Friday, December 02, 2011


Yesterday, December 1st, was the second anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, Jeannine Cook Pool. You'll hear no mother-in-law jokes from me. She was an amazing force of nature and I was privileged to know her.

I had been introduced to her, briefly, at church on a Sunday morning, but I recall really meeting her when I gave my husband-to-be a ride home from our college campus one evening. I didn't know he was my husband-to-be at the time, we were just friends who had met through the Baptist Student Union at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas (now called Texas State University). But it seemed Tinkerbelle knew something was up.

Tinkerbelle was a little dachshund-terrier mix who, unbeknownst to me, was usually wary of strangers. But when we stepped into the house Tinkerbelle ran right up to me, flipped over on her back and eagerly waited for me to reach down and rub her tummy, which I was delighted to do. As I was getting acquainted with Tinkerbelle I noticed Dub, his younger sister and their parents standing around us with their mouths hanging open for a few seconds of shocked silence before they all began to explain that Tinkerbelle just doesn't take to strangers. They looked at me like I'd suddenly sprouted a halo and looked at Dub as though saying silently, "Where did you find this girl?!

I should have asked Tinkerbelle, "What do you know that I don't know?!"

That was the first time I recall being on the receiving end of a Jeannine Pool hug and I don't think I have the words to tell you how much pure love and acceptance came with one of those hugs. She made me feel like family even then.

When I was sick, holed up in my little college apartment with a fever, she made me her homemade chicken soup. When I was stressing out about planning wedding details she told me that her job as mother of the groom was to wear beige and keep her mouth shut and that made me laugh and broke the tension. She also told me that the rehearsal dinner was the only thing she got to plan and she looked me square in the eye and said, "You're going to be comfortable. Everybody's wearing jeans. We're having a western barbecue dinner!" And I loved her all the more. I bought myself a new cowboy hat to wear to it, borrowed my roommate's Justin boots and Dub and I wore matching armadillo belt buckles. I was comfortable and everybody had a great time.

When Dub's father passed away we were there for her and she taught us about dealing gracefully with loss and adjusting to life's unexpected changes.

When we could afford next to nothing for Christmas, she lavished gifts on our little girls and made sure they had all they needed.

When we sought an escape from our stressful routine she welcomed us for long weekends at her beautiful home in the Texas Hill Country where we could put our feet up and watch the deer and the birds in her yard and wave to the golfers playing on the 6th fairway while our girls played dress-up in her closet.

She got her breast cancer diagnosis when we were visiting one weekend. I'm glad we were there. When she went for her first visit with the oncologist to discuss her radiation treatments, I went with her. Thankfully, they had caught it early and a few weeks of radiation took care of it.

She was as close as a phone call and I miss dialing her number and hearing her say, "Pool's residence, this is Mrs. Pool" and replying, "This is the other Mrs. Pool!" and hearing the delight in her voice as we caught up on all the news of the family.

She poured her love into her son and daughter and her granddaughters and I see her in each of them whenever we're together. She comforted us and challenged us and sometimes exasperated us.

She left us a lot to live up to.

I hope we make her proud.