You Never Knew You Were So Special


My mother-in-law, Lois, before she was even a mother

This post isn’t amusing, or about ranch/farm life–even though my mother-in-law was an old farm gal–or about any of the other stuff I usually write here. The following thoughts about my mother-in-law are deeply personal and I debated about whether to publish them, but if this posthumous letter makes anyone want to be a better communicator before it’s too late, then perhaps it is worth sharing.

Dear Lois,

I haven’t been to your grave since we buried you almost two years ago. Not from lack of respect, but because I can’t stand it. Maybe someday.

I still dream about you at night sometimes. In the dreams, my heart leaps with joy when I see you alive, and I run to you like I am a young girl and not a middle-aged grandma.

I miss talking to you on the phone two or three times a day while you tell me the same stuff and repeat the stories I heard over and over for forty years.

I miss you sitting on the opposite end of the pew from me in church. Sometimes, for just an instant, I think you’re there, and then I remember you’re not, and you won’t ever be. The great grandkids won’t ever dig through your super-heavy purse during services again, looking for gum, and paper, and pens.

I miss you puttering around in your flower gardens and in your kitchen. And the taped on labels stuck to everything in your refrigerator. And your saved junk mail envelopes with your copious notes on varied subjects from the latest diet, to farm machinery for sale, to the weather report. (I could hardly bear to throw them away after you died.) And your three (very original) categories of illness. And your huge collection of $3 shoes.

I miss you at my back with your wisdom and prayers between me and my own mortality. It’s empty there without you. And frightening. There are still so many things I need to know and I can’t ask you anymore.

Now, it’s me praying for the kids and grandkids in the middle of the night…and I’m not as good at it as you were. I wish you could see the great grandkids, how they’ve grown. They’d tickle you to death. Blondie misses you and hoards everything that used to be “Granny’s”. She and I sometimes open the box where all your stuff I’ve saved for the kids is stored–she keeps close tabs on those china cats.

I wish you knew that #1 grandson and his family rocket around in your car. #2 and his family are living down on your old place. And #3 and his family use your dining room set with that old buffet. You’d be happy about all that.

I wish you knew I kept your old tea pitcher because it reminds me of you and the thousands of glasses of tea you served to people in your lifetime. I use it at all the family gatherings because it makes me feel like you’re still there, a little bit.

Most of all, I wish you knew how bad I feel about arguing with you the week before you died about normal human body temperature. What difference did it make if you thought 96.8 was normal, or 97.7…whatever it was?

The awful, gaping hole your absence has left in my life would astonish you. You never thought you were anybody special.

When you said goodbye to me, I wish so badly that instead of letting my grief paralyze my tongue I had told you this: When I married your boy all those years ago, one of the best things I got out of the deal was you.


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8 thoughts on “You Never Knew You Were So Special

  1. This post made me tear up. I too have an awesome Mother-in-law who doesn’t fit the Mother-in-law stereotype. We will miss her greatly when she is gone. I would like to believe that your Mother-in-law already knew what your tongue failed to say.

    • Thank you, Tisha. You’ve always been kind. She left an awful void. However, leaving an awful void is preferable to getting to the end of one’s life and the daughter-in-law breathing a sigh of relief, I suppose.

  2. Danni, this is so moving. It brought the tears like I wasn’t expecting. She sounds like an incredible woman, especially considering she wore $3 shoes–I think she and I would have been friends.I have a $3 shoe collection myself. (And I’m very curious about her 3 categories of illness). So glad you wrote this, Danni. A beautiful tribute as well as a testament that there are mothers-in-law who contradict all the negative in-law stereotypes.

    • She broke the mold for sure and she would’ve liked you too 🙂
      (All illness fell under these 3 headings:
      Caused by a gas pocket, or an inward fever, or a pocket of infection. The family always had a lot of fun with those but she would not be moved. )

  3. I wrote a comment verging on tome status, and ended up erasing it all. Thanks for doing the post. She is sorely missed.

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