Posted by: Genny Colby | July 9, 2012

Never really ready to say goodbye…

I am not sure you are ever ready for someone to die.  After a number of years of health issues, we lost my mother-in-law unexpectedly a few weeks ago.  It has been a whirlwind of emotions with her passing and the birth of our little boy.  Not to mention all the work the hubby has been doing to process her estate.  But there have been so many times in the past 3 weeks I have wanted to call her and tell her about the baby or share something with her about our daughter.

My mother in law and I did not always have the easiest of relationships.  There were many times when I was sure she did not like me very much.  But over the years I think we found a nice rhythm to our relationship.  I know that some of our struggles had less to do with me personally and more to do with how the dynamics of her relationship with my hubby changed.  He is the youngest of the boys, the only one who stayed in Madison for college and beyond.  When I came into the picture, things changed.  And change is never easy for anyone.  But I am sure that having already watched her older two boys move away, marry, start new lives, the idea of losing her baby in the same way (no matter how natural or expected this was) would be difficult for any mother.

Over the years we had our ups and downs.  Some of them were my issues, having a had a different experience/different relationship with my family.  But I think that is to be expected…that is why there are so many horror stories about in-laws.  Bringing two different ways of doing things together can be challenging, finding balance, finding compromise as a couple finds ways to blend their traditions, expectations, and memories together.

But we did find our grove as mother in law/daughter in law.  And I think we actually got to enjoy one another.  It helped that we both had a passion for teaching. We both loved to read pretty much anything, but we had a weakness for cheesy romance novels, especially Nora Roberts.  And we both loved doing craft projects.  These things gave us a place to start, and to build a connection.  Over the years we developed a friendship.  One that I cherished and even came to depend on.  I knew I could call her when ever I had a question, or an idea, or needed advice.  Without a doubt, my mother in law was someone you could count on when you needed her.  She loved her boys with all her heart and would do anything for any of them.  And I knew I could count on her to be on our side no matter what happened.

I know it was hard for her when we made the move to Colorado.  Especially given her health issues at the time.  But she was nothing but supportive and in many ways she helped make it happen.  She let the monkey and me stay with her for two weeks while the hubby got things set up here.  She let us host monkey’s 1 year birthday party at her house.  And she let me talk through all my fears about the move and never once said “don’t go”.  But instead reminded me how we could make it happen and that the fears were okay, but that we were going to be just fine.  And if we needed her, she was there for us.

My hubby is not the great communicator.  Via email, sure.  But ask him to pick up the phone and call someone?  You would think I had 3 heads the way he looks at me at the suggestion!  He is just not a phone person really.  But I am 🙂  So I would call my mother in law a few times each week.  Just to check in, see how she was doing, give her an update on the monkey.  It was important to me that even though she was 1000 miles away, that she felt connected to us and to our daughter.

We really hoped she would be able to come out to visit us this summer and see how well we have settled into life in the west.  To share with her all the things we love about our life here.  For her to see how much our little girl has grown, and to meet our little man.  Unfortunately, fate has a way of altering those plans.  While we all know that our parents are going to die before we are, and this is how it should be, I don’t think you are ever truly prepared.  While she may have “only” been my mother in law, she was important to me.  And it does not seem quite real yet that I can’t pick up the phone and call her, or shoot her an email with a picture of our kiddos together.    I don’t know when it will start to feel real that she no longer just a phone call away.  But I know I will miss her.  And our kids will miss knowing their grandma.  So we will do the next best thing…we will share stories, memories, and pictures with them as they grow older.  As for the hubby and I …we will just be the best parents we can, knowing that in the end, that would make her happier than anything else we can accomplish.


  1. Hi Genny. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. Certainly, your husband’s mother loved you very much too.

    Congratulations on your baby boy. I hope your family wasn’t affected with the recent fires.

  2. This is a beautiful post. I’m so happy you and your mother in law developed such a nice connection. You do such a great job building relationships!! I can be phone-shy, too, but if you ever want to talk, I am here. 🙂

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