It’s a tradition wherever parents gather privately online to write “letters” to their MILs, with the intention of getting what they want to say off their chests without any risk it of coming before their MILs’ eyes. It’s been a decade since I had even a quasi-MIL, so since there’s no chance of her seeing it no matter how publicly I post it, here’s what I’d like to say to her:
I miss you.
I know that sounds strange, because we hardly ever talked when you were alive — you worked nights and rarely put in your dentures when I was over, and I was always distracted by worries that you’d hate me for corrupting your innocent “oops” baby, always nervous from wanting to impress you in order to impress your son — but it’s true. I can’t say I love you, because I never knew you well enough to, but I loved how completely you loved all your progeny and how you were as equally smitten with and as equally unwilling to take shit from the boy-man I’d fallen for as I was. But I almost loved you, in that awkward, never quite comfortable, let’s-not-ever-acknowledge-that-I’m-shagging-your-child, in-law kind of way — and I could have, would have, if you’d lived.
But I do miss you. I miss how you knew better than to intervene in The Man’s and my relationship other than that one time you told him that teen parenting was really hard so he might want to try to avoid it (and I miss the way he squirmed and said “Mo-om!” when you confronted him with such forthrightness; it’s not often I get to see my beloved blush). I miss how you expressed your love and concern by buying us towels and silverware when The Man and I were moving up to Oregon and in together — and though I’ve lost track of which towels they were, I think of you every time I open the flatware drawer, and I care about that cheap chainstore set as much as I would any polished silver heirloom. I miss how you stopped worrying about us when we came home wearing new jeans: you figured we couldn’t be that badly off if we had money for clothes, and you were mostly right. I miss the way you’d cycle through five or six names — some of them grandkids, some of them pets — when you were calling across your so-filled house for The Man. I miss watching you two hug, your head barely reaching his chest, his arms struggling to find a place they’d fit on your no-longer-taller-than-his body.
And I mourn that you never got to meet the Boychick, never even knew he was a possibility. You had grandchildren galore by then, of course, some of them as old as me, as old as your youngest child. You probably wouldn’t have loved this one any more than the others, probably would have struggled to keep his birth month and age in your head much less the details of his daily life. But you would have loved him, completely, unquestionably, unquestioningly. You would have added another name to the list you ran through whenever you were calling for one of your family.
He’s even named after you, in part, though you might not recognize it. (The intention is there, at the least.) And he talks about you, about his other Grandma, about the one who died and whose body is under the ground in California. Mostly about how you’re no longer here, true, but you are more a part of his life than I’d imagined you would be these last ten years. I wish you could have been more.
I don’t know what you’d think of all our parenting choices — though The Man points out his beliefs in the needlessness of cribs and corporal punishment come directly from you — but I have the feeling you’d keep any raised brows to yourself and contain your criticisms to concerns over bodily harm and grievous neglect. And I think you’d be proud that you didn’t have any of those.
And that is in no small part due to you, due to how well you raised, almost entirely by yourself, the person I share my life with. You would be (and were, I know) so damn proud of him. He’s an amazing parent — not “for a dad”, not “like a mom”, but period, for anyone, like you. Although he got his sometimes-short temper from you, his love, his gentleness, his sometimes-seemingly-endless patience, his unwillingness to hurl insults in an argument, his respect for children and for the hard, daily work of parenting: those all come in part from you too.
For all that, for the existence of my lifemate, for the genes that help make my child who he is and are helping to build the child yet to come, and for so much besides: thank you. More than I can express, thank you.