Mothers-in-law are the butt of so many jokes and complaints in life. I sometimes wonder what my two daughters-in-law think of me. I know that my son-in-law thinks I’m OK, but he likes just about everyone.
Over the years I’ve heard several friends say really awful things about their mothers-in-law. One of my friends called her mother-in-law “The Wicked Witch” until the day she died at age 95.
Yesterday I had lunch with my mother-in-law, Paulette. We have this routine once or twice a month on Thursdays. We laugh a lot and totally enjoy each others company. She is my friend.
It’s an easy, totally non-forced relationship. How I wish I would have had the same kind of relationship with my first mother-in-law, Edith.
Edith was my mother-in-law for 15 years, until her son and I divorced. She was a good woman who rarely, if ever, did anything to make me angry. She adored her grandchildren and watched them whenever I asked. The kids loved her, too. But I never really liked her that much.
It took me about 30 years to figure it out. The answer was simple. She was not my mother. My own mother was killed in a plane crash when I was only 19 years old and had just finished my freshman year at the University of Missouri.
She and my Uncle Adolf were returning from the funeral of my aunt in Memphis, Tenn. My aunt had been killed in a car crash in Texarkana, Texas. The Braniff flight on which my mom and uncle were passengers returning to Omaha went down near Falls City, Neb., on Aug. 6, 1966.
There were no survivors. It was the first time my parents had ever been anywhere without each other.
I had always loved my mother unconditionally. I remember when, in my freshman year of college, my boyfriend at the time had asked me if my mother had any faults. I was stunned. I couldn’t think of any. I had to call her up and ask her that question. She thought for awhile and then told me that she should do more volunteer work.
She worked full-time assisting my dad, as well as helping take care of my ill Aunt Edna. I don’t know how she could have found much extra time to help even more people. To my brother and me, as well as my cousins in Omaha, she was as perfect of a mother as could be found anywhere.
Why was Edith alive and not my own mother? It just wasn’t fair. Edith didn’t love me like my mother did. How could she be a grandmother, and my mother couldn’t? Those thoughts didn’t consciously enter my mind way back in the 1970s and early 1980s. But they must have always been there in the back of my mind.
Not that long after my ex-husband and I divorced, Edith had a stroke and was never well again. She lived her last years in a nursing home. I never went to visit her. Not even once.
I know we all wish we could do certain things over again. Being a kind and loving daughter-in-law to Edith would have to be in my Top 5 “Things I Wish I Could Change” list.
We all know, but not always act on, that it’s not good to stew over what could’a, would’a, and should’a been. We can’t change the past.
But, as with everything in life, we can learn from our mistakes.
What have I learned?
Try to enjoy each person in your life as they are — not who or how you think they should be.
Claire Flatowicz, 66, a retired teacher and grandmother, wrote this blog for momaha.
Read her blogs every other Tuesday on momaha.com
Photo Source: rgbstock.com
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