The Mother-In-Law: Tribute and Triumph
April 3, 2013Happy Birthday, Grandma, you’re 91 today. April Fool’s! Really, April Fool’s Day. April 1st. Your birthday. Kind of an unfortunate trick. But you have handled it well for 91 years. Good for you. My Mother-In-Law is one of the strongest people I know. Her life thus far has been filled with experiences that some of us will never know. Growing up in the Depression, she was the youngest of three girls in the family. Dad was an alcoholic and barely supported his family. The girls shared clothes, hose and shoes. Mother was the stable one, the one who took them to church and taught her girls to cook. Through a difficult growing up, she managed an education at ECTC. Her wit and keen mind charmed a young Yale grad, her pastor, and won his heart. Their marriage of over fifty years produced three sons, the oldest of whom is my husband of 47 years. Her life has not been without hardship, disappointment, loss. She has lived through feast and famine in the business world. She has seen sons rise and fall, their wives in and out, her grandchildren and great grandchildren soar. Her cup runneth over, and she knows it. The first 20 or so years I was married to her son she would say to me, “A son is a son ‘til he marries a wife; a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.” Her lament in not having a daughter weighed on me, even though there was nothing I could do about it. Thankfully, I have had time to prove her wrong. I have had time to tell her what she means to me. I have never equaled her gift for cooking. She is five-star in the biscuit world. Her country style steak, spaghetti, crab stew and cornbread are world class. (Other family members could list their personal favorites.) Her specialty is vegetables, especially when they are from her own garden. Peas… crowder, green, black-eyed… butter beans and cream-style corn, and we can’t forget the collards! Yum. Especially when there is a little bowl of vinegar with onion, green pepper, cucumber and tomato nearby. Her character equals her cooking in goodness. She is the one from whom I have learned the lesson of forgiveness, the lessons of acceptance and perseverance. She has taught me how to let go of hurt, how to not expect more of people than they are able to give and how to move on through trouble and come out on the other side stronger. One day, when she was recovering from a serious surgery at our house, I was helping her in the shower. She said, “I am sorry that you have to do this.” I told her that I never got to do this for my mother. She died before she was old. “I do this for you because you are my only mother now.” She is. She is the only one left who remembers my parents who have been gone for years. She is still the mother of the man I love most in the world. She is the generous grandmother of my children and grandchildren. When I am with her now, she tells me over and over, “I could not have had a daughter whom I love more.” Sweet music to the tune... “Entreat me not to leave you… for where you go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” Thank you, God, for your plan that we should be family together, in-laws and out-laws, for better or worse till death we do part. I give thanks. Amen.