I have been neglecting my blog recently. This is why.
My mother-in-law died last week. Cancer, so not unexpected, still distressing. She was much loved and will be missed by family and friends. She is the first of my children’s grandparents to pass away.
She and her three brothers were raised by their single mother after her father was killed in the war when she was very young. She suffered ill health as a child resulting in mobility issues throughout her life. This did not stop her enjoying tea dances and the pleasures of travel. She was curious within her known parameters, sociable. She liked to go out and about.
She was still a teenager when she married. Their two children arrived within sixteen months of each other, a boy and then a girl. She chose to return to paid work, sharing childcare with her husband who worked shifts. She felt it important that a woman retain a degree of financial independence, an escape fund, and berated me when I entrusted all my worldy wealth to her son.
On retirement they moved house to be close to where we live. This was soon after my second child was born. I believe she would have helped more with our children had I asked. I was hugely protective of my cubs.
Throughout their lives she and her husband worked and saved and invested their money. She told me many times that she intended to enjoy what they had earned. They would eat out, meet up with family and friends, make regular trips to shops. It was a remove from the thrift in which I was raised.
My in-laws owned a touring caravan when I first knew them. They sold this to buy a static expecting us to use it as well. We did once, but it was not for me. So many of the activities she enjoyed were not for me. I believe she struggled to comprehend what I was.
They went on cruises, city tours and short breaks to comfortable hotels. After retirement they enjoyed lengthy trips to the antipodes, suggesting once that we may wish to relocate. She urged us to travel more, perhaps forgetting the challenges children present. We were happy enough as we were.
Everywhere they went they would make friends, actively keeping in touch when they returned home. On the occasions we were introduced, these friends appeared very much like them.
My mother-in-law was a skilled cook. She and her husband regularly entertained. My children appreciated the dishes she prepared, especially given my inability to produce anything so tasty.
Her enthusiasm for her hobbies – flower arranging and then quilting – took her into the heart of the local community. She helped to run clubs, organise events. She believed it was important to have a hobby and poured time and resources into improving her skills. She took classes; bought magazines, tools and materials; shared tips with fellow enthusiasts. I was presented with many beautiful flowers over the years. She made each family member a personalised quilt. The end results of her talent and creativity were impressive.
From time to time she would invite me, and then my daughter, to local craft events but we had no desire to become involved. She did not invite my husband or sons.
When she berated one of my boys for kicking out at his sister during a squabble, forcefully stating that he should never kick a girl, I felt compelled to correct the admonishment. He should never kick anyone. I raised my children to be equals.
My memories of my mother-in-law are not entirely positive and this saddens me. We viewed life differently, in outlook and priorities. I sometimes felt she was trying to make me more like her. I do not know how she felt about me.
Her bar seemed so high. I did not have my children potty trained at eighteen months as she had managed. I did not seek her advise on childcare despite how well she considered she had raised her own children. She told me that mine were spoiled, an accusation they deny. She did take pride in their achievements.
My husband bore the brunt of our differences. He juggles the demands of the ladies in his life as best he can.
The last few years of his mother’s life were dogged by various health issues yet she remained stoic. It has been difficult for her husband and children to watch her decline. Whatever our personal frictions, she was mother to my husband, grandmother to my children. Her memory will live on in them.