I know all the jokes and cliches about mothers-in-law, but my MIL is different. She is an exceptional woman that I’ve had the privilege to know all these years. To have a connection with your MIL may seem like an unusual sentiment, on the other hand isn’t it also biblical: wasn’t it Ruth who said to her MIL, Naomi, “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people.”
My MIL is 93. Her mind is sharp, and her health, excellent. A few years ago she suffered a botched hip surgery, which left her with drop foot. However, this impediment has not slowed her down; she may not be able to walk without a cane but she continues to ride a bicycle and kayak. Her boundless curiosity in regard to human nature and the wonders of the natural world, enhance her vibrancy. She is a gifted artist and musician. She also sews her own clothes–this amazes me since I can’t sew a button on without help.
The other evening, my MIL and I had dinner. Our conversation rambled from one weighty subject to another. I had trouble keeping up. We touched on our respective childhoods: mine–troubled, hers, nothing but fond memories. This led to a discussion about an article in a magazine she had read written by Brene Brown, whom I happen to admire. “Well,” my MIL said, “I think all this talk about shame and guilt is dumb.” Now I don’t know anyone who doesn’t carry around some burden of shame and guilt, hereafter identified as s&g, (not to be confused with s&m.) She has no such burden. I don’t want you to think she’s gone through life unscathed–no one ever does that! She may have had an idyllic childhood but she also has had her share of disappointments and misery.
I continued to babble on about the s&g in my life. Geez–I could fill a book. (I think I did that). She listened attentively to my drivel, then sat back, and said, “I don’t have any problems.” I felt like George Bush, full of shock and awe. Who doesn’t have problems? For days after this conversation I stewed over this pronouncement, and I came to this realization: I don’t have any problems either. Really, do any of us?
I’m looking at my life differently now. I want to age gracefully just like my MIL; take care of my body, stay curious, and let go of the past. Where she has gone, I will go…