As you may or may not (probably more not) have noticed I’ve been absent over the last few weeks. It turns out when you work a grown-up job you’re given added responsibilities – something my brain is having a hard time absorbing. I’m having trouble finding the time to write – partly the reason for me not posting my Not The Kool Kid post that I was supposed to have put up last Sunday – and also I work with people. They talk to me. And I have to respond. It’s painful.
But having to interact with people, daily, isn’t the only thing that has kept me away. Worse than that, my mother-in-law passed away 2 weeks ago. To date, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. She was only 65-years-old; when I was a kid if someone that age passed away I always thought, “65 may as well be 100, what’s the big deal?”. As an adult, it’s so young. Regardless of what anyone may think, 65 is young. My mother-in-law was an incredible woman; she had a great sense of humor, she was a hard worker, and I dug that as sweet as she was if she didn’t like you, you knew it. I admired her. The day after she passed my husband and I began planning her services, a celebration of life at a church not too far from my in-law’s house. The pastor asked us questions to get to know her better, and when I described my relationship with her I was surprised by the pastor’s response: she said, “so you had a very unique relationship with her.” I don’t know how many people have the opposite but I consider myself lucky to have had the bond that I had with her. She was my friend, and she was my mom; I will love her until the end of time.
We worked hard to make the service one that properly honored her as well as one that would make her proud. But as you know by now things don’t always just go normally for me, made evident in the week following her passing. Fortunately, these are all situations my mother-in-law would’ve found hilarious, and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
My husband and his family are from Tennessee – so deep in Tennessee that he still refers to himself as a red neck even though he’s been a Texan for about 12 years now. I don’t debate him though because whenever he’s around family or friends from his hometown his accent becomes prominent. Sometimes I have to work hard to decipher what they’re saying, which I think is good for me because if my writing career doesn’t pan out I’ll be able to one day find work as a translator.
The day my MIL (I’m using the acronym, she would be cool with it) passed we began calling everyone to let them know but we honestly had no idea how many people would be able to come down for her service. I’ve met a few of my husband’s family members but I was about to meet ones that I had always heard, well, not very good things about. When they arrived I was already on guard, I was ready to defend my MIL’s honor. Right off the bat, they did a few things to annoy me but nothing to make me send them packing – also I’m not that gangster.
The service went as smoothly as we could’ve hoped for, but I have to be honest, I’m not one to get excited about event coordinating and aside from the stresses of losing my MIL, I was really stressing about the service. First, my FIL wanted 3 particular songs to be played, which was fine, except we had to burn them to a CD. Yes, a CD. For everyone born in the mid- to-late nineties, a CD is what we had to listen to music on before Apple gave us iPod’s and iPhone’s. Google it and weep for us. It turns out that when you haven’t burned a CD in like 8 years it becomes a little more complicated than you’d expect. We couldn’t get our MacBook to burn it and pretty much nobody could help us. Fortunately, the church had a speaker that we were able to plug our phone into via an auxiliary cord. Unfortunately, I had to be the DJ so I kept having to get off the pew, kneel by the speaker, play the song, and have it blare into my ear. On top of that, the collage of photos we put together began coming apart during the service. My MIL was not one for showing off her pictures, and as we sat and listened to the sermon, we watched as one by one, photos would fall off of the canvas they were placed on. I’m pretty sure that was her way of messing with us. All in all, it was a beautiful service, full of love, hilarious stories, tears, and memories.
So many people arrived for my MIL’s service, including my parents, brother, sister, and niece. I was very happy they were able to attend but also nervous for them as the only people they really knew were me (duh), my husband and father-in-law. Fortunately, my parents are the opposite of me. My dad is great at talking to people, probably from his days as a police officer. After the service, we gathered at my in-law’s house and while I was running around getting things together, I tried to make it a point to talk to my parents and introduce them to people. They didn’t even need me; a cousin of my FIL’s found her way to my dad and the conversation (which my dad pulled me aside later to tell me) went like this:
Cousin: ” So are you and you’re family from Mexico?”
Dad: “No ma’am, none of our family is from Mexico”
Cousin: “So then, you’re not Mexican?”
Dad: “No ma’am, our family is primarily Native American.” (Oh yeah, you’ll hear about that in my Not The Kool Kid series)
Cousin: “Really? What tribe are you from?”
Dad: “Most of our family is Cherokee but some of us are also Apache.”
And then she said…
Cousin: “I am so sorry for what my people did to your people.”
She then went on to say that she never learned the extent of “how her people treated our people” but had heard about it. She was very apologetic and made sure to tell my dad she could tell we weren’t Mexican because of the “way Jenn looked.”
It was great, and I’m almost sad that it’s a true story and I didn’t make that up. My mom and dad have the best sense of humor so when he told me this my mom and I laughed and laughed. We’ve never had someone say something like that to anyone in our family before. That’s like apologizing for your great great great grandfather owning slaves. As long as you didn’t own the slaves and aren’t down with or act on that kind of mentality or behavior, I think you’re in the clear. I appreciate her apology nonetheless, and if she ever wants to take me to dinner to make up for a century of mistreatment I’ll happily accept – cooking is such a pain in the ass. (Side note: my husband and I had just seen Hostiles the week before so it was an interesting coincidence)
It didn’t stop there. I don’t know how this came up but she announced to aunt J (an aunt of my husband’s who we absolutely love) that she had alopecia and then removed her wig – which I have to say, was such an awesome wig that I’m thinking of saving up to buy one. I never in a million years would’ve thought she was wearing a wig. Anyway, aunt J was empathetic to her situation, to which cousin replied, “it’s not all bad, I’m bald. EVERYWHERE.” And now you all know just like I do. You’re welcome.
This cousin (who I’ll call T), while eccentric, was actually incredibly nice and even though her people mistreated my people, I’m really happy I got to meet her and genuinely enjoyed our conversations. We’re cool. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for everyone.
My FIL’s brother came to town and his wife wasn’t always the nicest to my MIL. In fact, the nicest behavior I had to offer her was to ignore her. And the uncle… I’ve actually met them before, about 4 months ago. When they showed up this time he came with an accessory: a cane like he was Mr. Peanut. He didn’t have a cane the last time I saw him but I thought, maybe he hurt himself sometime in the last 4 months. Well, let me tell you, that cane came and went. At one point I had flashbacks of that Seinfeld episode where Costanza pretended to need a cane because I would notice that, when he did use the cane, the side he needed it on would vary. Other times he didn’t need it at all. Eventually, I just decided it was necessary during times that Budweiser consumption was at a high. As a matter of fact, there’s a million dollar idea. Beer canes – when you think you need one it might be time to stop. Look for me on Shark Tank.
Eventually, everyone went home, and here we are, figuring it out one day at a time. Sometimes we’re sad, sometimes we’re OK, it’s very back-and-forth and that’s OK. I still talk to her, and I know she was watching all of this transpire, laughing. That’s who she was. When bad things happen I immediately go into fix-it mode – what can I do to make things easier to handle this? But the truth is there’s nothing I can do, there’s nothing anyone can do. I process things by trying to find a quick solution but that doesn’t always work. And when it doesn’t I go to my backup: humor. It’s how I deal. I’m not a very emotional person, it makes me uncomfortable. I cope with humor – the funnier the better. So that’s what I did here. It’s been a rough time but I’m still trying to find the funny, and I hope all of you will too.
Dedicated to my beautiful, incredible mother-in-law, my mom, who I will love forever and ever.
Not The Kool Kid: Part 1 to be posted on March 4th.