This week my mother in law is visiting from Winnipeg. My other mother in law. Mom II.
Kevin and I were only married a year and a half before he died, so I can’t say I had a long term relationship with my in laws. Even though we were thousands of miles apart, I still felt a kinship to my mother in law and brother in law. They were Kevin’s family, so they were my family. In the first weeks that Kevin and I began chatting online his father suddenly died and I think that was the first instance where we knew how important family was to both of us.
I’ve seen relationships with in laws destroyed following the death of a spouse. There always seems to be so much blame and guilt surrounding a death, even if it’s anticipated. The death of their child may complicated how they accept the spouse of their deceased child. It has to be incredibly difficult. But for some reason, Linda and I never had that.
We both shared some guilt, and a few years ago when she joined me at Camp Widow in Toronto we had an opportunity to have a soulful heart-to-heart expressing our deep regret for the ways in which we acted when Kevin was sick. I felt guilty for the resentment I had towards her while she was visiting Kevin in the hospital – particularly the motherly care that she wanted to offer him and us. I felt territorial about how Kevin was cared for, unwilling to share the burden of the care he needed. It was complicated. But we got past it and neither of us holds one another down because of those mistakes we made.
I don’t think we’re the normal family. I don’t know what normal is anymore.
“My mother in law is visiting from Canada!” I exclaim. But I don’t want to explain. No, she’s not Dave’s mom. She’s Kevin’s. Because not everyone knew Kevin, or knows of Kevin.
She’s staying in our home for the first time. The home I share with Dave. The home that Dave bought before he met me. The home that holds a small shelf of momentos for Kevin, a picture on my office wall of him and I, a few of his shirts in my closet, and a box of treasures in the basement that I will never be able to part with. The home that was decorated with Dave and I’s similar decor. The home that was mixed lovingly when two lives combined. The home that holds the past, present, and future of our small Sieglitz family. The home that features this picture (on the right) on the living room wall-of our blended and beautiful family.
I joke that I have 3 mothers and 5 parents. It’s a lot. Some days it’s more difficult than others. Some days I end up thinking about all the mothers I need to impress or care for-that I need to check in with, that I need to worry about, that I feel need to give their blessing on life decisions. When I type this out it feels a little burdensome. I don’t mean it to-it should feel like a whole lotta love but it’s difficult to balance. To give my own mother priority-the one who raised me and has supported me through all of this. To build relationships with my newest mother-in-law whom I worry I will fail to have a solid relationship with. To Mom II who I worry about since she’s so far away-how is her health? Hoping she never has to experience anymore loss.
But when I get past that and focus on what we have – it’s a lot of love. It’s an amazing support of people who accept me past, present and future. It’s a wonderful group of people who accept one another as family whether they were once connected to Kevin, or are connected to Dave, or make up the whole of the both of us. They are the people who extend love, grace, and forgiveness abundantly because they care for me and one another-they’re big hearted people. It’s my family and it continues to grow and strengthen in beautiful ways.
Yesterday we toured the sculpture garden of my step-daughter’s father in law. There we saw my Dave’s parents and my stepdaughter and her husband. And we ended the day at my parent’s home where we honored Mom II with a birthday cake for her upcoming birthday. My siblings, nieces, parents, and 92 year old grandmother sung happy birthday.It was my entire family in a day, with the exception of my brother in law back in Winnipeg. It was pretty amazing and the entire day? The entire day was love.