My Mother-in-law and how she shows me unconditional love…

One of the best things that happened to me a few days ago, on my birthday, was receiving a birthday card from my Mother-in-law.  Most years she forgets to send out cards so I’m ALWAYS honored when I go to the mailbox and see her handwriting on the outside of an envelope.  I’ve got to give her credit though because she’s a whole lot better about remembering than I am!  I’m ashamed to admit that I truly suck at making a day special for my loved ones.  The people living in my house reap the rewards but those that don’t live here rarely get remembered.

The point of the post isn’t to talk about remembering though.  It’s to tell you how I’ve been SO blessed by my husband’s family.  You all know by now, what MY family is like.  I don’t know what it’s like to have a close family or what it’s like to truly be loved by a family.  I know what it’s like to be “judged” and “used” by my family.  It was a shock when I was shown unconditional love by a family who didn’t have to show me love.

First of all, I want to tell you what the card said from my Mother-in-law…

“Any woman can be a daughter-in-law.

But it takes a certain spirit,

an openness,and generosity of heart

to make the “in-law” part

drop away,

leaving that comfortable word

“daughter”.

You’re a caring person…

loving wife…

giving mother…

and your presence

in the life of our family

is simply a gift.  “

Dang!  That made me cry.  I don’t even know how to accept love or compliments!  I guess it hit me so hard because my own mother doesn’t feel the same way AND I know that Katherine (Mother-in-law) really feels this way.

She didn’t have to accept me the way she did.  Ben’s family had gone through the horror of his 3 other marriages before I arrived.  They’d “accepted” every one of these former wives, even when they knew they’d never last.  Ben had a definite “history” when it came to women, that’s for sure.  But that’s a post for another day!  I’ll save THAT for when he makes me mad 😉  lol  I need to tell you that these people are Christian’s of the Southern Baptist type.  They scared me and that’s NO joke!  I’m Catholic and it’s no secret that Baptists don’t like Catholics.  These people actually READ the bible and LIKE the bible.  Except for religion class in Catholic school (a million years ago), I’d never read even part of the bible.  Ben’s family doesn’t just go to church on Sunday morning but Sunday night and Wednesday nights.  Their recreational activities revolve around church.  Mine never have.  They’re also very “Southern” people who didn’t really know or trust “Yankee’s” such as they think I am!  lol  They’re the type of people who say “Well, bless her heart”, in the sweetest most loving way.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Southern people say this only when they think you’ve done something really stupid and they’re too kind to call you out on it.

When I tell you about Ben’s Christian family, you might imagine people who don’t live what they preach.  Christians get a bad rap for being hypocrites but not THESE people and most especially NOT his mother!  She lives what she preaches and believes.  Only she doesn’t preach at all.  She leads by example.  She very quietly sits and reads her bible and only talks about it if you ask her about it.  She’ll mention something in passing but doesn’t shove it down your throat.  She’s so kind and loving that you can actually FEEL her love as soon as you get out of the car to hug her.  I’ve never been around anyone like this.  She believes in being a submissive wife.  It’s no secret that I DO NOT believe that I should EVER be submissive to ANYONE, but most especially my husband, her son.  I could go on and on.

Okay, you can imagine the amount of adjustment my new Texas family had to go through and that I had to go through for a few years.  Although, they never let me see that they were having to adjust to me.  I’m loud and bossy and sarcastic.  I say words like “God” when I get mad (that’s a very bad word to them) and I call people “dumb asses”.  They probably dropped to their knees at night in prayer over the things I’ve said and did!  They only showed the world how proud they were of me though.  I have ONLY ever been shown love by my mother-in-law.  She’s cried with me and laughed with me.  She’s felt my losses as if they were her own and she’s shared her thoughts and feelings with me.

Most of all, she’s treated my children as if they were her own grandchildren.  I wasn’t expecting that and neither were my kids.  We knew they’d TREAT my children with love and respect but we just weren’t prepared for them to actually LOVE them.  My girls feel closer to Katherine than they do their own biological grandparents.

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(Here’s one of my daughters snuggling in Memaw’s bed with “Ming-Shoe” the doll that Katherine made for her.  Julia feels safe and comfy in Memaw’s bed and I love that!)

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(she just sits, ready to give love to all her little one’s no matter their age)

Most of the time I spend in Texas, Katherine allows me to run her house the way I do everywhere I go.  You know the Mother-in-law on the sit com “Everybody Loves Raymond” right?  That’s how I expect mother-in-laws to be but not Katherine.  She’s happy to sit and read a book while I destroy her kitchen.  And TRUST me, I DO know how to destroy a kitchen.  She’s so gracious and never imposes her will on me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I impose my will on her.  She’s not used to a whole lot of commotion and when I’m there, I bring my chaotic life crashing into her’s.  I’ll never forget the time she asked me if she could “help” in the kitchen.  Of course, I thought I was being considerate and polite when I told of “of COURSE you CAN’T help in the kitchen”.  I just wanted her to sit there and rest.  I felt like I didn’t want her to go through any trouble when my family was there.  For YEARS I did this.  Finally, a few years ago, she so softly, and kindly explained to me that sometimes a mother wants to feel wanted and needed.  We live over 10 hours away from her and she never gets to be a “mom”.  Sometimes she likes to show US how much she loves us.  Wow!  She didn’t want me to be ashamed because she’d NEVER want anyone to feel shame BUT I was SO ashamed.  I learned to step out of the way and allow her to be the mom when she wants to be the mom.

