Love you forever
It is easy to judge a man’s character by the way he treats his mother. My husband is no exception.
My mother-in-law lives in our basement apartment these days so that she is not needing to be responsible for the up-keep of her own home. Although physically, very fit, her eyesight is deteriorating and that presents challenges.
As a family, we have embraced her. She is, quite frankly, quite easy to embrace. She stands tall (still much taller than I am), dignified, and fiercely proud of her family. She is the matriarch in all sense of the word. She is the glue. With a strong sense of morals and values, Liesbeth lives her life playing second fiddle to her children. It is always about the children – what they want (if it is not immoral or illegal and if it is in line with her values) comes first.
As an immigrant, she and husband did very well in life and lived quite comfortably after having worked hard and saved all their lives. Times were not easy for her while she was new in Canada; she had to learn a new language, new customs, and raise five children while doing so.
It was without hesitation that I agreed to have Kevin’s mom stay with us. Of course, we consulted our own children as their lives would be affected by the loss of their play space in the basement – which became more of an escape from the adults as they grew into young teens. Having been through the care-giving process with my parents, my children were quite aware what may be involved in the “adoption” of Grandma process. The kids were excited that they would have someone to visit in the basement, someone with whom they could have tea and perhaps someone from whom they could sneak the odd goodie here and there.
She has been a wonderful mother-in-law to me throughout the 24 years that I have known her. Unlike many who may meddle in their children’s affairs, Liesbeth has remained on the side-lines, offering support if and only when it was asked for. She has been good to my children, remembering their birthdays, and remembering to acknowledge their accomplishments when opportunity arose.
I have also watched as she supported her other children through challenges that life brought them. Again, it was always a moral path that she took and tried to lead them down. She was a mom who was always, always, always present for them.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I remember her reaction quite clearly. She was standing in the kitchen, listening to my frantic Katya cry out loud, “you have cancer, don’t you??? Don’t you??”. I knew Liesbeth was waiting on the side-lines for her turn to offer support. She waited. She remained strong. When Kevin and I had finished our initial debrief with Katya, I knew Grandma would be next. She tried to speak. Her voice cracked. That was it – she hugged me and sobbed with us. I have never called her, “Mom”, but on that day – she was my mother. I needed her to be there to hug me and she was there. Kevin needed her too. And over time, David and Ben did too as they heard the news of my illness. She offered quite support throughout my treatments. She was my sounding board while everyone else was away at school and work. She and I sat on the front porch and talked about death – and we talked about life. She was, well, simply there for me. She was there for all of us.
As most do as they age, Liesbeth reflects on her age and her memory loss. I know it frustrates her to not remember birthdays. “I always remembered birthdays,” she often comments to me. “And now, I can’t remember anything. I used to do my own taxes, you know. I used to keep everything in order.”
“I know, Liesbeth.” I tried to reassure her by acknowledging her struggle.
And then Kevin said it. They were the words that I so wish to hear from my own children, “Isn’t it a good thing that you live with us so that we can help?”.
I heard such kindness in his words. He was accepting, reassuring, and comforting to her. He hugged his Mom. And then he teased her – as he often does – just to break the tension.
This morning was like a Kodak moment for me. I was sitting on the couch checking out the weather forecast for the day. It was a typical Tuesday morning scene. Liesbeth was sitting in her spot at the kitchen counter. She was all dressed and gowned up in her “volunteers” outfit. Tuesdays are the mornings she volunteers at the local hospital. She was waiting for Kevin to be ready and he would drop her off at the hospital. Kevin came downstairs and walked into the kitchen.
“You ready, Mom?”
“I’m ready when you are” she replied and stood up tall and erect.
Kevin stood beside her and gently kissed her forehead. “Let’s go.”
And that was that – off they went.
I don’t know what it was about that kiss. Maybe I was more sentimental this morning that usual? Maybe Kevin was happier than usual? Maybe it was no longer stinking humid. I was filled, however, with such profound emotion. It immediately brought me to that Robert Munsch story, “Love you Forever” (http://robertmunsch.com/book/love-you-forever). “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, your baby I’ll be.”
It’s that last transition in life that gets me every time. The story begins with the young mom cradling her baby and singing this song to him. The story ends as the young woman, now old, being cradled by her son who turned into a full-grown man. This morning – that story came to life. The love was palpable. I’m sure if Kevin were to burst into song this morning – he would have quoted from Robert Munsch.
I married that man – the one who loves his mom. She is a good woman. He is a good man. He is a momma’s boy. And I know any boy who loves his mom so fiercely will also take good care of his family. I know he will love us forever – a lesson he learned from his Mom.