is for Eleanore.
Eleanore entered my life by marriage, like a wedding gift. The second wife of my father-in-law, Eleanore was a gift in every sense. A beautiful, stately, elegant woman, Eleanore’s beauty came from within.
Born in Osseo, Wisconsin, Eleanore was one of five children of Norwegian immigrants. She was the embodiment of the Christian values she learned from her Lutheran upbringing which she lived out to the end of her long life. A single mom, Eleanore raised three children and enjoyed a successful career as a registered nurse.
An excellent baker, Eleanore always had cookies, fresh fruit pies, or luscious cakes to offer with tea or coffee in the afternoon or for dessert following dinner. Eleanore’s Norwegian Christmas cookies always made Christmas merrier. Ever true to her Wisconsin roots, Eleanore was “The Queen” of Jell-O salads, some of which are standard fare for holiday and festive occasions to this day.
In some ways, Eleanore reminded me of Rose, the Betty White character of The Golden Girls. Perhaps it was her speech pattern or the amusing way in which she told a story about growing up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin. No intellectual lightweight, Eleanore was well-read and open minded. She was the source of reliable information on everything from health and wellness to popular culture and issues of social justice like poverty, civil rights, and same sex marriage.
When I divorced and subsequently came out, Eleanore and my former father-in-law stood by me, as supportive as it is possible to be. “We are a family,” Eleanore said. “And you are one of our kids.”