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(here’s me not only taking over her kitchen but taking over her kitchen AND even wearing her apron!  lol)

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(Another picture of the mess I make in her kitchen but THIS time I had some help from my little niece Selah!)

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(here I am even taking over her Christmas tree…  Geeze, I’m just so BOSSY!  lol)

Like I’ve already said, my Mother-in-law teaches by example.  She rarely needs words.  She’s watched, through the years, as I’ve ignorantly allowed my children to get themselves into trouble.  I was a LOT more lenient than she would have been but I had more faith in my girls than I should have.  I allowed one of my daughters to spend WAY too much time with some boys she met and became friends with in Texas.  They were friends of the family’s so I felt like it would be okay.  It got to the point where she was never home for dinner and she would only come in once a day to say hello to Memaw and GG (Katherine’s mother).  I didn’t want to be too strict with my daughter and I wanted her to have fun too so I allowed her to spend the night camping with these friends and family.  I could tell that it was bothering Katherine (mine and my daughter’s actions were not only improper but just down right rude) so I began to make my daughter stay home more often.  After all, we were only there for a week or two.  Later, we found out that my daughter was doing things that I won’t mention here.  Point being that Katherine knew she was in trouble and instead of imposing her opinions or judgments  on me, she quietly let me know that I was being too lenient by her actions.  She prayed for my daughter and cried when she learned that my daughter was hurt and was going down the wrong road.  She cried real tears like she would do for her own biological granddaughter.  I still can’t get over that.

Over last summer, when I was hospitalized in ICU, my husband called his family and I guess told them that I wasn’t going to make it.  They’ve been in this rodeo more than once with me and have never made the drive to St. Louis to come to the hospital.  I didn’t expect them to this time either because Katherine is responsible for taking care of her 93 year old mother.  Besides the fact that her OWN health isn’t great.  The trip is very hard on them and impossible now for GG.  My sister-in-law told me that Katherine prayed about it and felt like God was telling her to “go now”.  They immediately packed the family up and made the hard drive with 2 small children and 3 adults JUST to see me one more time.  I don’t think they expected me to be conscious but when they walked into my hospital room, I was awake and able to speak.  I believe I was hanging on because my husband told me that I needed to hang on just a little while longer to see “Mom”.  I remember feeling SO much love radiating from Katherine when she walked through that door!  It made me WANT to get better for her.  I promised her that it wasn’t my time yet and that God was good and I was sure I was going to live.  Actually, I was more worried about her making that trip and then turning around and needing to go home the very next day.  SHE wasn’t though.  She was there for me, to hug me and to hold my hand and pray, in person, over me.  The way a REAL mother would.

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(Katherine lovingly does her mother’s hair for church so that GG can feel beautiful too.)

I feel unworthy to call Katherine “Mom”.  I know she wants me to and she certainly deserves the title…  but something inside me won’t let me most days.  I feel like to be her “daughter” , I should be a whole lot more deserving or full of grace.  I’m getting better about it but I’ve been in the family for 12 years.  Today, instead of feeling unworthy, I just want to take a second to thank God for this woman who has shown my family and I so much love.  I’m smart enough to recognize that’s it’s not very often that a wife can brag about the fact that they actually LIKE their mother-in-law.  I don’t just LOVE her, I respect her and actually LIKE her.  Thank you God for this woman.  Because of her, I know the love of a real mother and I am blessed.

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(she loves us all like we were her very own)

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A Prologue to Love by Taylor Caldwell, a mirror into my mother’s soul…

“It is not possible for us to know each other EXCEPT as we manifest ourselves in distorted shadows to the eyes of others.  We do NOT even know ourselves; therefore, why should we judge a neighbor?  Who knows what pain is behind virtue and what fear behind vice?  No one, in short, knows what makes a man, and ONLY God knows his thoughts, his joys, his bitternesses, his agony, the injustices he commits… God is too inscrutable for our little understanding.  After sad meditation it comes to me that all that lives, whether good or in error, mournful or joyous, obscure or of gilded reputation, painful or happy, is only a prologue to love beyond the grave, where all is understood and almost all forgiven”

Seneca

How powerful these words are to me.  Seneca’s words echo in my mind, reminding me a my own mother and how it seems that she doesn’t love or feel.  What brought her to this cold place she calls her world?  I don’t know.

Even more powerful that my mother gave me this book and asked me to see the similarities between myself and the main character, Caroline Ames.  Caroline is very damaged and uncaring about anyone or anything besides her money.  She can’t even feel for her own children.  Through the entire book, which took me 2 months to get through, I was SO hurt that my mother sees me this way.  Damaged, yes I am.  Uncaring, SO far from it!  In the end, I need to recognize that my mother MUST see herself and labels me for everything in the world that she hates about herself.  So very sad.

