My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman. I am truly thankful to be so blessed with a woman who has loved me from the first time she met me (a good 14 years ago — wow!), who never has criticized any of my actions even when I was making a dumb mistake, who doesn’t interfere in our marriage or demand that we make her the center of our lives.
Honestly, the only criticism I can make of Mary is that she never fails to show up at my house on those weekends when I am the most stressed. I”m usually so slam-busy that any housecleaning probably happened during one of Coart’s free periods when he has a chance to run home after lunch. I am not the best housekeeper on a good day, but things really go to pot when there’s a play going on, or yearbook season, or when I’m trying to grade final exams. Mary is too kind to comment on my failure to attain that virtue which is “next to godliness” for her visits.
Coart & I started dating in 1995. Our mothers met only once. During Thanksgiving of my senior year, my mom had recovered enough from chemo to ride down to Greenville with another lady at church who was coming to campus to visit friends during the holiday. Coart’s mom also had plans to visit campus for turkey day since Coart’s job prevented him from heading home for the long weekend. For a single night, the planets aligned and our moms had a chance to share a meal. I have a snapshot somewhere in my photo box of these two remarkable women. Coart & I have often commented that they would have been very good friends, if they’d been given the chance.
It’s hard, though, to build a relationship with a woman you don’t really know. Family ties are like that — you’re united by something deeper than the typical foundations for friendship, without regard for interests, geography or life experience. Still, being a particular woman’s daughter forges a bond that you can’t replicate with any other human being. I guess that’s why “mother in law” is its own term. It’s yet another type of loving relationship that exists among humans, in addition to “parental” or “friend” or “mentor/teacher.”
I’d like to know what it’s like to be the friend of your parent and not just their child. I’ve never had that experience myself, though I caught a fleeting glimpse of the phenomenon with my dad just before I was married. I know that the parent-child relationship is supposed to grow into something deeper and more meaningful. I wonder if “empty nesters” find their relationships with their grown children to be as fulfilling as it was to raise them.
My sideline observations of parenting have occasionally pulled me into the deep end of that pool before I was ready and I start drowning in emotions I am not yet experienced enough to handle. I have felt shadows of the empty nest syndrome this year, and it sucks pretty hard.
There’s got to be a better purpose for this [current emotional pickle] than merely driving home the lesson that while I cluelessly skipped off to college without much of a look back, my parents remained beind and let me go. Dame, I was so totally clueless. Confident in the steadfast assurance that my parents loved me and supported me, I launched into college life with enthusiasm and joy. It’s not that I wanted to leave them; I just was so excited about starting life “for real.” (Well, sort of. Remember that I went to Bob Jones. *coughs* haha)
I remember being shocked when I heard that my mom cried as she drove out of Greenville that hot Saturday morning in late August of my freshman year.
It never occurred to me that she would miss me.