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January 26, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: My mother-in-law

My mother-in-law is visiting us for a few days this week. This means that we paid extra-special attention to cleaning the house prior to her arrival. Although she’d never say anything directly, she’s the type that notices dust and stains and things out of place. She is also old fashioned enough to consider the cleanliness of the house to be in my purview, not her son’s (just like she is old fashioned enough to insist on assigning my husband’s last name to me even though she’s aware that I kept my own).

We are very different in many ways. In addition to my not-quite-to-her-standards housekeeping, we have different political and world views. She is extraverted and loves to talk and I’m aware that my introverted tendencies puzzle—perhaps disappoint—her. I know I should call her now and then to just chat, but chatting on the phone for long periods of time is my definition of one of the rings of hell. I have tried to introduce her to texting (my favorite way of non-face-to-face communication), but she isn’t very interested in, or comfortable with, technology. She is also loves clothes and shoes and is a lot more focused on fashion and style than I am.

So, you might ask, why have I chosen her for my GratiTuesday post? Of course I am grateful for her giving birth to my husband and raising him to be the man he is today. But it’s also because she is a truly remarkable woman.

My mother-in-law has more energy than just about anyone I know. She travels, entertains, works out, volunteers, plays bridge several days a week, and is the first one to extend a very capable, helping hand to anyone who needs it. She always has a smile and a kind word and makes friends wherever she goes.

She has endured more than her share of challenges and tragedies in her life but she has managed to keep a positive attitude and push ahead. I have never seen her complain or burden someone else with her pain. She has a few health issues but you would never know it by talking to her or observing her.

This is just a small portion of her shoe collection... which puts mine to shame.

This is just a small portion of her shoe collection… which puts mine to shame.

One of my mother-in-law’s favorite things to do is shop at thrift stores and consignment shops. She can put together a stunning outfit on less money than I might pay for a single pair of shoes. She is teeny-tiny so she wears clothes beautifully and, at 83 years old, she rocks skinny jeans, leather jackets, and high heels. Her favorite color combination is black and white, which she augments with touches of red, purple, and animal prints. She loves shoes and has more pairs (often bought second-hand) than most people I know – and they are way cuter and higher heeled than most of mine.

My husband and I will enjoy her while she is here and probably heave a sigh of relief when she is leaves. We will become a lot more relaxed and a less concerned about a little dust here and there. Our house will soon look comfortably lived-in and become quiet again. And, we will miss her.

I should probably give her a call in a week or so just to chat.

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25 Comments

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  1. Kristine Puzel / Jan 26 2016 5:54 pm

    You made me laugh out loud! And you describe her perfectly!! Enjoy her while you are able!!

  2. Keith / Jan 27 2016 4:10 am

    Janis, your next to last paragraph says it all. I hope you had a good visit. Keith

  3. Kate Crimmins / Jan 27 2016 6:25 am

    None of my husband’s family including his kids live locally. Over the years, many of them have come to spend time with us. I’m more like you in temperament and I like my “alone” time. We had some years with visitors coming every other week. I no longer worry about clean or whether there is cat hair all over. In fact, the cat hair limits some allergy-prone visitors. I know about that sigh of relief (?) when someone leaves. (Everyone is well aware of my mantras “guests and fish stink after 3 days.” and “guests are not allowed to bring guests!”) By the time my husband and I got together, his mother was already in a nursing home with medical conditions that didn’t allow for home visits. She was a wonderful lady and I always wished that I could have gotten to know her better but it was not to be.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 27 2016 5:47 pm

      I can’t imagine having as many guests as you did in such a short period! I am lucky that I was able to know both my father-in-law (although he is gone now) and mother-in-law. It’s interesting to see how family traits, both physical and personality, are passed down.

      • Kate Crimmins / Jan 28 2016 8:12 am

        I missed all that. His mother was a old lady with memory issues when I met her in her 90s and his dad (who he keeps telling me I am a lot like) was long gone.

  4. Jude / Jan 27 2016 6:43 am

    This made me smile. My relationship with my Mother in Law was sitcom worthy, but I truly miss her now that she’s gone. I’m ashamed to say one of my biggest issues was Mother’s Day which was always more about her than me to both my husband and kids. Now it is finally all mine and I see how small I was. Yeah, give yours a call sometime just to chat. Oh, and I love your blog!!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:27 pm

      I know that she would appreciate the call and I do intend to make the effort more often. That is so interesting about Mother’s Day. I’m not a mom but I think I might feel a little resentful like you did. It’s not small, it’s human.