Product Details

A Prologue to Love

By:  Taylor Caldwell

Overview

In A Prologue To Love Taylor Caldwell has written a profoundly moving novel of a woman, rich beyond imagining, whose inability to give or accept love, whose fear of poverty and hostility towards the world brings in its wake tragedy and unhappiness for almost all whose lives she touches.
Caroline Ames was detested by the father she worshipped. An unscrupulous businessman, John Ames denied Caroline not only of his love, but instilled in her a horror of poverty and a faith in the power of money which was to make her the richest woman in the world – and one of the loneliest.
Miss Caldwell writes of three generations of the Ames family with great insight and compassion. Set in and around Boston during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, she has evoked the period of the great American fortunes through the intricate pattern of a family’s destiny. And she has peopled her novel with characters of unusual depth – all of whom come under the shadow of the strange recluse, Caroline Ames, and the power of her millions.
Perhaps Miss Caldwell’s most impressive achievement in A Prologue To Love is her ability to evoke the reader’s sympathy for Caroline – why it was that she so desperately needed to amass so much money at the expense of family love and community respect, and how, in the end, she comes to realize that her father’s teachings were so wrong.
It is an inspiring story of the power of love and faith in overcoming evil.
My thoughts about the book and NOT my mother?  This book spoke to me because of my own family.  However, the theme will speak to anyone.  Don’t judge someone by outside appearances…  you don’t know what lies behind the hurt and the pain.  In the end, you understand that your entire life is a Prologue to God’s Love.  This is one of my ALL time favorites and I’m proud to recommend it to anyone.
The book was written in the early 1960’s and I believe that it’s message stands the test of time.

Forgiving my father and praying for a speedy recovery…

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This is my dad. He’s 70 years old now. Despite everything that happened when I was young, I have forgiven him.  He told me that he will go to his grave, forever being sorry for what he’s done to us kids.  He believed my mother when she’d call him home from work, screaming at him that she couldn’t handle these kids and that they needed to be punished.  As I mentioned before in THIS post, Mom did this, feeling justified because she wanted him to wear himself out beating us so that he wouldn’t have the energy to hurt her.  I blame my mother for most of what happened to us because she never took drugs and never drank alcohol.  He did.  Not that that’s an excuse but she was in control of her own mind.  He always told us that “the devil in the bottle” controlled his mind.  She’d lie to him and tell him that my brother, now deceased, and I did horrible things.  Most of the time, we didn’t know what she was talking about because we were locked in our room and COULDN’T do the things she accused us of.  My baby brother would usually be the guilty party but Mom DID have natural love for him and never wanted Dad to hurt him.  In her mind, it was okay to have dad hurt J and I because we were 3 and 4 years older than Keith and she felt we could handle the blows from this huge man, who was our father.  When Mom looked at us, she saw the face of my father and she couldn’t love us.  Keith looks like her and was always a beautiful child.  She would do her best to protect him.

MUCH time has past and through many rocky years, I’ve always known my dad loved me.  He was the only one to ever show affection, pride and natural love.  He did this in his down time when he would be trying hard not to drink and do drugs.  He stopped MOST drugs and cut out ALL alcohol when my brother was killed.  It crushed Dad and he has never been the same.  He loved my brother so much and didn’t realize how he was hurting us both until the day J died.  He’s shown open and anguishing grief.  Mom, if she ever grieved, didn’t show it.  It looked as if she were going to the funeral of a stranger.  I have forgiven my dad because he allowed us to see his human side.

He’ll never be perfect and I don’t expect him to be.  I love him through his faults and his triumphs.  That’s the way it should be.  It’s not to say that I don’t still have nightmares and don’t have to work through the events of my past.  I do.  BUT, it helps because I have at least one parent who admits wrong doing and I know he’d take it all back if he could.

Right now, I’m on my way to get him to bring him to the hospital for surgery tomorrow.  His aortic valve is closing and he’s in very bad shape.  He needs open heart surgery but the Veteran’s Hospital needs to put him on a waiting list to receive the surgery where they won’t have to break his rib cage.  Apparently, they can do open heart surgery by going through the groin like they do with angioplastic surgery now.  Who knew?

Anyway, I’m afraid to lose this man.  Besides my younger brother, he’s the only link to my past and the only one who truly knows me.  It’s so scary to lose your parents.  I wouldn’t even want to lose mom.  It makes me sick thinking about it.  It’s a whole new world knowing that there aren’t parents left anymore and WE become the adults.

I know he may sound like a monster to many of you but I’m asking that you’ll keep him in your prayers anyway.  Despite all, he’s still my daddy.

I’ll be gone for 4 days, waiting with my stepmother at the VA hospital 3 hours away.  Oddly enough, I can’t get internet connection inside the hospital.  I won’t be able to follow all of you and know what’s going on with you after I leave the hotel room tomorrow morning.  Just know that you’re all in my thoughts and prayers and I’m thinking of you!

(((hugs)))