Today we celebrate my mother-in-law‘s 90th birthday. Her actual birthday is 1/30/30. Today, on this day that we celebrate this milestone in her life, I remember the gift that she is to me. Not only did she give birth to the man that I married but she has been like a second Mama to me ever since they moved in across the street when I was in the third grade.
Maria Magdalena, or Maggie as I have always called her, recently stayed with us for 10 days. Her presence was a gift. I had projected that I would lose my space and my opportunities for silence while she was staying with us. And the truth is I have written several blogs and I can only do those when I am sitting in the silence. That tells me my practice of silence is paying off. I entered the silence while engaging with her and Raymond to write and publish my blog. My goal has been to accept and be the silence in whatever situation I find myself not just when I’m alone. Not only was I able to do that because of my practice but because of Maggie’s comfortableness with the silence in herself and her willingness to be present with me in the silence. I also went deep into the processing old fears and old belief systems. Something I normally only do when I am alone. I found space in our silence. We coexisted beautifully. I have a newfound appreciation for her and her experience of life.
At 90, and with her memory an issue for her, I marvel at her resilience. I marvel at her willingness and desire for connection. I marvel at her trust. She trusts us with her well-being she trusts us to respect her. She trusts us to love her and care for her. I marvel at her adaptability. I marvel at what she does remember. And what I noticed is that while she may remember a trauma or two from her life, she mostly remembers the love. The stories she loops on are ones filled with love and laughter. She loves to tell me the one where she caught my sisters in her kitchen “borrowing“ eggs. They thought she was at work. She surprised them. She giggles as though it is happening right now and she remembers how big their eyes got when she “caught“ them.
She tells me she has forgotten so much but the bits and pieces she remembers bring her such joy. She loves when I tell her a story I remember about her and my son, Cory. And sometimes that sparked a memory for her that she then shared with me.
One night when she was with us my husband played his role as RJ the DJ as we created a playlist for her 90th birthday celebration. It was such fun to see her remember and sing along to “If you’ve got the money honey, I’ve got the time“, Green Grow the Lilacs, Crazy, as well as many others. She remembered loving to dance but my father-in-law not liking to go back-and-forth ( meaning fast dancing of the time). He preferred the slow ones where he held her close.
On this, her 90th birthday, I honor the gift she has been not just to me but to anyone blessed by her presence. Having grown up across the street from my future husband she has been a part of my life since I was in the third grade. She has almost always been a part of my landscape. But I don’t believe I ever really appreciated her until my son Cory was born. She rushed to our side in Hawaii. And from that moment on I knew I could count on her. She and my father-in-law, Jack, often traveled to wherever we were stationed to be with Cory so that I could go on a replenishing retreat. They would go ahead to a new duty station and paint and repair a home for us to move into while I drove across country.
When we moved back to New Mexico, Cory always knew he could call his grandma for a ride if I were not available. She has been a constant in my life. As precious as my own mother. She has always been there for me, for Cory, and of course for Raymond.
I am grateful that we can be there for her now when she is the one who requires support. I am grateful for the lessons she has taught me throughout my life.
When I think of my mother-in-law the word that comes to mind is devotion.
She was devoted to her husband of 68 years. She is devoted to her faith. She is devoted to her family; her children, her grandchildren, her remaining extended family. She is devoted to connection; often wishing to call extended family.
She has visited us many times and in all our locales and we lived with her for four months when our home was being built here in New Mexico. But this “visit “to our home for 10 days was a revelation and a delight.
I am grateful for the help you have been to me over the years Maria Magdalena.
I am grateful for the lessons I have learned through the interactions we have had over the years.
I am grateful especially for the insights I garnered from the days spent with us recently.
I am grateful for being loved by you. I am grateful for the opportunity to love you.