My mother-in-law went home to be with Jesus six years ago.
It seems like longer. And, it seems like yesterday.
Of my memories of my mother-in-law, Iris, her last weeks in our home, in our care, are my favorite. I guess that sounds crass. But it wasn’t because she was dying, it was because she was living. She was in our home, completely entwined in our lives in her remaining days.
No, it wasn’t fancy. Some of it was very hard. But much of it, was quite dear.
And in less than a month, our oldest son will marry a fiery redhead, Anne. He and Anne have been best friends since the 5th grade. John calls her “his Ginger.”
Comparatively, Iris was a redhead. I love that Iris knew Anne. She would have loved that John and Anne fell in love and are starting a life together. As an aside, she would not have approved of John becoming a Marine. None of us had the stamina for that choice. But boys will be boys. And sometimes, they join the Marines, just to see if they can push their mothers and Mimi’s over the edge of neurosis.
I miss Iris more than ever as this wedding approaches.
This last week has been very hard. My husband Justin, Iris’ youngest child, had an abscessed tooth. The pain started on Monday of last week. Monday of this week, he finally had a root canal. Justin never gets sick. Seriously, never.
Seeing him in this much pain, knowing the wait before him, and witnessing him at his weakest was devastating.
Justin never stops. I believe he inherited this from his mother and his father. They were both hard workers, with an incredible work ethic.
And I recall one of my favorite stories, one that Iris told often. When Justin was about six, she took him to the dentist for a cleaning. When he exited the exam room, he was holding his jaw, cupped in his little hand. Justin’s big brown eyes were full of tears and… he was limping.
Because, you know, a good limp is indicative of inordinate dental trauma.
I think she told me that story at least three times after she was bedridden, two weeks before she slipped into sleep. Iris voiced the memory with such delight and love, I can almost see it in my mind.
So yesterday, as I sat in the dentist office waiting for Justin to emerge from his root canal, I reached for my phone twice, to call Iris and let her know how her boy was. When I heard the dentist, through the heavy pine door, giving Justin his aftercare instructions, I reached for my phone again.
She would have wanted to know.
And I can almost hear her soft Southern drawl, “God love him, that poor baby.”
The door opened, and I watched for the limp.
He staggered out. His eyes bloodshot, and his demeanor weary. He apologized to me, repeatedly, for making me wait and spending money on a root canal.
He meant it.
But I reminded him that he had no control over how long root canals take. And I met him tit for tat, as I waited, I did some online shopping.
He held his jaw and laughed, “This was an expensive day.”
Yeah, he has no idea. I like to shop when I am bored.
Still, I craved Iris’ voice.
And, as delighted as I am that my son is marrying Anne Elizabeth, I now know what Iris craved from Justin, that she lost when he found me.
Perhaps it is the emotion of the last long week. Greater is missing my Marine son, knowing he has met with many trials lately, and being fully aware, he didn’t need me anymore to work through them.
I have been a mother-in-law for a while now. Our oldest daughter, Maggie and Christian eloped a couple of years ago. But it is much different to marry off a daughter than to marry off a son. Maggie and I are extremely close. And a girl needs her mom.
And boys will be boys.
They will grow up and become Marines and fall in love with redheads. I condone most of this. Yes, I want my sons to love and be loved. Of my memories of John’s boyhood, I recall a trip to the dentist where he had to have 9 caps put on his teeth. His teeth were damaged very early on, from weak lungs and heavy doses of steroid breathing treatments.
I paced the floor waiting for my little boy to emerge from behind a big pine door. When he did, his face was streaked with tears. His demeanor weary.
And he said, “Why didn’t you go with me? That hurted so much.”
But the office wouldn’t allow it, and I had been helpless to wait for him on the other side.
I hugged him and put him in the car, I promised him ice cream. And I could see him dose off in his car seat from my rearview mirror… and I called Iris.
Her soft Southern drawl over the phone brought the familiar comfort, “God love him, that poor baby.”
Perhaps it is the wife’s nature, to cling to and make the boy her own man. But on this side, I wish I had been more careful with Iris. Mothering boys is not for the faint of heart. And I will tell my daughters these stories, be easy on your mother-in-law, she is gaining a daughter, and losing a son.
The night after John had his dental caps put on, he ate copious amount of spaghetti noodles covered in butter and parmesan cheese and I vividly recall praying, “Dear Lord, please bless John with a wife who knows how kind and gentle he is. And please, let her fix him enormous amounts of spaghetti and wait patiently for him at the dentist.”
I am awestruck by the memory.
[bctt tweet=”I now know what Iris craved from Justin, that she lost when he found me. #motherinlawing” quote=”I now know what Iris craved from Justin, that she lost when he found me. #motherinlawing”]
It seems much of it has come full circle. I feel certain Anne is as smitten with Jami’s boy as Jami is of Iris’.
I hope to honor Anne. And, although I have known Anne since she was eleven-years-old, I hope to know her for always. I hope to know her well and I look forward to calling her daughter, and friend. Truly, I believe she is an answer to prayer.
However, I cannot help to hope and pray she will crave my voice, albeit whiney and high pitched, when John is at the dentist or meets with hardship. Even if boys don’t need their mamas after they fall head over heels, mamas still need to know, their boys are doing just fine.
I miss you, Iris. Justin is feeling much better… I knew you’d want to know.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:4
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