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A Letter to My Mother In Law

For Giving Me the Greatest Gift

Dear Mother in Law,

I remember years ago, getting off the school bus and strolling slowly down an unfamiliar path to your house.  The sun was shining, ponies were in the field next to us as I walked hand in hand with your son, on my way to meet you for the first time.  I was so nervous, I wanted to make a good impression and I had never before met the creator of somebody I so desperately wanted to love me.  I was 16 years old, had never been in love before and yet when I saw your son, something in me stirred and I knew he was special.  In my 16-year-old brain, I was the first person to see him that way.  Now I know better.

When we met, I imagine you were nervous too.  It was a shy introduction, you made us dinner and luckily his charming, 13-year-old brother broke the ice with his brash humour and enthusiasm.  Then, after dinner, your sons got up from the table and cleared away the dishes, without prompting, leaving me sitting there slightly in shock.  We talked a bit and then I disappeared upstairs with your son for a couple of hours, before my mum picked me up.  We had our first kiss on that night, after nervously sitting side by side for about an hour (not exaggerating!).  I practically floated home that night.

Over the next year or so, we clung to each other like young lovers so often do, sickening to watch and yet completely oblivious.  Your son and I experienced our firsts together, unaware of the fact that it the first time our parents were seeing us fall in love.  You hadn't known me long and I was a teenager, you had no way of bulletproofing your son, vetting me or making sure I wouldn't hurt him.  Truthfully, I was quite damaged.  Painful early life experiences and general teenage life made me quite raw and reckless at times.  Yet you let me in, included me in the fold of your family.  I met your sisters and their children, got to know your other sons.  Your beautiful mother welcomed me from the offset.  Your family surrounded each other in a way that was both foreign and beautiful to me.  Your son moved in with me, in a different city and then we quickly got engaged.  We planned a wedding and more importantly a marriage and then very quickly after planned to and indeed started our family.  He was and still is young.  To me, he was always old enough, but again I had only ever seen it through my eyes.  

I now have two sons, born from your own son and it's true when they say the days are long and the years are short.  I still remember the first day we were home alone with our new baby, we both looked at him in his cot and then at each other.  What now?  This little life was ours to mold.  Now he is two, he smiles and runs and talks and has stubborn moments and sleeps in a bed.  His little brother came along and his little head of curls and his bright blue eyes, along with his happy go lucky temperament and insatiable hunger that remind me of his father.  We are growing our family year by year and nothing fills me with more joy.  

There's something you should know which may sound morbid, but is important.  Had anybody asked me (and I been truthful) when I was younger, how I was going to die, I would have known for certain and without hesitation that I would die at my own hands.  I never intended to live to my mid twenties and I always knew I would welcome death peacefully, setting everyone around me free and removing myself from the world.  It's mental illness and I know that now, but it was a comforting and sure thought for many years.  Then I met your son.  For a while I was painfully torn between this desire to stay for this amazing boy I met and the desire to do the right thing and leave.  Then he married me and now I can never leave and what's more, I don't want to.  He gave me my children and he gives me my life and it has been more powerful than any medication or treatment I have ever experienced.  It's pure love and it anchors me here so strongly.  Sometimes it terrifies me, because I feel they would be better off without me, but then the fog of illness clears and makes way for the rational knowledge that it would leave so much damage behind if I were to do it.  So I try not to listen to the voice inside me that is terrified of how inadequate I am and instead listen to the one that tells me how absolutely blessed I am.  It would be enough to have your son and our children, yet somehow I got even more.  I got his family.  Whilst I am sure I was very annoying when you first met me and I realise in hindsight that I attached myself to your son as a seventeen year old like a bloodthirsty octopus, that I took him to another place and pushed him forward into milestones that had very possibly seemed further away in the future to you, I also realise now how brave you were to let it unfold.  It's a bravery and selfless love that can be seen evidenced in all your children, for all their brilliance.

I want to truly thank you.  I knew that I had it good, when I was marrying your son.  I already knew that I had a lovely mother in law and that I would be able to lean on you if I needed to.  I didn't realise yet though, the lasting good you would have done in my life.  You see, he came from you.  Some of who he is is entirely original and some of it comes from other places, but a lot of it comes from the person who carried him, bore him, fed and changed and soothed him, helped him grow up and helped to mold him into the man he is now.  When we were teenagers, he never balked at any of the dark things I told him about my life, he never ran when he saw my damage.  When I was on the floor of the shower in halls, water pelting my face, sobbing and having a panic attack, he got in the shower with me and held me.  When I couldn't face going out, he went out for me.  When I struggled with my sleep disorder, he pulled me up out of bed and helped me get dressed through my tears, so I wouldn't be late for work.  He washed and brushed my hair when I was in the throws of depression, lent me his shoes when I was drunk and stumbling home after a night out and had taken my heels off, always let me eat the last piece of pizza.  Even the way he first kissed me was gentle and soft and spoke only of kindness.  He thinks nothing of coming home and rolling up his sleeves and doing the dishes or making dinner for us.  He bathes the boys and tucks them in at night, he talks things through with me after my psychiatrist appointments, makes sure I take my pills on time and always asks if we need milk on the way home.  He loves his children fiercely and actively, both with actions and thoughts.  He supports me, makes me laugh, molds himself to fit us.  He is a man and yet he is everything I have ever known a mother to be.  His days are made to fit around his family, his hands work to take care of us, his legs take him to provide for us and his heart always thinks of us.  I look at him now and see this is largely because of everything his mother was, and is.  When I looked at him as a teenager, I saw a real, tangible light around him.  I saw such a goodness, a pure kind nature, it drew me to him completely.  I don't believe in love at first sight but the moment I looked across the canteen in school and really noticed your son, I saw someone truly beautiful.  From that moment, he has further proven me right on a daily basis.  

I want to thank you.  You handled the draining, daily tasks of cooking, cleaning and generally maintaining a home, taking the eldest to his artistic endeavors, the middle one to football and the youngest to A&E!  More than that though, you taught them to be good.  You taught them to be kind, to put passion into things and to take care of those they love.  It is second nature for your son to hold the door for people, to offer help, to be a hands on father, a loving husband, to make people smile and to be giving in nature.  I thank you for being a loving mother in law.  I thank you for giving me wonderful brothers in law.  I thank you for the way my children smile at you when they see you and the way you have accepted me completely, never running away from my flaws or trying to push me out.  I thank you for raising your son and for sharing him with me.  I ask myself daily whether I have done a good job with my children.  Take it from me when I say you can look back and always rest assured that you did.  You were everything a mother should be and have made a man who is everything a man should strive to be.  For this, I am truly grateful.

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