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.
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.