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One Special Lady

We buried Virginia Mae Dietterich, my wife’s mother and my mother-in-law, on Monday. (In case you’ve been wondering, that’s why I haven’t posted recently.)

My own mother had been killed by a drunk driver only about four years after I married. I’ve written about her before. (See and I knew Mother for only 27 years. I knew my mother-in-law, however, for 42 years, so in many ways she was my surrogate mother.

During and after the funeral, I noticed that my mother-in-law’s relatives, friends, and neighbors mentioned one of her attributes more than any other. That attribute was her unique culinary abilities, her skill in cooking and baking palate-pleasing dishes. Chicken pot pie. Ham butt and cabbage. Key lime pie. Ice-cream cake. Shoo-fly pie. Funny cake. The list is endless, but it certainly wasn’t tasteless. She never quit learning and experimenting with different recipes for every kind of food, from appetizers to entrees to desserts. And she kept track of where she served everything and what the reaction of the eaters was for each type of food.

Mom, as I came to call her, always cooked enough for an army, and if one left her table hungry, it was that person’s own fault. Rather, I found that most people left her table filled to the gullet, yet wanting more “for taste.”

If any attribute other than her culinary skills was mentioned, it usually dealt with her constant industry, especially in her lawn work. Mowing. Trimming. Pruning. Weeding. Mulching. Planting. And she was very particular in how she wanted these things done. That’s probably why she usually did all those things herself rather than “subbing it out” to others. Even when she did let others to do such jobs for her, she often later redid them the way she wanted them done. Such as the time she re-mowed her lawn the day after my wife and I had mowed it according to her specifications (or so we thought).

I don’t know what Mom really thought of me as a son-in-law. She wasn’t expressive about such things to one’s face, though she might make comments to others privately. But in my book, she was the best mother-in-law I could have had. She was the best mother substitute for me, too. When I married her daughter, I got the best of both worlds: a beautiful, fantastic wife and a great mother-in-law. What more could a simple country boy want?

“Mom” Dietterich was some kind of special lady!

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