A Tribute To A Great Mother-in-law
Wednesday - March 21, 2007
We just don’t give mothers-inlaw enough credit. Our culture demonizes them, or tells jokes about them, or simply tolerates them. We hear stories about clingy and possessive busybodies who will go to any lengths to control their sons or daughters.
It’s not always that way. When I first met my mother-in-law Emily, I thought, what an unusual woman. I could see immediately that Emily was a force of nature, strong-willed and used to getting her way. I could also see that she had a voracious appetite for life and a ferocious love for her family. Woe unto anyone who dared criticize or attempt to hurt one of her brood. Emily was proud of her five children and fiercely protective.
The more I learned about her the more I appreciated her individuality. My husband Ward told me about their somewhat unorthodox childhood with a woman who was in many ways ahead of her time. She was into health food before it became popular. The kids would complain that while their friends were eating hamburgers, the Jones clan was choking down concoctions of brown rice, organic vegetables and nuts. Today it’s considered a mainstream, healthy diet, but back then they hated it. They wanted to eat white bread like all the other kids.
Ward says his mom drove like a man and could shoot a gun better than his dad. I never knew that wild side of her. By the time I met her she had left such pastimes behind.
After the death of her husband she met and married her final soul mate, Rusty Cades, and they created a new life. They were travelers and artists, filling their homes with colorfully framed paintings and quirky sculptures. I quickly learned that art and music were the keys to my husband’s family. Rusty would rip into a jazz tune on his keyboard while Emily accompanied him on her bongos, singing along in her distinctively low, raspy voice.
Emily and her family embraced me immediately as one of their own. Coming from a somewhat physically reserved Asian family, I experienced a bit of culture shock the first time I met my in-laws. Being part-Hawaiian, they were effusive in their displays of affection. Every person hugged and kissed everybody else when they arrived, and then did it again when they left. It took longer to say hello and goodbye than it took to eat dinner. It took a bit of getting used to, but I loved it.
When our son was born, Emily, in true proud grandma fashion, declared him a genius. Now I have to admit, my son is bright, but I thought she was a little over the top. Didn’t matter. She was doting and generous and loved him unconditionally. And although I knew this strong woman had her own opinions, she never stepped over the line. She deferred to us as parents and did not interfere. She was the perfect grandmother and a wonderful mother-in-law.
I never called her mom, but I loved Emily. I respected her. I told her that occasionally but I wish I could tell her again today.
Her passing last week left the world a little less colorful and a lot less interesting. But even in grief, we know we are so lucky to have had this loving woman in our lives and, now, in our hearts forever.
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