What I love about my mother-in-law is that, unlike my own mother, she agreed to participate in my life. Even though we didn’t see eye to eye on many things, and even though I wouldn’t let her control my life like she wanted to, we still respected each other and carried on as friends ever since I was nineteen. She came to my Thanksgiving dinners, and she came to my kids’ parties. She had presents for the kids and little notes of thoughtfulness for me. She showed me what it is to have a family around you, and a community that loves you, and how to have a place in the world that keeps you going every day. She contributed so much to her city and to her neighborhood and to her building and to her family, and she did it all by making everyone laugh. Even when she was degrading people it was funny. I never saw her literally mad, but her anger showed in cutting jokes and social slights. It’s okay to say. She was a woman with a lot of guts in so many ways.
I admire my mother-in-law because here at the end of her life it is easy for any of us who knew her to say, she loved her life and enjoyed her life. Anything about her you didn’t like is okay because she’s a person, a human, with flaws that may have hit you the wrong way sometimes, but overall, if you are keeping score, she did more for the team than most of us ever will.
I love her because she didn’t run away when she realized I was different. Maybe she couldn’t since I am married to her son, but there are relatives that have been expunged from the record so I suppose she always held that option. She didn’t want to. She wanted to be able to say her family was a happy one, so she made sure it was.
One of her last days in the hospital she told us that all the nurses were complimenting her on her large and happy family all around her. I told her she should be proud of that.
Her answer, “It wasn’t easy.”