Letters from Louise: Happy Mothers-in-Law Day

Mothers-in-law get a bad rap!  They are the brunt of comedian’s jokes and are often vilified in movies and TV sitcoms.  But in spite of such negative press, most moms-in-law have great relationships with their children’s spouses, some even becoming like a second mom.

I was blessed to have a mother-in-law who adored me.  Being married to an “only child,” my husband’s mother lavished her love on me while my husband was overseas. Carl and I met in college, fell in love and were married at a little Army chapel just eight hours before he was sent overseas. A place where I could not go. I stayed in college and finished my degree.

On weekends, I often visited my parents. Fortunately, Carl’s parents lived in the same town.  Not having grown up there, I didn’t really know his family so it would have been easy to put off building a relationship with his parents until after he was back in the states.  But somehow it didn’t seem right to ignore my new in-laws so I got into the habit of visiting them when I was home on weekends. Since Carl’s dad did shift work, his mom and I were often alone on the day or evening of my visit. We baked cookies and made fudge to send overseas, then popped popcorn and watched the late movie on TV. We looked through photo albums and talked for hours on end about the person we both loved most—my husband and her son. We discussed religion, health and plans for the future. One night she explained the illness that had been slowly robbing her of life since she was a young adult.

Growing up in a small coal-mining town, Etta Mae developed severe emphysema and was advised to never have children. She did anyway—just one.  Doctors told her she would never see that child grow up, but Etta Mae had a secret weapon. She trusted a powerful God and had long ago asked Him to allow her to live long enough to raise her son.  We talked about it at length. Often when I spent the night in her home, I could hear her through the night, struggling to breathe those breaths that were getting harder and harder to take.  She needed new lungs and in 1966 there were none to be had.

More than once she was at death’s door and finally, the doctor made the call that brought Carl home on a 30-day leave. The best medicine Etta Mae ever had was seeing her son walk into that hospital room and give her a big hug.  She recovered enough to leave the hospital.  We even took a short drive to view the future site of Lake Eufaula. All too soon, Carl went back overseas. A couple of months later, he was called home again. His mom was back in the hospital. Her last trip. I remembered her request of God–to raise her son before she died.  Petition granted!

I am so thankful I didn’t put off building a relationship with my mother-in-law until my husband was back home. It would never have happened and what a terrible loss that would have been for both of us.  Instead, I have beautiful memories of a woman who loved me like a daughter. I just wish I had more.

In case you don’t have this kind of relationship with your mom-in-law, do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the mother of your mate. You already have something in common–you both love the same person. And the best I can tell, we can never have too many people loving us in this lifetime.

Happy Mother’s Day, Etta Mae. Wish you were here!

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