3: At First Sight

3: At First Sight

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

At First Sight

Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.

~Cherie Carter-Scott

It was hate at first sight. My fiancé Jake and I stood in his mother’s dim kitchen. The scent of old coffee filled the air as my future mother-in-law looked me over.

She turned to her son and announced, “It’s her or me.”

I stepped back in surprise and looked at Jake.

He squared his shoulders, and a muscle twitched in his jaw. His face reflected the same stubborn look his mother wore.

Jake grabbed my arm and steered me toward the door. As we walked out, he called over his shoulder, “It’s her.”

Months of mother/son separation ensued. Even though they lived in adjoining towns, Jake and his mom refused to visit or even phone each other.

I’d heard the term “stubborn as a Missouri mule.” Well, the mules could take a lesson from those two.

“Mom, why don’t you and Jake make up?” Jake’s sister asked.

“No. He chose that woman over me.”

Jake’s sister tried again. “Why don’t you like her?”

Mom thought for a while. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “She just rubs me the wrong way.”

After Jake and I married, visiting my in-laws during the holidays felt like torture. Jake’s mom veered between ignoring me to icy politeness, but she showed genuine love for Patty, our four-year-old daughter from my first marriage.

My sister-in-law’s twin girls were the same age as Patty. Mom showered them all with gifts, cookies, and love.

Still, no matter what I did, my mother-in-law liked me as much as a hernia.

If I bought her a present, it was the wrong color.

If I brought food, it was cooked incorrectly.

In the Great Cucumber Debacle of 1989, she disassembled my vegetable platter to slice the veggies thinner.

My bitterness and anger grew, leaving Jake stuck between two warring camps.

In the movies, a life-changing event transpires, and two adversaries lay aside their differences.

For me, it wasn’t an action flick or spy-drama occurrence.

My life changed completely when I turned it over to the Lord. I told my husband, “From now on, I’m thanking God for all the blessings in my life. Even your mother.”

Jake raised one eyebrow. “You’re thankful for my mother?”

I hesitated for a moment, slowed by newfound honesty. “Well, I’m grateful she gave me a wonderful husband. That’s a start.”

I focused on gratitude each time I thought of my mother-in-law. Her influence had produced my husband’s compassion, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Plus, I felt grateful that she accepted Patty as a beloved granddaughter.

Although it wasn’t a dramatic movie-scene turnaround, a softening had begun in Mom’s heart and mine. As the years passed, our once-prickly relationship grew into love.

Visits didn’t seem like torture anymore. Mom and I would snuggle side by side on her plush living-room sofa. I’d wrap myself in a blanket and breathe in the scent of baking cookies. She, always warm, would rub my terminally cold hands with hers.

“Don’t you ever get cold?” I asked.

She shook her head and smiled. “I’ve always been too warm. I used to stand barefoot in the snow to cool off.”

One day as we sat together on her sofa, she took my hand and sandwiched it between both of hers. I waited for her usual, “Your hand is so cold.”

Instead, she said, “I’m so glad you married my son. He couldn’t have found a better wife.”

I wrapped my arms around her, my heart overflowing with gratitude at her sweet words.

Life took a drastic turn when Mom went into the hospital for a cardiac ablation to correct her abnormal heart rhythm.

Instead of a routine procedure, she wound up with a nicked liver and a punctured heart. The surgical team worked frantically to save her. She lived, but she had gone without oxygen for far too long.

Despite therapy, she was plagued by physical issues and memory problems. She’d ask the same questions repeatedly. She, who’d always been so hot, couldn’t get warm.

As time went on, her health declined.

She’d still touch my hand and say, “Oh, your hands are so cold.” She’d cup my chilly hands in her icy ones and try to warm them, saying, “There, that’s better, isn’t it?”

“Absolutely, Mom. So much better.”

In odd moments, she’d turn to me and say, “I’m so glad you married my son.”

The night before she passed away, Mom and I spent some time alone in her dim hospital room.

She tossed and turned, restless and in pain. The beeping monitors and antiseptic smells added to her discomfort.

I held her hand and prayed quietly over her, then whispered, “I love you. Thanks for raising such a great husband for me.”

She stopped thrashing and looked at me in a brief moment of clarity.

I leaned close as she squeezed my hand and murmured the last words she spoke to me.

“I’m glad you married my son.”

“Me, too, Mom,” I whispered. “Me, too.”

The moment ended, and she began her agitated rocking again.

The next morning, Mom was gone. I was grateful she wasn’t suffering anymore. Grateful for the years we’d spent as friends. Grateful for the husband she’d given me. Grateful for her impact on my life.

Yes, it was hate at first sight, but I’m so grateful it was love at last sight.

~Jeanie Jacobson

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