Terry’s Thoughts (T2)
So many people ask me why I still have my mother-in-law living with Faith and me. First of all, she’s family. Although we are related by marriage (Momma Liz is Mia’s mother), she is still my mother-in-law. When I married Mia, I became part of her family and they became part of mine. These people are still my family and I still consider them to be aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. and they reciprocate the same feelings and sentiments. My thought was that no matter who God sent, they were going to have to accept Momma Liz and me as a package deal. Why? Well, I’ll tell you…I have a promise to keep.
Shortly after marrying Mia, I told my father-in-law that if anything were to happen to him, I would make sure that Momma Liz would be taken care of. Yes, she had her children and two siblings, but I understood the responsibilities that were on the children (especially the first born) to care for their parents. As an only child, I am well aware of the pressures and expectations that are placed on them. As I was Mia’s husband, I wanted to make sure that her father didn’t have to worry about what would happen to his bride if something happened and he passed on. When “Deac” (that’s what I called him as he was a deacon) was called home, I let her know that I would fulfill my promise to him. A few years later, Momma had the first of several strokes that would leave her partially paralyzed on one side. As I observed how it was becoming more and more difficult for her to function independently in rural Georgia, I told Mia it was time to bring Momma to live with us in Florida. I had a promise to keep and now it was time to cash the check that my mouth wrote those years ago.
After asking her to leave her home and come live with us, Momma and I continued bonding as we had when I first started dating Mia. I had made a commitment that I would not have the stereotypical bad relationship with my mother-in-law that you see some people have. We started off with a good relationship and it became just like fine wine: better with time. As time continued, our relationship continued to grow from just being a mother-in-law and son-in-law relationship, to one where she was a second mother and I was her other son. This would be critical as in 2015, her son would receive his heavenly reward and a little over 14 months later, her daughter would receive hers as well. In less than 10 years, she had lost both of her children and her husband of over 46 years. There was no way I was going to back out of my promise now.
Shortly after Mia’s passing, we had several conversations. She asked me directly was I going to put her into a nursing home or send her off to live with someone else. I told her “No ma’am, I made a promise to Deac and Mia and I am going to fulfill that promise.” She asked me several more times and told me that she didn’t want to get in the way as I was a single man and wasn’t married to Mia anymore. I informed her of the promise that I made and the commitment that I made to her. Just as Ruth made to her mother-in-law, I made the same commitment to her. I said to her “Whomever God has for me is going to have to accept us a package deal. You are my 70+ year old child.” She and I laughed at the statement, but the feelings were real. Just as a single mom would expect potential mate to accept her children as his own, whomever God would send into my life would have to face the same scrutiny, just by someone who had MANY more life experiences.
With this in mind, after Faith and I started dating, Momma asked me “Are you going to marry her?” Wow! Talk about being blunt and direct. I said, “I hope so.” Then, she asked me “Do you love her?” Again, not expecting this line of questioning from her, my answer was short and simple: “Yes, but you aren’t going anywhere. I told you we are a package deal.” I knew where she was going mentally and emotionally with her line of questioning and wanted to make sure that she knew I hadn’t changed my mind concerning my promise.
Several times while we were out, Faith and I would talk about the blending of the families. I had already made it clear that Momma Liz and I were a package deal. Faith expressed that she would have been disappointed if I had changed my mind about the promise to Momma Liz and sent her away. Just as she expected me to accept her children, she knew I expected her to accept my promise to my “other mother.” Momma knew who Faith was, but it took time for her to really get to know and trust Faith as she had to learn and trust me over 22 years before. Yet, she learned to appreciate the things that made Faith different and recognized her love and concern for her welfare. This helped with the blending that was taking place in our home. In a short period of time, Faith and Momma went from two strangers who only knew each other in passing to now Momma has a new daughter-in-law and “grandchildren.” It is because of the love of God that Faith and I are together, and it is through this same love that we are a happy and peaceful household that is blending together nicely and Godly. Only God.
Terry explained to me early that he and Ms. Liz were a package deal. Ms. Liz is Mia’s mother. She had come to live with Terry and Mia some years before. Terry had committed to Ms. Liz’s husband on his death bed that he would take care of her. Terry calls her momma. Ms. Liz refers to Terry as her son. She trusts him as such. Terry keeps up with Ms. Liz’s doctor’s appointments, he prepares her meals, he helps coordinate her care. When Terry and I started dating, I would just observe. He was so attentive. I thought it was beautiful. Ms. Liz’s trust in Terry caused me to drop my guard a little bit.
With some of the criticism Terry and I received from people who knew Mia, I was particularly concerned about how her mom would receive me. I would come visit Terry and Ms. Liz after work. She was very polite to me. She didn’t seem annoyed by my presence, but still I didn’t want to force myself on her. I wanted to let things develop organically.
Terry and I prayed daily about the critical relationships in our lives. We knew we loved each other. We knew we wanted to be together, but we didn’t want to live in turmoil. The acceptance of the people who would live under our roof was a huge factor. If Ms. Liz wasn’t accepting of Terry and I, things probably would have not moved as fast, but she is a woman of great faith. She’s wise and seasoned. She witnessed Terry care for her daughter, while also taking care of her. She genuinely wanted happiness for him. Because she was okay, I was okay.
Still we prayed. We prayed for Ms. Liz, we prayed about my parents, we prayed about Terry’s mom. We prayed about the kids. Yes, we are grown. We didn’t have to have anyone’s approval to get married, but I loved him enough to not start our life with internal turmoil. He and Ms. Liz had been through enough. I wanted to bring joy and laughter into our home and not unnecessary drama.