You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (if they take notes…)

It’s a More Cowbell Monday, which means I promise to make you laugh – some things are sacred after all. We’re going to have a departure from the norm though, and honor my mother-in-law, Mickey’s, birthday at the same time.

Mickey passed away over a year ago, but yesterday was her birthday and we make it a habit to chat about her on her special day. (Well, OK, we like to chat about her all the time.)

My fave pic of Mickey with her family (my hubby is far right - this was taken when he was in high school)

My mother-in-law was a damn funny lady.

She laughed like a bawdy saloon girl – a boisterous roll that could light up a room. My husband inherited that laugh and I LOVE it.

Mickey had “the 3 S’s” in spades: sassy, strong-willed and spoiled. All those qualities wrapped up in the dynamo package of a loving mother made her very unique and often challenging.

Did I mention she was spoiled? This was a fabulous thing when the people who spoiled her were around to do it. However, when my husband’s father passed away in 2005, fifty-five years after they got married, there were many day-to-day things that Mickey had to learn how to do. She leaned on my honey (a lot) and reached out to me as well.

My favorite moment was teaching her to pump gas.

Imagine  being 74 years old and living alone for the FIRST time in your life, and having to learn how to pump your own gas. It had to be very frightening for her. It still boggles me to think of someone growing up so sheltered.

Anyway, back to the Great Gas Escapade…

Mickey’d call me up and use our “code names” – she was JBS for JB Senior and I was JBJ for JB Junior. (FYI, my married name starts with a “B” and her given name was Janet.)

“JBJ, she’d say…This is JBS. I need gas in my car. Do you have time to go to lunch?” Because of course a meal out was always  part of the experience.

We had several lessons with her observing me before she got to where she felt comfortable doing it on her own. She had to use two hands to hold the pump and she cursed the whole time but she did eventually learn how to pump her own gas.

Below are the directions from our first lesson that she wrote down and kept in her car. I had nothing to do with all that recording of the mileage, etc.  Mickey was a Depression baby and went through all of it every single time she went to the gas station (even though she always went to the same station, and was not on a fixed income).

God bless her!

Today, in honor of Mickey, I bring you a love song that would have made her laugh. DO be sure to listen to this one – the words aren’t what you think they’ll be.


Do you have older family members in your life that make you laugh or elders whose memories make you smile? Enquiring minds would love to know about them here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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46 Responses to You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (if they take notes…)

  1. That note is a HOWL, Jenny. It reminds me of some my own MIL had around the house when we lived with her. She was getting forgetful. We built a lake house where we spent most weekends. She needed financial assistance. It made sense.

    Before we moved in, she used to call me when DH wasn’t home. “Gloria. Do you think I could borrow some money until payday? I’m running a little short, and don’t tell John. He’ll fuss at me.”

    Of course, I’d respond with a yes. I quickly learned NOT to ask how much she needed. The answer was invariably something odd — like “$8.00 should get me through.” Seriously?

    “Increments of twenty, Ruth. I only do increments of twenty.” On the first she INSISTED on paying me back so she could “get more when she needed it.” On or around the 20th of each month, I’d get The Call. “Gloria, do you think I could borrow some…”

    I LOVED that woman and still hear her infectious laugh. She’d get so tickled with herself when she answered the remote control or tried to change channels with the telephone. Her memory lives on at all family gatherings. And, we share the same birth DAY (not year).

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  2. Awwwww….Mickey sounds like a riot!! That gas story is hilarious. I can’t imagine!!! Too cute!!!
    My grandmother Hartford was hysterical. She had diabetes from the time I was born but was ALWAYS sneaking little desserts with “you gotta treat yourself every once and awhile dear…” She treated herself 3 or 4 times a day, I swear. But we loved it and to this day, we all chime in with “you gotta treat yourself every once and awhile” when we are over indulging! What a lady…always kept me in stitches!!🙂

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  3. Chihuahua0 says:

    Nice story! Too bad I don’t have much to say.

