Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Hey there-

You gotta love in-laws.

Bob's family has become even more important to me since his death.

They are the keepers of the family lore, the remember when, the childhood secrets. When the boys ask if their daddy ever did this or that, they are the only people who have the answers. I can tell them about their dad in his 30's, but that isn't what they want to know right now, maybe when they are 30 something.

They want to know if daddy liked to read when he was nine, if he was good at math, did he ever get a time out in gym in kindergarten, did he like to sing at the Christmas concert?

Ah, the Christmas concert. The concert where Arthur dances his way in, spots his Aunt Kathy and me in the audience, breaks into his million dollar smile and joins the other wildly waving children on the bleachers. The same concert where Henry marches in, eyes down, stands in position, spots us out of the corner of his eye, smiles imperceptibly and gives us the wrist wave. (you know the one, the one where the arm does not move at all, only the wrist)

Arthur smiles while he sings and does all of the carefully rehearsed snowflake movements with a natural rhythm and an Arthur flare, only looking towards his aunt and me about 10 times per song to smile even broader if that is possible. Henry, on the other hand, has his eyes only on the teacher as he sings with zero emotion, seriously, you would have thought he was being lectured to by the police. When the swaying part came (he had expressed concern the day before about the swaying; "No one is going the right way, we are supposed to start on the left and then go right and everyone is going every which way. We are going to be horrible!") most of the children swayed with abandon picking their feet up and bouncing their shoulders. Not Henry, he swayed carefully, first right, then left, no shoulder movement, no feet moving, he was rooted to the spot. This is serious stuff!

Their Aunt Kathy and I watched both boys with the pride only a family member can feel. We laughed and nodded at each other knowingly and appreciated both for their unique approaches to the performance.

"Arthur and I are opposites," Henry said to me on the walk home. "Arthur likes to sing in front of a crowd and I don't. He doesn't get nervous and I do. Which way do you think dad was at his Christmas concerts?"

"That is a good question for your grandma," I told him, making a mental note to ask the next time we saw her.

Of course, she will say Bob was fabulous even if he was the kid who picked his nose or wet his pants or pulled some girls hair. That is how her memories work.

The boys and I recently spent the day with her and the subject of discipline came up. Grandma shocked the boys with tales of her mother making her kneel in the corner if she had been naughty. They particularly enjoyed the story of her mom going to the lilac bush to get a switch to swat her on the butt with if she had been REALLY naughty.

"Did you ever do that to Daddy?" They asked wide eyed and still giggling about their grandma just saying butt.

"Oh no, you couldn't do that any more by the time I had kids, it was out of fashion," she said. "They would have called it child abuse."

"Did you ever make him kneel in a corner?"

"I don't remember ever doing that....."

"What did you do, Grandma, when daddy was naughty?" they asked, dying to know what horrendous punishment their dad had to endure.

"I don't know........I just remember they were all good kids," she said with a smile.

Boring! We want some dirt on daddy here!

Although the look on her face, you almost believed her. (Please be assured that the punishment stories are not the only ones grandma tells of her childhood. She is just as likely to talk about the homemade noodles her mom made for the chicken noodle soup and how much effort her mom put into decorating a beautiful Christmas tree.)

This is all good stuff. For me and the boys. The continued connection with their dad's family, priceless.

I am so grateful to have that person to lean to at the Christmas concert and shake my head and laugh knowingly. Without my sister-in-law there I might look a little too longingly at the couple in front of me as they lean into each other and nod and laugh; "just like his dad" they are saying I am sure. (these couples are always incredibly happy in my mind, perfect for each other in fact, a first marriage of course, everyone is healthy and biologically related, no complications.......)

I could go on and on with stories that point out just how precious this in-law relationship is to both sides. I could write about the trip Henry got to take with his uncle this past summer. The trip that his uncle showed up in his 1959 Triumph and announced to Henry that he had the air mattresses that he and Bob used on their first road trip together when Bob was 16! You just can't make this stuff up!!!

So yes, I love in-laws, wouldn't want to be doing any of this without them. Even those that teach my little boys bad words. But once again, a subject for a different blog.

Thanks for checking in-



  1. I feel blessed to "matter" to Brent's family. Like your boys, his son and daughter ask me questions about what "Daddy" was like as a little boy. "Tell me the story about Daddy putting rubber spiders in your bed again..." I love the fact they ask me....and I love that I can remember. Yes, we are the "in laws" - but the connection we feel to Brent's wife and children is so strong. We want them to be o.k. - to be happy and go along with life. The hardest part of losing my little brother is feeling his family's pain. "I miss Daddy so much" his son said to me recently, crying. "Daddy dying was the saddest thing that ever happened to me....now I'm never going to have a Daddy..." My gosh....the pain goes through every cell in my body. I wish I could fix this for him. I wish I could trade - that he could have his Daddy. All I can do is try to reach across the gap that separates their worlds....and try to let them hold hands, even for a moment. I love your blog Irene.

    Brenda (Canada)

  2. I wish that my kids and I had that kind of connection with Steve's family. He has been gone almost 4 months and only his brother will talk about him. Your blog gives me hope that I won't always feel this way and that I'm not the only one.

  3. What wonderful stories. I enjoyed reading them and hearing about your own kids. I agree that in-laws are the tellers of stories. When I was visiting mine, my husband's sister told me that one summer she and Ralph decided their back yard was an Indian burial ground and dug up the grass looking for bones. When their dad came home, they really got it.
    Happy holidays!