Today is September 9. It is my late mother-in-law's birthday, she would be. . .laughing with me about it if she hadn't passed away in 2000. She was a wise woman with a sense of humor, all tied together with tremendous charity: the selfless love for others. That made for some memorable exchanges that will always color my view of events and make me laugh when I should cry.
One simple example: We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea with Tang and sugar in it, talking about this and that. I remember she turned to me, her eyes wide with the urgency of the message, and said, "Marry the faults you can live with." It seemed such a timeless piece of wisdom I thought it ought to be delivered in Spanish instead of English, like an Old World proverb. Such a simple thing but really, it's as good a beginning for a happy lifetime together as anything else. The man leaves his socks on the floor - messy but you don't mind so much? Ok. Messy socks on the floor cause you impossible stress at the disruption of order and the proper place of things in the world? Very bad. Such simple, good advise, I will do it in needlepoint some day.
The humor? She said this to me after I was married to her son. Timing, Momma, always timing.
She left us in May, not exactly a month from my oldest daughter's birthday, not when anything important was happening, no special event that would be colored forever by our loss. The disconnection to special events instead ties my memory of her death to jokes and laughter so strong we cried with laughter:
It was spring, sometime in the mid to late 1990's. She was telling me about a time when she looked out her back window one night and saw a horrible, ugly, huge, rat-like thing, clumbering along the back yard fence.
"Oh, that sounds like a possum," I said. She looked at me with eyes wide and eyebrows raised.
"I feel sorry for possoms," I continued. "They hybernate all winter, then in spring they come wake up and come out all groggy, and all they want to do is find a member of the opposite sex and, you know... and they stagger out into the street and WHAM get hit by a car."
She dissolved in laughter, tears and all, for minutes.
Finally, she lifted her head up and said, gasping, "If..... you ever hear that I died.... and it was because I was hit by a car..... You'll know what happened..."
And we both exploded, laughing so hard tears came down our faces.
Another time, we were sitting there again, and my father-in-law went by off to his office or somewhere. She tossed a nod at him to make sure I knew who she meant, and said: "I'm just leading him on." I said, "Oh?"
"Yeah. As soon as I find Mr. Right, I'm out of here."
Me, too, Momma, right behind you.