“Are you okay?” she asks.

“No, I am not!” My words whip her in the face, and it crumples as she takes two steps back from the ironing board. I don’t care. I push past her and out of the back door.

I fling myself face down upon the grass beneath a tree. I take a sobbing breath that hurts my ribs, and the pain rises up from deep within me.  It gushes out, wave after wave, never-ending.

And then I become aware of someone standing over me. She is holding out a cup of tea. Tea? I ignore it. I climb to my feet and push past the woman. Moments later my bedroom door slams. I’ve shut her out.

“All your mother ever says is, ‘Are you okay?’ I complain to my husband. “She asks that question a hundred times a day. I’m so sick of it. What does she expect me to say? Of course I’m not okay! I don’t think I‘ll be okay ever again.”

Andy enfolds me in his arms. “She’s only trying to help. She’s worried about you. She doesn’t know what else to say.”

What is there to say when a daughter-in-law loses a baby?

Late at night, when I lie exhausted in bed, I can hear her talking with Andy. 

“She doesn’t like me,” I say the next morning. “She doesn’t talk to me.”

But she watches me. She watches me as she irons the clothes.

“All she does is iron the clothes,” I complain. “She even irons the underwear and the sheets.”

The pain thuds in my chest. Mom irons the clothes. Thomas remains dead.

And then the day arrives when Mom is to return to her own home. We sit around the table for one last coffee and I say, “Thank you for coming.”

And she replies,” I wouldn’t have missed being with you for anything.”

Then the words that have been stuck deep inside us for weeks start moving. They rise to our lips and we talk. We really talk. We talk for the first time ever.

“I’m so proud of you,” she says. “You’re the daughter I never had.”

She’s gone. Andy drove her to the airport. The house feels empty. I look around, and I notice the piles of ironed clothes. Ironed with care. