always got the feeling that no woman would ever be good enough for her sons. Yet, with Joan…..any man would be lucky to have her! Joan told me once that she never wanted to be that type of mother in-law to me. I feel thankful to her for that. It sure made life easier!
We grew closer over the years, and always enjoyed having a beer and pizza together. The laughter and friendship we shared can never be replicated with anyone else, but two of my children are now to the age where they can sit down and enjoy a good drink with their grandma and laugh the way we used to. She and her oldest daughter, Lisa, used to make a trip to see us about twice a year….once in the fall, and once in the spring, when we lived in Kansas. Lisa would bring her step daughter sometimes, and always had her dog in tow. It was fun, but Joan hated driving through the Kansas City traffic before getting to our house! It stressed her out to no end! The very first thing she would say after her hugs and kisses all around, was, “I need a beer!” I tried to be fully stocked on beer when Grandma Joan came to visit!
I will never forget the time I heard my 4 year old daughter say, “Oh damnit!” when she dropped something. I said, “Lily, we don’t say that.” She looked at me confused, and said, “We don’t? Grandma Joan says it!” Now my own five year old grandson is repeating Great-Grandma Joan’s salty language that he picked up last summer. Of course, it isn’t appropriate, but I can’t be mad. In fact, I think it’s pretty funny……if Joan has taught me anything, it is to not be stuffy and unhappy, even when life is hard. Learn to laugh and let go. Don’t be angry. Smile. Don’t hold grudges. Have fun. Don’t take life so serious. It’s short, so enjoy it.
These days I hear she enjoys her boxed wine while getting her daily fix of Drew Carey and The Price is Right! One of my daughters was telling me that Grandma loads up her walker with beer, and meets with friends at the Embers, her retirement apartment building, for “coffee.” I got such a chuckle out of that! She has always known how to have a good time! Whether it’s playing bingo, trips to the casino, watching her favorite soap opera or TV show, or “coffee” with her friends, she always has fun!
The last time I saw her, I was able to introduce my husband to her. She hugged him, and told him that if I loved him, then he was okay in her book! Before we left, she hugged him again, and told him to “take care of my girl.” He promised he would. After we left, he said he wished we could have stayed because he could have sat for a few hours, having a few beers and talking with her! Now that I’m sick, she continues to check with my daughter to make sure Al is taking good care of me…..he is! I’m stubborn, but he does as much as I let him do.
Now to her well earned title…….The Queen……in most retirement or assisted living facilities, they will choose a king and queen. I’m not sure what all goes along with the title, but they get to ride in a parade! Last year, Joan was chosen as Queen of the Embers. She got to ride in the parade, and from what the kids tell me, she was ordering people to “bow down.” I can’t help but laugh, because I can picture it! Recently, a little girl was introduced to The Queen. She asked if she was the Queen of Iowa, and my daughter told her yes! And you know what? She is! Beautiful, funny, kind, gracious, friendly, salty, and compassionate……what other qualities do you need in a queen?
Here’s to The Queen! I love you Joan!