Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye

When my husband and I first met, it was in Denver. He was on active duty in the army. I met him in the late fall and we dated, with me eventually introducing him to my then four year old daughter.  Before we met, he had already been scheduled to be transferred to Japan, of all places, right after Christmas. So we dated during that time, and said good bye-and then wrote every day and spoke on the phone at least once a week.  Those were, after all, the days before email, texting and cell phones.

Scheduled to be in Japan for one year, at the six month mark John took a thirty day leave and returned to Colorado.  After three month of dating and six months of long distance contact, we decided to get married-immediately, during that leave.  My mother flew in from Germany (my father could not make it), and a small wedding was created in about seven days, after which my husband returned to Japan for another six months

My future mother and father is law were also unable to make the wedding-they lived across the country, we were marrying in just a couple days, and they still had dependent kids at home. They gave us a generous wedding gift.  More importantly, they invited me and my four year old daughter to come to live with them for the next six months-in their home, sight unseen.  Let me simply say that the older I get, the more I realize how great a leap this step was. Not only were they getting a daughter in law, they were also getting a four year old child in the bargain. These were empty nesters, almost ready for retirement and happy to be where they were in life.

That time was worth it's weight in gold. One one level, it was filled with normal "getting to know you" difficulties. We were different people doing different things, and I was another woman in my mother in law's kitchen. My mother in law (and sister in laws as well), were what we used to call "rules girls".  I tend to live outside of the box. On another level, it was a chance to know each other on a level that rarely happens between people who become connected by marriage, at least so quickly. More importantly, from the day my daughter entered their home, they welcomed her as their first granddaughter-and continued that relationship in the same way after welcoming three of their own biological grandchildren as well.

After my husband returned from Japan, we moved to Washington, and for the rest of our marriage lived on the other side of the continent or overseas while my in laws (and their other son and daughters) stayed close to home.  They all saw each other regularly, while we traveled on Christmas or during summer vacations.  Still we remained as close as possible, and when my husband died, rather than moving to my first choice of Colorado, we returned to Texas.  This was a chance both for my children to learn more about their grandparents, and for them to hear about their father. My in-laws are the kind of people who regularly included him, and reminisces about him in regular conversation-the good and the bad. For example, my son learned that his father and a friend climbed onto the middle school roof, got stuck and could not get down, as the various other misdeeds of a too active and too smart kid in the school system (some folks think these kinds of things should not be shared-I disagree heartily, by the way.  There are no perfect people and kids should see their parents as human and imperfect).

In their mid to upper eighties, my in-laws were active.  Every year until the year before last, my mother in law would say "Next year it's up to someone else", and then the following year announce that Christmas was at her house, and no, she did not need any help.  Two years ago at Thanksgiving my father in law said "Oh, I have something to show you in the garage", and presented me with a Triumph spitfire, completely taken apart in the garage.  He then announced that tomorrow he was taking out the engine (at which point the grandson, son and son in-laws all looked at each other and knew what hey were doing the next day). They had a very happy marriage and retirement.

In the last couple of years my mother in law had a very hard time and her quality of life had gone down in the extreme.  She had fallen and broken her arm in two places, gone to rehab for three months and then gone home.  She lost her balance and hit her head and split it open-when her daughter was with her-and the same situation happened.  She was tied to her chair, losing her balance and often in pain and discomfort.  She had signed an order not to resuscitate, but of course there is little one can do when all the circumstances are not life threatening but just miserable. She was scheduled to move to an assisted living facility last Tuesday, and died during the night before.

Having just returned from her funeral, I can say that it was a celebration of her life.  After saying goodbye, the extended family went to her favorite restaurant, where we toasted my mother in law and remembered her life. Few tears were shed, and we will remember her well.

And today, one week later, my father in law is having one heart valve repaired and one replaced-as he promised my mother in law he would..............




15 comments:

  1. Barbara,I am so sorry for your loss.I am honored you have shared the story of your incredibly generous, loving in laws with us. What a legacy for you and your children.. to have shared their home, been a real family.. and in later years, reunited to live near them once again.I'd say all of you are so blessed,all the way around.. yes foibles and flaws and all!! Family is all!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Madeline, yes, family is so important!

      Delete
  2. Barbara, thank you for sharing this story of love and commitment. Life is often a challenge, but there are so many sweet moments along the way. God bless you and your family during this time of loss and transition.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like a very special woman, and a wonderful family. Condolences ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good morning, I enjoyed reading your post. I am sorry for your family's loss. I hope your father-in-law does well with his medical situations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, he seems to be doing well!

      Delete
  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. Yes, it's good to remember the good times vs the bad times.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Barb, my kindest regards at the loss of your mother-in-law and grandmother to your children. Your account is truly a celebration of life.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm sorry for your loss. Your mother-in-law must have been a lovely person. Hope your father-in-law is doing well after surgery.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your in laws sound like wonderful people. You were smart to encourage your son to experience them, and cement his memories of his father. Their generosity and definition of family says it all. Thank you for sharing their memory with us.
    May your mother in law rest in peace. May your father in law grow healthy in next few weeks. May their memories continue to encourage you to be the person you are.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Those in-laws can be such treasurers.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Barb, thanks for sharing this lovely personal account of your family. I'm so sorry for your loss, and hope your father in law gets along OK. My own MIL has taught me a great deal about how to live life. (She will be 100 in February!) Yours sounds like she was a treasure!

    ReplyDelete

Things I'm Enjoying This Monday-And A Couple Things That Are Frustrating Me!!

One of the many reasons I don't do serious (other than visiting family) travel during the summer is the chance to stay at home. Warm w...