mother-in-law, life lessons

My mother-in-law, in her 80’s, has taught me much through the 40 years I’ve been married to her son. We all get wiser with age and life experience, she’s no exception. I’m still trying to abide by her favorite piece of advice,  that it’s better not to speak one’s mind in anger, because those words can never be taken back. And she’s followed her own advice, without fail. 

The first encounter with my mother-in-law was when I phoned her son to invite him to a college prom. Shutting myself into a dorm phone booth, I repeated the speech I had prepared. “Hi! You might not remember me, but…” My heart raced in anticipation of hearing his voice at the other end of the phone. When I heard “her” voice instead, my heart stopped and I gulped. Expecting her to refuse my request, I asked for her son anyway. To my extreme delight, she asked me to wait while she called him. Hallelujah! My heart was racing again…

Since that day, my mother-in-law has shown nothing but support and love for my relationship, and marriage, to her son. Her generosity isn’t reserved for just us, it extends to her 11 other children as well, and her many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She never speaks unkindly towards any of us, or about any of us. She is a living lesson in self-restraint and compassion for others. 

Early on while dating my husband, I learned another valuable lesson from my unwitting mother-in-law. In those days, she was younger and feistier, and given to using a high-pitched, piercing voice when nagging her children about some undone chore or mischievous act. Who could blame her? With 12 kids to care for, I’d have taken a long vacation into the next millennium. I remember once witnessing her storm through the house, screaming the name of the villainous child, who quickly escaped out the back door. Those of us present glanced at one another with knowing smiles. 

That scene often came to mind while raising my daughter. When upset my voice dropped several octaves and my words were measured, as I reprimanded her for inappropriate behavior. The only time I screamed at her, my daughter stood in absolute shock near the kitchen table looking as though she had escaped her body, hovering overhead until the tirade was over. So learning what not to do from my mother-in-law, disciplining my daughter was less exhausting. But then again, the odds were in my favor having only 1 child to her 12. And God bless her, she went on to babysit many of her “moapunas” (grandchildren). I have yet to experience that pleasure. Will I even have the energy?

still learning, from her…hugmamma.

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a very special mom

Rather than wait for Mother’s Day a year from now, I wanted to acknowledge the extraordinary love of a mom for her children. She no longer lives nearby, instead moving to be with her daughter in another state after the dissolution of a 26 year marriage.

Our daughters were both aspiring to be ballerinas, hers a few years older than mine. For a brief period, I worked with my friend at the dance school where our children studied. She’d been there longer, having been a fixture shortly after its inception and continuing well after my daughter left to train elsewhere. 

Friends because of our daughters’ shared passion for dance, we knew of each other’s tribulations. Through the years, hers became more and more challenging. Both her daughter and a slightly younger son seemed on the verge of promising stage careers. Unfortunately they were sidelined by life changing illnesses.

The daughter pursued ballet with a passion that was singular. The son was touted as an up and coming actor in musical theatre. They were strikingly handsome, pale complexions framed by hair the color of espresso. The daughter was tall and elegant, the son equally tall yet casual. Their mom was understandably proud of both.

Without warning both children suffered illnesses that were difficult to diagnose. First, the daughter experienced digestive issues which have until this day gone unresolved. But through it all she, and her mom, have weathered the ups and downs with as much vigor as they could muster. 

Some years later the son developed serious sleep deprivation which affected life as he knew it. His situation also remains unresolved. But as with his sister, his mom has helped him press forward to live his best life.

In the midst of my friend’s ongoing crises, she and her husband went their separate ways. She never faulted him, at least not publicly. She may have vented privately with those who loved and cared about her well-being. She started a new life near her daughter, and is finally reaping personal rewards of which she is so deserving. My blogging has brought us back in touch. I’ve learned that she is once again enjoying her lifelong love for singing, in a church choir. And she is acting in small theatre plays! She has earned the spotlight. She is not just a survivor; she takes life by the “horns” and rushes headlong into each day. She’s never asked “Why me?” She’s always demanded to know “What can I do?” And she’s always answered her own question.

she has taught me to live life, as it is…hugmamma