Yesterday we buried both of my in laws. Yes, I said both. My mother-in-law died last Tuesday from multiple illnesses, but finally was taken by a heart attack. My father-in-law, who has been at death's door for years, died in a skilled care facility on Sunday, while the family was having "calling" at the funeral home for mother in law. This caused some hustling about on the part of the funeral home staff, but they were able to prepare my father in law and move the funeral time ahead four hours in order to have a double funeral. I am amazed at how organized this particular funeral home is. They have an adequate staff, but operate homes in three different towns in the county. They were amazing.
The pastor who did the service was able to change his message to accomodate both people, and he did a wonderful job. The fact that he had been their minister for years and knew them both very well was a blessing to both him and us as a family.
I have mixed emotions about their passing. They were two people who saw everything in either black or white. For them, there was no gray area. It seemed that my wife (their daughter) and I lived mostly in their gray area. Obviously, it caused for strained relationships some or most of the time, but I still could name many good times we had with them. I can also think of good things to say about each of them. It is time to bury the bad and get on with remembering the good, though sometimes it is hard. There was so much hurt associated with my wife's death that it has been hard for me to get past it. Now I must.
My mother-in-law was a perfectionist. I remember when my fiance and she were planning our wedding in 1969, that we teased her about having permanent indentions under her arm from carrying Amy Vanderbilt's Wedding Ettiquette book under her arm for months. But, in reality, it paid off,for we had a "storybook" wedding by those days standards. Mother M was also a wonderful cook. I can think of none who would come close to comparing, and she taught her daughter well. That's why I was 90 pounds heavier in 2007 when my wife died than I was when we married 38 years earlier. I can think of nothing that Mother M made that I didn't like. Her chicken and dumplings were wonderful, and she always make a vast array of delicate pastries at holiday time.
On the other hand, she was a control freak. She thought she was always right and never could see the other side of an argument. She always offered an opinion, whether solicited or not, hidden in the guise of "saying how she felt." This was the most maddening thing and probably caused the most hard feelings of any other thing in our marriage.
Father M. was a quiet guy. He was an extremely talented woodworker, and carpenter. There wasn't anything he couldn't make out of wood. He made a cradle for our babies that was nicer than anything you could ever buy. He made tables and chairs, and cabinets for their kitchen. Their home was sight to behold with all the hand made woodwork and trims. He went about his life quietly. My wife said that he never got a chance to speak, and she was probably correct. She used to enjoy calling him when she knew her mom would be gone. They would talk for hours. He was also a great gardener. His yard, in his years of good health was a sight to behold. Even when he didn't feel well, he loved to putter in his yard. He was also one of the most stubborn men I have known. Once he set his mind to something, nothing could change it. This too caused some problems for us, especially when it came to dealing with our children.
These were two people who never learned what unconditional love meant. There were always strings with every gift, and even with their love. They could never accept us for who we were, and that maybe we didn't fit into their "ideal mold." We suffered for that. My children suffered for that.
So, this all being said, I must admit that burying them left me with some bittersweet memories. Yes, they were a part of my life for almost 40 years, and there are some feelings there. Even though our relationship has been strained since my wife's death, they were a tie to that part of my life. That tie is now severed. Today, I'm not sure just how I feel about that. Sad? Relief? Resentful? Maybe a little of each.