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  4. Mickey sounds like a hoot. I love the list. When I left my marriage and moved out, I had never had a room of my own, never mind a home, I knew I could manage but I was terrified. and yes, I remember pumping gas for the first time. My husband always filled up the vehicles. LOL

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  5. Jane Sadek says:

    If push came to shove, my mom COULD pump her own gas, but we’re still spoiling her. Since she only drives her car about once a week to get her hair done, keeping it filled up is not an onerous task. I thank God every day for the opportunity to continue spoiling she and my dad. Of course, I usually pull some of my hair out every day because of them, but that’s another story!

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  6. Oh my gosh, I’m so in LOVE with Mickey! She sounds like such a spit-fire!

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  7. Ginger Calem says:

    I adore this post! How much fun was she!!! Makes me miss my Aunt Alice so much.

    Ok, so I have the opposite side of the learning to pump gas situation. My oldest just turned 16 and got a hand-me-down car. (note: this meant that mom got a new car!! Yay me) He wanted to get gas but didn’t have his debit card yet. He didn’t know what to do, pay first, pump first … talk to someone? He and his friend went into the station and he held out a ten dollar bill and just said, “I’ll take 2 gallons.” hahaha!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ginger, I love the idea of an “Aunt Alice!” It’s got a nice ring to it.

      LMAO over your boy and his gas. That is so dang funny. No pump number, just “Give me some gas, please…” Bahahahahaha!

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  8. Laura Drake says:

    First, let me just say, your hubby was studly, even back in high school!

    What a hoot Mickey must have been . . . My MIL does the same thing, meticulously recording mileage and gallons on a tiny notebook in the glovebox. It’s rubber-banded to the older ones, from cars long dead, stretching back over the years. I’ve given up explaining how it makes no sense – I just hand it over.

    Wonderful memories. Happy Birthday, Mickey!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m right there with you, Laura! Of course, once I pulled up the photo and looked at him, standing there all juicy hot, I started giving him THE EYE.

      His mama was a crack-up with that mileage counter – and yes, hers stretched back over several cars too.

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  9. Love the note. My sense of humour comes directly from my mom and my late grandfather (her dad). If I can be half as hilarious (and kind) as them, my life will have been well lived.

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  10. What a sweet story Jenny. I can see your mother-in-law is missed. She sounds like such a gem and the picture you chose of her laughing just shows her personality so well. I love her instructions to herself.

    My Aunt Ivy was hoot. At age 78 while dining at a TGI Fridays she choked on a chicken finger. Mind you she was about five feet tall and shaped like a little barrel. I’m not much taller and could barely get my arms around her to perform the Heimlich. Enter Mr. Olympia, a young fit man (with long arms:) who came to my rescue and performed it with ease. Somehow she managed to swallow the offending piece of chicken instead of popping it out like they do in the movies. Thank God for small favors.

    I was badly shaken and thanked him at least a million times. She thanked the guy and sat back down to finish her meal!!!! When she realized I wasn’t eating and had lost my appetite, she was pissed off! The next day when I called her to see how she was doing she was not only still mad at me but she was also pissed off at the guy who saved her life! She said he “about took her breasts off” Let’s just say Aunt Ivy was occasionally hard to please. I miss her spunk and drive.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kate, i totally expected you to tell me that Mr. Olympia became your husband – I was completely poised for it! Your Aunt Ivy sounds like MY grandmother…nothing like a feisty old lady, eh?

      p.s. I think Ivy is a phenomenal name for an Auntie!

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      • LOL about Mr. Olympia — that little scenario would be a great beginning for a romantic comedy. And yes, Ivy is one of those unforgettable names coupled with an unforgettable personality. We miss her.

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  11. Our family had a great gas station story about a great-aunt of mine. She was a very proper lady and drove a huge old Packard. In those days all stations were full service, and one day she pulled into one and ask the attendant to fill her rear end with grease. Don’t really know what she had in mind.

