For the last 35 years, I have had the same mother-in-law (MIL). I have been lucky with my MIL. She loves me and my boys, constantly finding ways to help us out over the years with baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, praying and the “don’t tell Dad but here’s some $$$ just incase you need it” money gifts! She has always been positive about our marriage and family, although in the beginning she must have wondered what on earth her only son had brought home!
I entered her family like a freight train. Head on, whistles blasting. She didn’t get to meet me until we were engaged and well on our way to being married. My husband and I were living in New Zealand at the time of meeting, his family were in Australia. When that first meeting took place, it was a harrowing experience for both of us. You see – the airline had lost my luggage and I had been in the same clothes for two days and one night while we drove from Melbourne to the country town an hour out of Adelaide where they lived. I know I was stinky and crumpled and unsure of myself, when I stepped out of the car to meet this very stylish, immaculately made-up, perfectly permed lady that was to become my MIL! We sat down to tea (best china) and cakes (homemade of course) and nothing that I was experiencing made a bit of sense when I looked at my handsome, sloppy, daggy, no dress sense, sport obsessed fiancé.
Years later, when talking about our first meeting – MIL has often said that she was scared of me and then quickly realised that she would have to lower her expectations for her son, because obviously he loved me and had chosen me!! Every now and then she would come out with classic comments like this – with absolutely no understanding of what she had just said and how it might affect the person she was talking about. I absolutely, love this about her …. once I understood that she did not have a mean bone in her body.
Over the years, it became obvious to MIL that I didn’t really have a domestic bent and so preserved fruit & jam that was so sweet I couldn’t eat it, made its way to Queensland, where we were now living. Along with curtains for our house; machine knitted jumpers by the dozen; pages of hand written names from the local newspaper – for when the babies started coming; home-made honey biscuits at Christmas; and then there were the months long driving visits to stay with us ….. with no going home date! I had never experienced anything like this. Not that my Mum wasn’t a happy homemaker – she was. But this was on a whole different level!!
I had some advantages – MIL could bake up a storm but I could cook her out of the kitchen. And I made amazing babies! Winning! We each had our gifts and we learned to accept the other’s ways and our love and respect for each other grew strong.
Time has marched on. We have both had too much loss in our lives. MIL is now aged 96 years old and has been through the deaths of her husband, step-daughter, all of her brothers & sisters and of course her much-loved son – my husband, Adrian. Too much sadness for a mother – they aren’t supposed to bury their children. She is an amazingly strong and determined woman.
MIL still chooses to live alone, in a retirement village, in the same country town where I first met her. She manages her own money and only stopped driving at 90. She has help with showering & house cleaning but still insists on cooking, doing her own washing & many other things that I think she should not be doing! She is being careful, she says but has now had 4 or 5 falls in the last 4 months. She won’t press her emergency button when she has a fall because she would rather wait until her next booked doctor’s appointment to be checked out! This worries me but she tells me not to. She only tells me she has fallen, weeks after the event – so she won’t be a worry to me!!! She cut her toe last week when cutting her toenails, but can’t see that she needs a podiatrist to do it! She was silly and would have to take more care, she says.
She loves me and my boys and always will. I live too far away to visit often but our phone calls are filled with love & laughter & pride in her Grandsons. I’m learning to let go and let God. Soon, she won’t be able to make those phone calls anymore and we will just have the precious memories of the love she gives us.
And of course the memory of when she told us that she had to have a small medical procedure on her head because it had fossilised!!! We are sure she meant calcified but will forevermore enjoy sharing about MIL’s fossilised head!