  5. snakesinthegrass2014 / Jan 27 2016 11:07 am

    Wonderfully balanced, and I use that word on purpose because with in-laws it’s all about balancing, isn’t it? You take the good with the bad. It sounds like you’ve found a pretty good balance with yours. My current mother-in-law is very ill, not able to travel, and is too preoccupied to really be interested in me. That suits me just fine, though I do try to be as positive as I can be in our rare phone interactions. My ex-wife’s mother was a bitch on wheels, so I’ve had the mother-in-law from hell too. I’ll take one who’s preoccupied anyway. Enjoy your visit… and when you get your privacy back. 🙂

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:30 pm

      She is the only mother-in-law I have had so I think I did pretty well. And, if I look half as good as she does when I’m her age, I’ll be doing just fine.

  6. Carol Ferenc / Jan 27 2016 3:16 pm

    People like your mother-in-law are so inspiring, especially at that age. My mother-in-law always treated me like her own daughter and I loved her for that. I don’t care for lengthy phone calls either, but that seems to be the preferred or only way to keep in touch with people sometimes. My elderly dad has no email, no Facebook and no cell phone so I call him at home, hoping to catch him when he’s awake. Then I shout into the phone so he can hear me. I don’t mind ~ he loves getting calls.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:33 pm

      She really is inspiring. I also think that she appreciates the strong relationship I have with her son so that makes her happy. I have a funny mental image now of you shouting in the phone to your father. Very sweet.

      • Carol Ferenc / Jan 30 2016 10:04 am

        That does paint a picture!

  7. Denise Hammond / Jan 27 2016 5:10 pm

    I loved my mother-in-law and we kept in touch after my divorce from her son right up until her death. She would join on us vacations and was my Scrabble buddy. But I did laugh at your post because when she would visit she would always be checking for dust even though she was no great housekeeper herself. I do agree with you about phone chats – I hate them, too.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:40 pm

      It sounds like you had such a wonderful relationship with your mother-in-law! I’m not sure my MiL so much actively checks for dust (at least I hope not) as she might see it and give me a silent “tisk-tisk.” And, then she’d dust the spot when I’m out of the room.

  8. Terri Webster Schrandt / Jan 27 2016 9:40 pm

    Aww, what a wonderful tribute to your mom-in-law! She sounds lovely and quite the firecracker, too. Cherish all of your time with her, I am glad to hear she is healthy and vibrant!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:42 pm

      She is a firecracker! She is also incredibly healthy… thanks to her good eating habits and regular trips to the gym. My husband and I often joke that she will probably outlive us.

  9. Shelley / Jan 28 2016 8:47 am

    I think we have a tendency these days to categorize everything and everyone as good or bad. It is a true gift to be able to cognizant that we all have elements of each, in varying degrees.

    It also helps when you understand that extroverts and introverts have different styles and needs. Myers Briggs helped me immensely, given that I am an introvert born into an extrovert family. (Fortunately, I’m close to the line…)

    Does yr mother in law read your blog?

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 28 2016 3:54 pm

      You are so right! We are all made up of so many parts and pieces and it’s important to appreciate a person’s unique composition. I’m sure you’ve read the book Quiet, which has helped my understand my – and others – personality better. I would say that I’m semi-close to the line too… but then I need to retreat for a while to re-charge my batteries.

      My MiL doesn’t read my blog but I hope that, if she ever did, she’d be pleased. She really is remarkable and I have immense affection and respect for her… which I hope was clear in my words.

  10. joannesisco / Jan 29 2016 7:09 am

    Based on your description, your MIL sounds absolutely adorable!! … but I fear my housekeeping skills would also likely wrinkle her brow 😉

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jan 29 2016 6:12 pm

      She is a bundle of energy! I KNOW my housekeeping (or, lack-there-of) isn’t up to her standards but oh well. I’m pretty sure no one lays on their deathbed wishing they spent more time cleaning their house.

      • joannesisco / Jan 30 2016 4:18 am

        Let’s hope we have some of her energy and style when we are her age 🙂

  11. Beth / Jan 29 2016 7:15 pm

    This was beautifully written. A loving testament. You should probably share it with her to let her know how much you appreciate her.

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