Let's be clear, Ruth was not my mother.
But she was important in my life, so much so that I have written about her more than once, though it hasn't been published. Ruth, though I never called her by that name, was the mother of my husband. But she was much more than just the butt of typical "mother in law" jokes. She demonstrated to me in a very humble way how to be a good mother in law and now I am wearing her shoes with two daughters in law myself. I never imagined myself in that position, but here I am.
Ruth did not live to see her eldest grandson, whom I bore, marry his Southern bride in May of 2010. Ruth died in 2008 after a battle with cancer and Alzheimer's. She held her dignity until the end, and her husband bravely cared for her up until the last few months, a daunting task for him.
My sons' weddings were almost a year apart. Suddenly I had a new role but Ruth was not there to guide me. I had to go on recall of how she had acted toward me. Here are my few nuggets Ruth "showed," not told, by her life.
1) Don't ever dictate to your daughter in law about their marriage. If you do, you could put your son's happiness and marriage to the test.You want your son to be happy. Support your daughter in law and try your best not to nose into their affairs with your opinions of how they should do this and that.
2) If the couple needs a little help, they will appreciate your efforts, whatever you can do. Ruth demonstrated this most beautifully to me. I had a major surgery and was bed ridden for a while. We had active elementary aged children then. She practically ran the house for me, taking over laundry and cooking for me and much more. It was all done cheerfully and naturally, as if that was just the thing you would do if any family member was sick. Thank you, Ruth.
3) Be generous with your son's family if they are open to it. Ruth absolutely loved getting the kids clothes at flea markets and such. After I washed them well, these clothes were a real blessing to us and not to be looked down upon. Ruth was trying to save us money. Only my husband was working at the time, in a stressful job to boot, and I was home absorbed with caring for the kids. Sharing was Ruth's way of showing her love.Thanks again, Ruth.
4) If you can be (and I realize many simply cannot) available if your children ask for help with babysitting, it would be wonderful if you can help them out. This was also something Ruth and Bob, her husband, were thrilled to do. When I bore our first two children we lived just ten minutes away from them. I was a new graduate nurse and did work for a short while. This is how Ruth became "Grammy." When my son was an infant she delighted in watching him in her house. I worked in the hospital for a while and then considered taking a job offer for a position in an office. It became a crossroad in my life. Did I want to be a working Mom or stay home and watch my baby grow? Knowing it would not be popular on all fronts, I timidly chose to stay with my baby. But if I had chose to work, Grammy would have most gladly watched him for me, indeed all my children. Grammy's eventual eight grandchildren (not all ours!) became her Pride and Joy!
5) Praise your daughter in law to others. When we told my husband's parents of our plans to teach our kids at home, well, the idea went over like a lead balloon. But only a few years later, Ruth saw how the kids were doing well and helping with home chores. Soon, she began singing my praises for what I was doing with them. I was amazed by it, and quite grateful.
Ruth, if you were alive today you would be quite proud to see how all your grandchildren have grown and are making
something of themselves. They remember you tenderly.
And Ruth, I wish you could see how your own children and the two daughter-in-laws and one son-in-law remember you lovingly as well also. Your kitty Missy is loved and cared for right here in our home, while Kitty Belle has joined you. You gave birth to my husband right around this time many years ago and so I say, " I haven't forgotten you. Rest now, my dear mother in law Ruth, and a job well done."
"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many daughters have done well, But you exceed them all." Proverbs 31: 28-29