Volume 4 Number 10
Waiting for Mother-In-Law
01 November 1991

I was not welcome in my mother-in-law's home.

It seemed strange to me that before our marriage my future husband never arranged for me to meet his mother. However, she did live in another town, and as students we had little time or money for travelling.

Her invitation to our wedding in my home town in North Dakota was returned by the post office with `Refused' written across the envelope. It was a shock, but I felt sure that when she met me and saw what a charming young lady her son had married she would accept me.

At the close of our wedding trip we pulled up in front of her house in Minnesota. My husband said, `Wait here and I'll go in first.' His two sisters, whom I had already met, rushed out of the house, hugging me and assuring me of their love. My husband returned to the car. I was not welcome in my mother-in-law's home.

I was not too upset. I was confident that I would win her over eventually. Otto explained that she was not opposed to me personally - she just hadn't wanted him to marry.

About a month later she arrived at our apartment for a weekend visit. She made no apology for her previous behaviour. I set out to win her approval.

As I got to know her family better, I perceived that I was not the only recipient of her unexpected and often rude behaviour. She was critical and lacking in tact with her own daughters.

After we moved to the west coast she occasionally visited us. She loved her little grandsons, and I appreciated her help with them. But there was no word of approval for me.

Otto asked me to be patient -- and she certainly tested my patience. Once when Otto was out of town, she sat in the living room looking glum. She would not tell me what was bothering her. When he returned, she told him that someone had stolen a thousand-dollar bond from her room. She suspected my cleaning woman, a high-school boy living with us, or maybe me!

Final straw
A few days later I got something out of our safety deposit box at the bank. There, in the box, lay the bond. Then we remembered - when she first arrived, Otto had suggested that we put her valuables in the bank. There was no apology or admission that she also had forgotten.

Eventually the friction and tension built up to the point where she had to go home. We were unhappy and she was angry.

Soon we received a letter from her enclosing a bill for babysitting, listing to the minute every time I had gone out and left the children while she had stayed at home. This was the final straw. Otto sent her a cheque for the amount, saying that if she cashed it our relationship with her was over.

She did cash the cheque so we ended all communication.

Later, we began to be convinced of some new ideas - that if you point your finger at your neighbour there are three more pointing back at you; and that if you want other people to be different, the place to start is with yourself.

After much prayer and hesitation, we wrote and apologized for our part in the disagreements and for Otto's resentment towards her.

Her reply was that she knew he would come to his senses because she had raised him right.

It took a while to recover from that, but we were resolved to mend the tear in the family fabric. We began by writing to her, mainly about the children and their doings. And she wrote to us. We didn't feel we should invite her to visit us right away but we visited her. It was not her way to apologize or admit a mistake so we accepted that. She dug up her peonies from her yard to give us, and was warm and loving.

Might she be accepting me, I wondered. Before she finally visited us, I had the thought, `She is my husband's mother, and I love her. Whether she likes or approves of me is not important.'

The morning she arrived, we met her train and came home for breakfast. I made toast and handed Otto a piece saying, `Here's your crust, Otto.' Grandma . came to his defence instantly, asking why I didn't eat it myself. Otto and I laughed and explained that we both liked the crust. I was giving it up for him. The strain was gone.

She lived her last two-and-a-half years with us and died in our home. Those last days she told me, `You are wonderful. You are so strong. Thank you for everything.'

I am grateful to her for all she taught me about patience and understanding and love, and for the wonderful man she raised.

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