This morning we learned that Mark’s mother, Joan Valerie Newhouse had passed away. She had been ill with Parkinson’s disease for a number of years and had had some crisis’ in the past few months, but at the moment she was maintaining the status quo. So, even though we knew that she didn’t have long in this world, it still came as a bit of a shock.
When I first met Joan, I thought she was quite glamorous. She spoke with a British accent and she always wore a dress and heels and a full compliment of big chunky jewelry. She continued to dress that way her entire life, only giving in to more sensible shoes way past the point when Parkinson’s made it safe for her to be wearing heels. And even then, she was still dressed to the 9’s in smart skirts and blouses and matching jewelry.
She was intellectual and smart and opinionated and could argue anything with the best of them, “them” usually being her husband and her children. She was addicted to the New York Times and read prodigiously. She could speak French and she always knew so much about seemingly everything; she was just so stimulating to talk to. She would often give me books that she had read, out of a genuine sense of sharing something with me that she had liked herself.
Joan lost her middle child, Julian, to a long illness when he was 26, the year after Mark and I were married. I could see that a little bit of her died at the same time, and she was never quite the same as the woman I had first met. It was only after I had my own children that I truly understood how deep a scar it leaves to lose a child and it is one regret that I have that I was not empathetic enough to her at the time.
I will always be grateful for the genuine love that Joan (and Vernon) showed to me when I came into their family. Although she was British, and reserved in her emotions, she was always kind and generous and accepting to me. She has been a very kind and good mother in law to me over the years, a woman I looked up to, who inspired me to volunteer, and to read, and to think, and improve my mind. And if I had been born with better feet, I probably would have worn better shoes too.
Joan Valerie Newhouse, I miss you already.