26. Moms Are Like That

26. Moms Are Like That

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Moms Are Like That

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.

~Robert Brault

My sweetheart Paul and I had eloped to Yuma on a whim. It was the most romantic and thrilling weekend of my life. Leaving town was easy but coming back on Sunday night to face our parents was hard. We had a huge wedding planned for the following September—but this was May, and Paul was home on his first leave from the Marine Reserves boot camp.

Paul’s parents joined us at my parents’ house the evening we returned. We hoped this would be a happy meeting of our newly merged families.

Seated around the living room, Paul’s mother was the first to speak.

“I don’t think Paul and Sallie should stay married! They are too young. How will he support a wife? Where will they live? We need to get this marriage annulled!” my new mother-in-law shouted to the family members assembled at my parents’ house.

BAM! My father had let her rant for several minutes before his fist hit the coffee table with a loud slap. “If these kids want to stay married, then by God they’re gonna stay married,” he yelled back.

He turned to Paul. “Do you want to stay married?” Turning to me, he said, “Sallie do you want to stay married?” We both nodded yes, our eyes wide at all this drama.

“Then they can live with us until Paul gets home permanently,” my dad said in a calmer tone. Case closed!

Mrs. Rodman had been thwarting me at every turn, trying to postpone the wedding plans. She even went so far as to tell Paul we were too young and we were from two different classes and he needed to marry a college graduate. On and on the objections went.

Sure, I was only nineteen and had one year of college. But we were both from middle-class families, although I admit I probably had a few more material advantages since Paul came from a family of eleven.

We did stay married, but to appease his mother we lived apart one week until we could be married in our church. The next week Paul went back to the marines. I moved in with my mom and dad and got an apartment nearby for the weekends. It was like playing house… work all week, pick up Paul at Camp Pendleton on Friday, spend the weekend at our “hideaway,” then take him back to camp on Sunday night.

After Paul’s basic training as a reservist was over, he went back to his job. He served one weekend a month and two weeks in summer training camp while we anxiously waited to hear if he would be called up for Vietnam.

My new mother-in-law didn’t come around much since Paul’s father was ill. They had a family tragedy and their house burned down. She was working and running in so many directions.

Meanwhile our family had grown, with a son and then a daughter, one year apart. I hoped when things got back to normal we could talk. Perhaps I could win my mother-in-law over since I loved her son so much and she adored him too. But that was not to be.

The entire chain of events came crashing down early one cold February morning three years into our marriage. I wrote a poem about it:

The Final Revenge

A phone ringing, ringing, breaking the 5 o’clock morning.

My husband plunging through the door where the white wall phone stubbornly commands.

From the bedroom, my curiosity arousing itself from a long night’s sleep.

The words ambulance and hospital send me reeling through the door.

Thoughts flashing through my brain like summer lightning.

But no, it’s not my mother, older and graying.

The younger woman has been chosen instead.

My husband replaces the phone into its slot, tears running down his face.

“She is dead; my mom is dead.”

We are rocking back and forth in each other’s arms.

He cries for her, I cry for him.

Her words echo in my mind,

“You stole my favorite son!”

A sudden thought.

What’s today?

Monday, February 20th.

Recognition.

My birthday.

I whisper to myself, “Happy birthday, kiddo.”

Forever on this day he will remember

who was born and who died.

And so I never got to know this woman, my husband’s mother. I soon forgot her slights and unkind words since she was absent from our lives and I was busy with two toddlers. I did vow that when my children grew up and married, I would welcome their choices with warm hugs and loving words no matter what.

Now here I am forty-seven years later. My husband Paul died a little over three years ago. It recently dawned on me while lying in bed one morning and thinking about him that, since I believe he is in heaven, his mom is probably with him. I found myself overcome with anger and jealousy.

I wanted to yell out, “You can’t have him. He is mine! I loved him to the moon and back. We were happily married for so many years. Wasn’t that enough for you?”

Then I realized I still haven’t forgiven her for those long ago hurts. What good is hanging onto such old wounds? I want and need to forgive this woman. I am dealing with a tremendous loss in my life. I don’t need to add anger on top of that.

In my quest to understand and forgive her, I recently spoke to my husband’s sister Joan. I confided my feelings about their mom, hoping she could help me. She counseled me. “Oh Sallie, Mom was like that with every date we brought home. She just loved her kids so much she was afraid of them being hurt. It wasn’t personal.”

Acceptance is replacing the anger as I realize that is what I had in common with my mother-in-law—we both loved our children, and moms only want the very best for their kids. Sometimes we overstep, but our hearts are in the right place. That is something I do understand and can certainly forgive her for.

My only hope is that when Paul talks to her in heaven he tells her, “See Mom, she was a keeper! Forty-six years—and you thought it would never last.”

~Sallie A. Rodman

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