I think about my mother in law. a lot.

I never got to meet her - Martha passed away when the son I eventually married was a tender 12 years of age. I hate that. I hate that I never got to meet her.

But I still feel like I know her, and sometimes I think I can even feel her laughing in appreciative delight over my shoulder at some inexperienced motherly blunder I committed.

Like when Wyatt pooped in the bath.

I'm pretty sure Martha thought that one was a classic.

But I get really sad, sometimes, that I don't get to sit down with her, face to face, and ask, "did Bill ever poop in the tub?"

See, I'm pretty sure that Martha and I are kindred spirits. There are a few tells.

The first is that we both like to cook. Martha had a whole slew of recipies that she tweaked to make her own - like I do - and I'd like to think that she loved to do it for the same reason I do. That gratifying moment when your husband walks into the zone - where he can smell what you're up to - and he stops, closes his eyes, breathes in deep, and smiles. All is right with the world. And when you put that sucker on the dinner table, and theres that silence of anticipation as your people come to grips with the delights that you have in store for them. As Bill always says (and did he get this from Martha?), the first bite is with the eyes.

When I make one of her recipies so that Bill can have that "just like mom does it" feeling, I don't get to call her on the phone and say, "now what did you mean by a 'pinch', and how exactly do you make a meatball Sweedish?"

But I can imagine her there, sometimes, making dinner in my kitchen with me, adding her Martha touch. I'd be deliciously scandalized by the embarrassing stories she'd tell me about Bill the child or the teenager ("you know he used to do his hair in a mohawk? He'd spike it, and then he'd put a cheerio on each tip" she'd say. "No!" I'd say. "I have pictures," she'd say.), and I'd make her proud by telling her about the man that he has become.

Martha played the violin. I play the violin. I've played Martha's violin - oh, how it can sing - but I never got to hear her play. This makes me extremely sad. But I do have her record collection at my fingertips, and so I know what she liked to listen to. I can imagine her turning on her favorite Beethoven symphony, and turning around the room with Wyatt (and future grandchildren) by the hand.

I know that Martha was fierce about her faith. And though we don't share the same denomination, we do share a devotion to God and Family. I just know that Martha was fierce about her family, too.

And - most of all - I have the McCrery's. Brian, Clinton, Lizzie, and my Bill. By their fruits ye shall know them - whether they be good. And Martha, my dear, dear friend, they are GOOD.

Lizzie looks just like her on the outside (remarkably pretty), and I'm sure looks a great deal like her on the inside, too.

Now, let me tell you, folks. I love Lizzie. I just love that girl. I can't even bring myself to call her my "sister-in-law" because that feels so separated. She's not my sister by law, the law merely confirms what I feel so deeply in my heart. And I really feel that because I know Lizzie, I know Martha.

Full of life.

A remarkable lady who is ever present in my life, even if she was never a physical part of it.


b. said...

This is a beautiful tribute...I'm sure somewhere she's read it. At least, I hope that's how it works!
Hoss' mom died when he was 14 too.

Lizzie said...

You are my dear sister stepper and I love you.

Jen said...

Stepper, you are such a wonderful writer! I wish I could write like you, my words are so boring, but when I read your words, I really can feel what you are saying. Thanks for sharing your fabulous thoughts.

Tamsin said...

That was beautiful.

I have an aunt who passed away almost three years ago, and I still think about her a lot. Sometimes I swear she's right there telling me to fold my laundry! My mum refers to all of my organizing and list-making as "the spirit of auntie Hazel" :)

That Girl in Brazil said...

Um, seriously, why aren't you famous?

You should be.

(And this made me cry.)

Grandpa Rusty said...

Art, I loved this tribute. I feel like I know Martha a little bit now. I often think about what Bill's parents are missing by not being here to play with grand children, but then I remember that they probably knew them before they came, and for much longer than we've known them here. Still, I treasure the moments I have with Wyatt and his parents, and I can't help it that it makes me sad sometimes that Bill's folks aren't here to enjoy those moments in mortality.
I look forward to meeting Martha one day.