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  12. LOL David! “Fill her rear end with grease!” Hilarious.

    Ah mother-in-laws. Mine was a gem. In fact I was closer to her than my own mother. I never met anyone so quick witted in my life. And she had a way with back-handed compliments. We just miss her, plain and simple.🙂

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  13. Emma says:

    That video had me laughing out loud. Mickey sounds like a great character!

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  14. Too cute! This is a priceless story, Jenny. Yep, notes are a must have for seniors. My senior (that’s one of my nicknames for my mom, heh) is now doing her own e-mail, Googling and begging for a FB profile. We used typed out instructions to get her okay with the steps to turn on the computer, log-in, not click the spam links, etc. Sometimes she still gets stuck and calls for help, but it is a beautiful thing to see her using technology not even dreamed of when she was a kid. Used instructions for the Kindle, paired with hands-on. Hands-on only for the cell phone though.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      GO, Mommy McDowell!!!! How exciting is that? I think that rocks that she’s embracing the technological age. I once taught a 72 year old lady Windows because she wanted to play bridge online. THAT’s what I’m talking about!!!

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  15. tomwisk says:

    Sadly all the older members of my family began passing when I was young. My father’s parents were gone before I was born. My mother went when I was twelve and the others followed. I have one uncle left and it doesn’t look too good for him. The two relatives who alternatively spoiled and disiplined me were two aunts one from my mother’s side and one from my father’s passed in their eighties. Now except for the uncle it’s me and a bunch of cousins who only meet at funerals and weddings.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That’s hard, Tom. I feel cheated only having my mom till I was 35, but you’re reminding me I should be grateful. Thank you. I’m glad you had your Aunties for a while.

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  16. amyshojai says:

    Oh this is great! Love the video!

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  17. I love Mickey! What a riot she was. And you are amazingly awesome for being her tutor. My grandma is going to be 95 on March 8th and she is a hoot. When my grandfather died (after my grandma told him everything was in order, he could go), she went a little nuts being single. Not like go to clubs and dance on tables wild, but she did go on cruises and to Vegas. Oh, and she’s deaf. Totally and completely deaf, but she didn’t let that stop her from doing anything on her own. My husband is convinced women in my family live forever and based on my grandma, I think he might be right.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Tameri, I’m delighted that the gals in your family will live forever. You know, all us ladies have to be around to keep Skyping, etc. in our nifty hats and purses, well into our 90’s.🙂

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  18. Julie Glover says:

    I love these larger than life relatives. One of my favorite juvenile fiction books is A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, with hilarious stories of two children’s grandma. There are quite a few funny stories attached to my grandfather who was known for his quick wit and stubbornness. Unfortuately, I was still rather young when he died, so my memories are faint. Still, I revel in hearing about my grandparents.

    Loved the video. That certainly isn’t the original version of Side by Side, which my mother used to sing and play on the piano when I was growing up.

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m one of those that adores the “old family stories.” I gave the eulogy at my mother-in-law’s funeral and I dragged out ALL the stories.🙂

      No, this is REALLY not the original version of “Side by Side.” I think some of the early readers missed it today before I added the urging to listen.

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  19. Marcia says:

    You were so lucky to have a fun MIL! I love the code names. That video is hilarious! My mom would love that, too!

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  20. Stacy Green says:

    That note is just awesome. What a great part of her to still have. Reminds me of something my mother would do, lol. And my best friend’s mom. She’s got more stories than anyone I know. She’s mostly retired now, but she’s a cardio nurse and has been for 40 years. She knows her stuff. But off the clock, the lady is the consumate airhead. She’s tried to get into the wrong vehicle more than once, and on a particular wine-fueled night in Florida, she and her bestie were convinced they saw in a crack in the moon … We nearly pee ourselves every time we tell that story!

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