Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bitter Sweet

Today is my mother-in-law's 70th wedding anniversary. It's the first anniversary without her husband, who died last August. I am honored to have joined this family thirty years ago.

Jim and Lucile had five children. Their first child, a daughter, died at birth with the cord wrapped around her neck. That wouldn't have happened in these times. I still can't comprehend the grief from that loss and the fear for each successive pregnancy.

The four survivng children are all married, with marriages ranging from twenty-seven to forty-two years. There are eleven grandchldren (six are married) and seven great-grandchldren.

I hope for a similar legacy, although I doubt I'll make it to a 70th wedding anniversary like Lucile has.

More than anything, I wish I could chat and joke with my mother-in-law about the ups and downs of being married to a Balthrop, of raising four kids and meeting their individual needs and what it's like to have eleven grandchildren. But she had a major stroke shortly before I met her, permanently paralyzing her right side and stealing her ability to speak.

For the first twenty-five years I knew her we had some fun. She has a wonderful singing voice and I always sat close to her in church to hear her hum the songs. Some of my children have inherited her voice. She was good at writing notes, laughing at the funny things my kids did and was generally encouraging and always appreciative. She made sure Jim behaved. (She and I could share exasperated looks behind the backs of our husbands.)

I do miss the ability to have a conversation with her about what it was like to have four kids, then four teenagers and finally grown children. I particularly miss the stories she has in her heart about each individual child - my husband and his brother and sisters. Jim wasn't paying attention to the same things a mom would pay attention to and while he told good stories, it wasn't what I hungered for. My faith tells me I will hear those stories some day, I'll just have to wait a little longer.

In the meantime I thank God for the marriage of my in-laws and the example they set for me, my husband and our children to follow.


Anonymous said...

awesome!!! I wish for a relationship with my mother in law that is like the one you shared.... I bet you didn't have to sign a guest book or address her as Mrs. Balthrop..

You are a lucky lady!

Sherry said...

Thank you, Kerry. As I just told Rick in an email, I'm reading a book right now that is really getting to me. It's about a woman taking care of her dying mother and realizing that though they'd always seemed very different and not very close, they really had much, much in common and much to admire in each other. I am completely embarrassed to say I'd lost track of the date and not even remembered the anniversary. I have been thinking a lot about Daddy this week, though. Read the email I just sent Rick if you'd like; I explained there. I love you. Sherry