Last week my daughter-in law, Jami, and I were having one of our long, mother- daughter conversations. Jami lives in Garden Valley, Idaho high up in the mountains. Garden Valley is a garden of greenery, wild flowers, splendid pastures, interesting homes winding up the mountains on gravel roads. There are lots of wild Elk and Deer and birds of all sorts gathering in the yards of interesting people mostly, artists, writers, health addicts and people who love the quiet of the day and the quiet of the night. The area is also known for its hot springs. I am enamored with Garden Valley for so many reasons but that I will save for another story.
Last week Jami and I were into our conversations. We had our phones on speaker. Our dogs, who were in close proximity, heard everything. Jami has three dogs, Grizzly, a little something that nips at most people but not my husband, Lightening, a yellow lab, and Thunder, a black lab, and of course I have my pooch, Orchid. Grizzly started to bark. Orchid heard Grizzly and started to bark back and then the two Labs heard Orchid and joined in on the barking. Our dogs were deep in barking conversation. Even the dogs are family. We were laughing in disbelief when suddenly Jami said, “There are four huge wild Elk at our window. They are so regal. I love this scene.:
Though I live happily in Chicago, I was as excited as Jami because I am a nature and animal lover, and I think all women over 50 should incorporate nature into their lifestyle.
“Hurry and take a picture, Jami and I will put it up on my Honey Good Facebook so my darlings can see the beauty of the wild elk and Garden Valley.”
She did and I could hardly keep up with the comments you sent in. Jami’s photo was a hit.
Two of a kind
Jami and I are kindred spirits; we are in harmony in what seems to me all ways. I think she would agree. We always end our conversations: “I love you.” The other says, “I love you more.” But it was not always that way. Here is our story.
Meeting my daughter-in-law
I remember the first time l laid eyes on my daughter-in-law, Jami. It was 28 years ago. It is usually the daughter-in-law who is the newcomer. In this case it was me. I was the new girlfriend of her father-in-law, my now ultimate concierge, Sheldon Good. I had moved from Honolulu to Chicago. The little family of four had already given me a name … “the Hawaiian Princess!”
The scene: a family dinner at Jami’s home. The table was set with her finest china, crystal and sterling silver. Dinner was delicious. Conversation lively. I was not at all nervous. I was actually very excited to meet Jami, my husband’s son, Steven, and their little boys. I was from ‘Kankakee, by the Sea,’ a small town girl. I knew nothing about second marriages or blended families. I was a young widow and very excited to meet this new family. As I lay in bed later that night I thought about the evening at the Good’s home. I felt a warm feeling toward Jami and believed she felt the same toward me. Little could I have imagined the turbulence our two joined families would encounter ten years later; the tragedies and betrayals we would face and the power of sisterhood between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who ultimately reunited two wounded families.
We’ve traveled a bumpy road, this daughter-in-law and me. We were beset with a serious family issue. My husband’s son, Jami’s husband betrayed his father. They had been so close, this father and son. The fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments, honor thy father and thy mother, was abandoned. The betrayal was so unimaginable for my husband, who loved this son to his core. Father and son never spoke again. During that time Jami stuck by her husband. She was a loyal wife and dedicated mother. I stuck by my husband. We did not communicate for years until…
On a cold January morning, almost ten years ago, we came together; looked into one another’s tear-filled eyes and hugged and clasped hands. It was at Steven’s funeral. He had committed suicide.
It was a horrific time for my wonderful daughter-in-law Jami, my husband, the ‘good boys’ my grandsons, and my huge side of the family. It was a time to mourn and grieve and question.
What would the future hold for Jami and the children? Could we reunite and come together as one large happy blended family? How would my darling husband handle the loss of a son?
Jami and I had the responsibility to be catalysts…to reunite the families. Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law…a team with a purpose.
Jami and I did it!!! There was no magic formula. We never sat down and made a plan. We acted out of intuition, love and depended on our own experiences. We were two women, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who supported and encouraged one another. We were in sync; aligned with the stars, two kindred spirits with the same goal: Love of family.
Jami and the boys were faced with the tragedies of tragedies. I wanted to be mother and friend not mother-in-law. I wanted to be a grandmother to the boys. Today, almost ten years later: I love the three Good boys, Scott, Logan and David, and they love me. I am their grandmother. It matters not that I am not their blood relative. I love them as much as my natural grands.
One day not too long after the families reconciled, my iPhone rang. It was Jami.
“Hey Honey! “
“Honey, did you get the photograph of the sunset (Jami is a photographer) I sent you in a text?”
“I did! It is beautiful and reminded me of Hawaii! Thank you.”
“Honey, I am calling for a special reason.”
“Is everything OK? (Isn’t that the first thing every Jewish mother asks☺?)”
“Oh yes! I just called to tell you I love you so much. I want to call you mom!”
“Oh Jami! Yes! I love you. Now I have three daughters.”
Our family is blended. There is no strife between “the two clans.” My grands, the ‘Good boys,’ call me Honey. They are so sweet to me. Jami and I text and phone and see one another when possible.
My husband will never get over his loss but revels in the love and respect he receives by Jami and the boys. They honor him!
Jami and I have learned together it does not make a difference if it is your natural family or your blended family. Love is love. Respect is respect. Tolerance is tolerance. Anyway, there is always something going on ‘in the Good family!’ And it is all ‘good.’
I know our relationship reads like a fairytale. It is. It is a relationship meant to be. I am blessed to have Jami in my life. We are soulmates. Why? Because we live the same lifestyle in our heads. Her journey led her to Garden Valley, Idaho; mine has led me here, there, and everywhere. But, it matters not because we believe in the same values. We are nature lovers, we are forgiving, we love the family, we love the quiet of the day and night, we are soulful and if I asked her, “Jami, do you believe in fairies?” (read my story on fairies here! ) She would respond with “Of course I do.” And I would smile.
For those of you darlings who have problems with your daughters-in-laws here is my philosophy: “Think through your thoughts, weigh your words, come from love. Your responsibility is to be head blender!” Please go and blend.