The Myriad Ways People Touch Our Lives

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.

About karensandler

Lover of chocolate. A couple felines short of full-fledged Cat Lady. Author of the YA Tankborn Trilogy (TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION), from Tu Books. Founding team member of We Need Diverse Books. Opinions expressed here are my own.
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5 Responses to The Myriad Ways People Touch Our Lives

  1. Robin Clark says:

    What a lovely tribute to your MIL Karen. I like your term “sandpaper moments”. That reminds me of times with Dan’s step-father, who unfortunately passed when the guys were only 5 1/2 and 3. I’m glad that your sons were able to develop a good relationship with Alda.

  2. Emily Korengold says:

    Hi Karen,
    Saw this from a link my Aunt Jill posted. I’m Glen’s oldest daughter, Etty’s granddaughter, and I was very touched by this entry you wrote about my Great (literally) Aunt Alda. Especially loved the part about the Paris café since I’m studying abroad in Paris right now (what a good image to have of Aunt Alda and David here in this very city). I share many similar memories about her character and dynamic personality. She left a huge impact on the family and we all miss her so much.
    Thank you for writing such a beautiful post.
    Condolences to the family,
    Emily Korengold

    • karensandler says:

      Thanks so much for writing. Your absence was deeply felt at the service
      and the dinner the night before, but I know your Great-Aunt Alda would
      have been so very proud of your endeavors in Paris. Hopefully we’ll have
      a chance to visit with you when you return so we can hear all about your
      adventures. I hope there are pictures!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Karen: What a beautiful testimony to my beloved Alda — you have truly brought out so many of her characteristics that were admired by all who had the privilege to know her — your comments touched me deeply — my tears are endless!!


  4. David says:

    Karen: I have read your beautiful testimony to Alda many times, over and over, because you have captured much of the true nature of her essence — I cry no less each time — she was the core of my worldly being!!!


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