My mother-in-law’s funeral is today. I’ve known her for 30+ years. For the first decade or so, we lived fairly close so I saw her more often, then we moved 400 or so miles away and our visits were more infrequent.
We certainly had our sandpaper moments. In the first several years, I thought I just didn’t measure up in her eyes. I wasn’t the right woman to have married her awesome son. My tendency to say the wrong thing and firmly put my foot in my mouth intensified whenever I was with her. Sometimes, I admit, I was just plain bratty, so I can’t blame her for being irritated with me.
But over time, and with grandchildren, our relationship improved. One reason she intimidated me was because she was so poised, so creative, so gracious. Her home was always stunning. It was like a gallery, filled with gorgeous kaleidoscopes, blown glass pieces, incredible artwork by famous artists on the walls.
She loved fine restaurants, but also appreciated a good rib joint. She adored her husband David and although they traveled widely throughout Europe, I’m guessing she loved sitting with David at their breakfast table just as much as she did enjoying lunch in that cafe in Paris.
What surprises me most are the little “Alda-isms” that keep popping up. Every time I go to pack a suitcase, I think of her. I once saw the clever way she packed–wrapping the more delicate, wrinkle-prone items around a stack of the sturdier clothes. When I’m getting less than stellar service in a restaurant, I channel Alda. I make sure the maître d‘ or manager knows that I’m unsatisfied and make it clear what they need to do to correct the problem.
Of course, there are all those times my husband and I have been out somewhere, maybe at a street fair or gift shop, and I see something and comment, “Oh, I bet your mom would like that.” Or I’ll see a blouse or scarf and say, “That looks like your mom, doesn’t it?”
And then there was that recent time when we stayed at a sketchy B&B in Luxembourg and we were all discussing how Alda would have clouded up and rained all over the management there. They probably would have re-painted and re-decorated the place just for her.
One thing Alda said when she was about to embark on her last treatment was that she wanted more time to get to know her new great-granddaughter. She was thrilled at the new addition to our family. She was also thrilled and proud of my sons, the younger one who gave her that beautiful great-granddaughter, and also the older one who against all odds fulfilled a life-long dream of living in Japan. It was through his Grandma Alda’s generosity that my older son reached that long-aspired goal. I’m so glad he had a chance to thank her for her gift when he last saw her before he left the country.
I know there will be many more occasions when I’ll do some small thing and realize, “I learned this from Alda.” Because the people we love don’t just touch our lives once or twice, they do many times, interweaving themselves into the fabric of ourselves forever.
Alda, may you rest in peace.