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Being Nell Black’s Son-In-Law.

MrsBlackNellBlackI need to write about something/someone that’s not real estate related at all. This is not easy for me, and now that I look at the clock it’s taken about 20 minutes for me to start typing… but here’s the thing: my “Mrs. Black” passed away early Tuesday morning.

Some blog readers and many friends I’ve met recently may be wondering, “who is Franklin talking about?” or “what’s this about?”. Understandable. Introductory paragraphs notwithstanding, most of my world knows exactly who I’m talking about and why she is such an important person to me.

For those who don’t know, Mrs. Black is my late wife’s mom.

Mrs. Black and I had a relationship unlike many mother-in-law/son-in-laws ever have. We endured experiences that were not only hard and unfair as individuals, but were surreal as ‘in-laws.’ Some of you may remember, Mrs. Black and I were roommates for the last months of Kinsey’s life. Think of it: Mrs. Black could afford any hotel room or any meals for as long as she wanted, while I couldn’t afford a 12 pack of Miller Lite at any one time. Together, however, my wife/her daughter suffered in a hospital a few blocks away. Remember my “Moving (forward) Day” post? There you go… that’s the house.

Over the years Mrs. Black and I had a big time together. I remember what I was wearing the first time I met her over a decade ago (dark green pants/burgundy paisley tie… I think it was Amy Lester’s engagement party). We had a special relationship whereby we respected and kind of protected each other. If the Black family had an event to plan for she would stick her neck out with “Franklin can, or Franklin can’t”, while other family members would mumble, “Damn’t, Nana, Franklin will be OK!!!”

I can remember many Christmas gatherings being so nervous, because Mrs. Black was infamous for giving a ‘thumbs down’ if a she thought a gift sucked. You could cut my sneaky red bull and vodka with a straw when it was her turn to open a gift from me… “pheeeeeew” every time, and I loved her for not calling me out. Here’s the thing about the Black family and me: I’ve celebrated more Christmas seasons in their den without Kinsey, than with her. My wife Jennifer and I have celebrated more Christmas moments with the Black family than I did with Kinsey. That’s who we have become. That’s the relationship.

I could tell a million stories about Mrs. Black and me. Here’s the latest. I drove to Manning on Monday morning, as Jennifer took care of our girls’ school stuff. As I arrived, I was asked to visit Mrs. Black’s room over and again, by different friends and folks. I was flattered and touched. I didn’t feel pushed or pulled, but I refrained until it felt ‘right.’

I finally went in. Mr. Black was behind my right shoulder, and Kinsey’s brother, Jimmy, was on the other side of the bed with a nurse along the wall. A photo of my three girls was on the table beside Mrs. Black and a sweet photo of Finley was straight in front of her. I lost my innards through my face right then and there. I told her how much I loved her, and how much I appreciated her giving me a chance to marry her daughter even though I didn’t have anything and hadn’t proven anything. I thanked her for the ties she had picked out for me over the years, and tried to show her one of my favorites that I wore for her to see. While she looked up into the light with one eye about 1/4 opened she clinched my hand and pulled me towards her. I got in her ear and told her a few things to tell Kinsey when she got to see her, and she tugged again. We all have life scenes we’ll never forget. This was one for me.

I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t type about my awesome wife, Jennifer. She didn’t sign up for this, exactly, but she has been an incredible example of strength and grace. Further still, it seems unfair to my current mother-in-law, Mrs. Sparks, to read this. That said, this is life, and this is death, and this is life with death… and I appreciate her acceptance of our full family.

Godspeed, Mrs. Nell Black. I love you to the core, and wish we could still be laughing right now. Mr. Black, Jimmy, Jeffrey, Theresa, Stephanie and I will always be together, and your grandchildren, Lauren, Sarah, James, Elizabeth, John Landon, Finley, Ivey, and Nora are with you forever, too. Thanks to your big heart (along with Jennifer’s and Mrs. Spark’s), my girls will always have three Grandmothers.

Your son,


The first photo above is at Sarah Black’s (Kinsey’s niece) wedding at Manning United Methodist Church. Mr. and Mrs. Black are in the background of the shot. The scene; We’re watching our daughter, Finley, walk down the aisle as a flower girl.

The second picture is Mrs. Black, Elizabeth Black (Kinsey’s neice, but better known as “Aunt Liz” in our household), and Finley.

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