Friday, October 18, 2013

My Mother-In-Law

Have your ever been in a situation where you had to react quickly to find a solution? Then a while later it comes to you that you could have handled it better, you know, the right way. My mother-in-law would have done it right the first time.

My mother-in-law was the wisest woman I have ever known. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. She was intelligent too but her wisdom was her strong suit. I called her Mom.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law were wonderful people. As a matter of fact when my husband and I divorced I kept his parents. I should mention that he kept my parents too. I have said so many times that we were fortunate to have come from good parents.

My mother-in-law was very small when she was orphaned. She told me that no one ever told her that her parents had died and she would sit at the window watching for them to come home. She did not understand why they didn't come home.

She and her brother and sisters went to live with her mother's parents. She had few good memories of her grandfather. She said he was a mean man. I do not know whether he was physically mean or just mean-hearted. I could never bring myself to ask. He eventually shot himself to death.

The children grew up and moved out of the grandparents' house. They stayed close to each other, at least in spirit. One sister died before I knew her. I did meet her brother once but it was early in my marriage and I really do not remember him. Her other sister I knew quite well and will tell you about at another time.

Mom's brother and sisters all had wild streaks that drove her crazy. She was a very practical woman who worked hard to get everything she had for her family. But she had a sense of humor too. That probably kept her from losing her mind with some of the things that happened to her.

Mom was a farmer's wife even though Dad did not farm for a living. He farmed as a side thing. She made good solid meals that stuck to your ribs. That was important for the men to be able to put in the work they needed to do. When it was time for supper (or any other meal for that matter) the girls fixed a plate for the boys. After the boys married their wives were expected to do the same. We did it out of respect for her.

Mom and Dad raised 9 children. My husband was one of the little ones. He was close to his mother and in times of crisis was often the only one who could make her feel safe.

They moved a lot throughout their marriage. Mom hated it but Dad couldn't seem to find contentment anywhere. They were much like my parents in that way. Finally they moved to the farm they lived in when I began seeing their son.

I remember the first time my then boyfriend took me out to the farm. I sat in the living room. Mom was bustling about as I soon learned she always did. Dad was sitting in his chair. Now I had never seen married people argue except on television before they got a divorce.

So there I sat and Mom started arguing with Dad. She stood in the doorway wagging what has come to be known as the family finger. She would point her finger for emphasis and give him a good tongue lashing. I sat there with my mouth hanging open in amazement. Dad just sat with a smile on his face and rocked gently back and forth.

Finally she just wore herself out. She looked in disgust and said, "Oh, ring off!" and walked to the kitchen. I barely had time to close my gaping mouth before she came back saying, "And another thing..." and started all over again. This happened several times. I felt like I was in another dimension.

I married into that family that argued for recreational amusement. My goodness was I out of my element. But they loved each other. They could argue all day long but don't let anybody else say a word. Every single one of them will turn on that person as one.

The only one of my husband's siblings that I did not get the chance to know was one of his younger brothers. When he was just starting to walk he became ill. Being a farm family they attempted to treat the flu symptoms at home. When Mom realized it was far more serious than just the flu they rushed him to the doctor.

He had spinal meningitis and was near death. The doctors told Mom and Dad that he had only a couple of weeks left to live. It was recommended that he be placed in a facility where he could have the care he needed. The doctors knew that there were other children in the home and said it would be better for all concerned. Mom said NO.

She said that if he was going to die it would be with people who loved him not in some institution. Then the doctors explained to her that she was not trained to give him the care he needed. She stood firm. When they told her he would need to be fed by inserting a tube into his stomach she forced them to teach her.

She learned everything they could show her and she took her son home. He lived until he was almost 15 years old because she loved him enough to take care of him. He was almost completely paralyzed from the neck down. He could breathe on his own and his internal organs worked but the outside of his body was not as good.

He could move his head just a little. There was a small tree just outside the living room window. A pair of cardinals made their nest there every year and my little brother-in-law got such joy from lying on a blanket on the floor and watching them.

As a side note the cardinals were still coming back every year by the time I came around. The last time I saw one it was the male and he was completely white with age.

My brother-in-law died the year before I met my husband. I have seen pictures and my oldest son looks a lot like him. When the other siblings woke up that morning they knew he had died because their parents weren't there. They were never left with nobody to supervise them.

My mother-in-law was in local history books. We have copies of two different books. I do not remember what one of the entries was. In the other Mom was driving all the children from their area from school to their homes. She never learned to drive a car. In this case she was driving a horse and wagon.

The horses took the lead from her and they were on a runaway course. Luckily most of the children had been dropped at their homes. Mom still had her children on board. My oldest brother-in-law was named in the book. What stopped the runaways was that they ran between two trees that were not far enough apart for the wagon to get through.

When Mom had breast cancer she was terrified. All three of her daughters were with her. My husband and I and our children lived far away. We owned a business. I told my husband to go and stay as long as they needed each other. I could take care of the business for that amount of time. As soon as he arrived, she was at peace and recovered quickly from her surgery. The cancer did not return.

Mom had a strong sense of family. I believe that is one of the reasons we got along so well. She told me a lot of the family history. I have even been able to help my sister-in-law with providing facts from the past. I am proud of that and happy to be able to help.

I drive by their farm often while on my way elsewhere. Each time I go by I feel the pain of missing both of them. Their little ramshackle house is gone but Mom's big weeping willow tree still stands at the corner of the driveway and the road. It gives me comfort.


  1. Oh my, what a strong woman you have shown us in this piece.
    Also, I love that the young son enjoyed the cardinals outside his window.
    You say you kept the parents after your divorce, that makes you a wise woman too, doesn't it?

    1. I always try to hold on to a good thing. My mother-in-law was definitely a strong woman. I wish I had her common sense. My husband came from a special family.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to a woman you so obviously admired and cared about.

    1. Thank you. I am inspired by both my mothers. Role models like that make me strive to be a better person.