Updated: Dec 9, 2018
I sipped my cup of morning liquid gold, feeling a little like I am in a ‘fog’. My head pounds, my eyes burn, and my shoulders are a knotted mess, I think to myself ‘sinus infection’. Which, if I am honest with myself has been brewing for about a week. I know better, self-care is so important but somehow the week had just gotten away from me. I glance across the room and focus on the clock on the stove 6:35. A quick internet search reveals, the Medic Quick doesn’t open until 9 am, I sigh and swallow hard, I lean my head back against the sofa cushion just a little too quickly and the room spins, I think ‘definitely sinus infection’. I straighten my head, slowly this time, and open my laptop and start scrolling my Facebook feed. A sponsored ad pops up “To my Daughter In-Law”
I hesitate, the ad is a photo of a necklace with two rings interlocking, a larger ring and a smaller ring. The simplicity and symbolism is stunning … I pause and read on the description below the image.
“We both love the same man. I love a man, who as a little boy asked me to kiss his boo-boos, fix his breakfast and tuck him in bed at night. I cried at his struggles and rejoiced at his triumphs. I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I did everything I could to raise him to be a loyal husband, provider and gentleman. I wondered if any mother ever loved a child more.
You are the woman who found my little boy. He was the man you wanted to marry. The man whose life you wanted to share throughout eternity. For all the prayers I ever prayed, you are truly the answer.
For you love the man who is my son.
For that, and so much more, I will forever love you.’
I sucked in a breath, as a tear slipped down my cheek. It came over me before I could recognize it was brewing in my chest. My throat closed tightly as a sob escaped my mouth, my left hand grabbed my forehead that was pounding as my right hand covered my mouth to try to push the sob back. I knew it was useless to try to control this unforeseen wave of emotion, I let my hands drop from my face and emptied the sudden sadness from my heart. This little fit that ran over me ended as quickly has it arrived. I let out a long sigh and looked back at the image of the necklace, and my mind wandered ...
I pushed the door of the deli open with my left hand, my right held Ashley as she sat propped on my hip her legs gently wrapped snuggly around my waist.
Me: Ready to see Grandma??
Ashley’s crystal blue eyes connected with mine, the word ‘Grandma’ brought out a wide toothless grin and a small squeal of delight from her throat.
Me: Oh, she’ll be so happy to see you!
Ashely kicked her feet and buried her head in my chest. I kissed her forehead and sucked in the smell of her hair, I looked up and nodded towards the guys behind the deli counter and exchanged our ‘hellos’.
I stepped down from the deli, into the small space Mom and Debbie had rented for their shop.
Debbie, Joe’s cousin, and Mom had a very special relationship. They often joked they were more like sisters than Aunt and Niece … which is how they came to name their gift shop “Weird Sisters”. Mom stood behind a small counter sorting a stack of papers.
Me: Hey Grandma!
MIL: (turning towards us) Well … hey right back at ya!
Me: Shop looks … (Ashley’s legs start kicking, she’s leaning forward so quickly towards Mom I need two hands to hold her) .. whoa! Easy Ash … Grandmas happy to see you too!
MIL: Come here! (reaching out to steal Ashley from my arms)
I watch as Mom holds Ashley at arm length for a moment, then pulls her close for a warm hug. I step behind the counter to store my purse and the diaper bag. As I turn, I see Mom talking so quietly to Ashley, I can’t hear what she’s saying, but I can see Ashley’s face. A smile creeps across my face, Ashley is intensely watching Mom, I actually can feel the love between them. Most would say that a child of six months can’t make the connection I’m seeing, but I beg to differ.
MIL: Thanks so much for watching the shop for us today. I shouldn’t be more than a few hours.
Me: Take your time … we’ll keep ourselves busy … won’t we Ash?!
Ashley’s face once again burst into a wide toothless grin and her legs start kicking around Mom’s voluptuous frame. Mom throws her head back and lets a hardly laugh escape her lips.
MIL: Gosh you are a happy kid!
Me: she is Mom … God looked down upon me and said ‘girl there’s only so much you can take’ and He gave me a happy beautiful baby … she doesn’t sleep much but damn she’s always happy, so …. (giggling) I guess God thinks I can’t take on much!
MIL: I beg to differ (shaking her head)
Mom passed Ashley back to me as I stepped out from behind the counter, as we passed, she kissed Ashely’s head again. I watch her gather her purse and a file, then she scribbled a quick note on a pad by the register.
MIL: Here’s the name of a woman that may come back while I’m gone, she has some really neat earrings and necklaces I’d like to show Debbie. If she stops in, please see if she can come back tomorrow or if she’ll leave a few samples for us. Oh, and UPS may bring some packages, I’ve been waiting on a few things, you know those ‘witch balls’ you love? I ordered more … you don’t have to unpack them … I can do that, and over here (pointing to small three boxes) I have a few pieces for Sue (scribbling again on the note pad) her name is here (pointing to the note pad) she’ll be back to pick these up, they are gifts for her office staff, she’s leaving to start a new position.
Me: Should I gift wrap them?
MIL: Oh, that would be great … ask her ... (pointing again behind her) the paper is over there, you do such a nice job … I’m horrible at wrapping! Oh, crap I really need to go ..
Me: go ... GO! Ash and I got this … (looking down at Ashely on my hip) don’t we baby?
My question is answered with a squeal and again she buried her head in my chest. Mom stepped from behind the counter.
MIL: You sure you got all this? There’s a lot of little things going on …
Me: yes, yes …. I’ve got it … go …
She turned quickly on her heal, her skirt kicked up creating a beautiful swirling motion, her hand simultaneously adjusting her hat. I thought to myself, I love her style, her grace … I love that she is her own person. She looked back over her shoulder, smiled and waved as she stepped up into the deli space ....
I sipped my coffee, as tears slipped down my cheek. My head pounds, as I realize I’m probably an emotional mess because I’m not feeling well. Although, while the memory is beautiful, and it makes me smile, it also makes me realize I miss so much of the woman my mother in-law once was. I miss our talks, I miss how she could have a dozen things in her head to do and not struggle to pull not only one of them but many of them out. What I wouldn’t do to have one of those days back.
I look back at the ad on my computer screen … that necklace could have very well been something she would have carried at ‘Weird Sisters’ … and something she would have given me. I try hard to push away this wave of sadness, this feeling of grief, instead … I’ll work to keep the memories of who she was alive, those memories, ones very much like this one I know will get me through this dark chapter.