A few days ago, it was 2 years since my mother in law’s passing. My husband went to her favorite Florist shop, Leonards in Beverly, and had a gorgeous arrangement made which he brought to his Dad’s house. The two of them spent a few hours celebrating her life, a jack in Bumpa’s hand and a Tito’s for Charlie—also a nice walk down to the beach with the dogs--my father in laws favorite place on earth.
I joined them for their walk to the beach, and also brought “Bumpa” dinner, I knew on this day, it would be great to have a meal made as it is a sad day and sad time for our Bumpa. Married for over 60 years, so much of his life with his wife and best friend by his side, but every day he gets up, he gets going and we are grateful for Nel (his golden retriever) who protects him as he dotes on her. Bumpa is by far the kindest, nicest man I have ever known….
I am writing this post in honor of my mother in law, and also in honor of my relationship with her. I know there are so many stories of “mother in laws”, I am one of the lucky one’s, I had such a close relationship with her, and loved her as she equally loved me. Losing her was numbing, I honestly feel like I did not have adequate time to mourn her, while I felt sad, I needed to stay strong for my family, for my husband, and also, having just lost my Mom a year before this, I was grieving my Mom, and could not go to the place of truly grieving both of them. Her illness and decline was over a 2 year period, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s, which I have learned ALZ to be an incredibly awful disease, it is so difficult for the patient and even more so for the family. We need to do more about brain health, Alz research--but I digress, I want to focus on my Margaret, and share more about my relationship with her and this most amazing other woman in my life.
When Charlie & I started dating, I knew we were from different worlds, but what I did not realize is how similar (while different) our worlds were (as I write this I realize this is another blog post). I remember so clearly the feeling I had before meeting his parents, while I was excited and looking forward to it, I was also inwardly intimidated, not by them, but by my insecurity of not being “good enough”. Think about how often we conjure up feelings of “less than” or fears, insecurities and “stories” when in fact they are not truths, they are not how it turns out and they do not serve us. Thankfully I also brought my “A game”, meaning I opened my heart and mind to all the commonalities, and also, all the good inside of me, and lead into this new place, these new people with my heart. I began to expand my experiences and also create such impactful relationships with my in-laws, it was a friendship in the making. Their influence on my life is something I can’t even explain, all that I can say is we all agreed that the Mellor Family and the Guyer Family absolutely embraced each other, and both families had such appreciation and respect from the beginning.
Peg and I really began to bond even more when Kaili arrived, every day she would drive 30 minutes to be with us, and her and I watched in awe, the baby girl that had changed both of our lives so deeply. My first child and her first grandchild—she dedicated her life at that time to being Gramma, and loved every second of it. Not only did she help me with Kaili, she also helped me, nurtured me, and did anything to support my role as a new mom. She was so sensitive to the demands of motherhood and also the exhaustion and inner fears of being a new mom—this was so different from my family, in my family, you had babies, and warriored on, you just did it, and it was no big deal. On one hand I had Peg saying “oh Pam, how will you do it, please take a nap, let me do the laundry, let us bring you dinner” in addition to all the help she offered and provided every day. Where as my Mom, 8 grandchildren in, mother of 5 and grandmother for 20+ years was all about, “you just do it, you’ve got everything you need inside of you, it’s instinctive”. My mom’s coping mechanism was a "suck it up and warrior on" style (although she will share she absolutely loved every minute of raising kids, she loved it so much and I believe it was just her make up). Peg was also an incredible mom, and she was more vulnerable about motherhood—as she understood real issues at this time of exhaustion, depression, anxiety and isolation (all real, all raw, and she taught me so much, that would later serve me in life). In those long days in Georgetown MA, I loved being a Mom, I loved my time with Kaili and I loved my time with Peg. We would stare at the baby, talk about life, fold laundry together and when not talking about serious things, we would laugh, poke fun at ourselves and build such respect, admiration and full on love and friendship for each other. It was so very special and I am so very grateful. Our parenting style was different, I was all about the schedule and Peg was not—she would comment at times but she saw how much my babies thrived, and she followed the schedule while also breaking the rules, just perfect for a Gramma. Her and Kaili had a special bond, she loves all of her grandchildren equally, it went from this special one on one time, to fast and furious a pack of 5 grandkids, who she just adored. “The Bumpas” became the place where all 5 grandchildren loved to be, house was transformed into a nursery and playroom and these two beautiful people just adored their roles as grandparents.
When it comes to motherhood we never do it alone—we have conversations with others, people in our lives that support us, and are there to cheer us on. Peg was my cheerleader, she was always checking in on me, and also gave me way more credit than I deserved. She would always say she did not know how I did it, even thou I learned ways and strategies to put support in place (I think that is where she gave me credit, creating a home, family life, and being there while building a career—the fact is, I could not have done any of that without her)!
We had many jokes and she loved when I would call her “Margaret”, of course, it was in a playful way, she would laugh so hard with my sassy tone and would respond back “Pamela”! It was our joke, our place to poke fun of ourselves and each other. When the decline in her health and memory declined, I would smile at her and raise my voice “Margaret”, she would smile so much that the home care attendant would say “she knows, she knows”.
While I could never do as much as my husband and sister in law did for their mom in those months and months of her decline, in my own way, I was able to sit with her, talk with her, rub her leg gently and tell her how much I loved her. How much she meant to me, and also told her she was going to be okay, that everything and everyone was going to be okay. I told her we would take care of Bumpa and how much all the kids loved Gramma. I miss my conversations with her, I miss her laugh, I miss her intelligent views on things, she was so smart and also so kind. We had deep conversations about life, we also talked about stain removal, and household chores (she was the queen of getting a stain out), the mundane, ordinary conversations that matter, especially when you turn it into humor and laughter. We would joke about Tupperware, how we both had a pet peeve when people would leave the house with it, say they would return it and never do (this was before the disposable ones)—we would laugh and any time we sent each other home with things in Tupperware we would cheerfully say in that joking way “Keep It”!
I think about how many people waste their energy and time on complaining about the in-law (granted, there are many that have good reason to do so). Beyond those difficult ones, what if we open our hearts and mind to the good. I opened my heart and mind (while scared and of course so loyal to my own mother), and because of that brave move, I was blessed beyond I could imagine with the most amazing other woman in my life. I love you “Margaret” and you will always be in my heart forever.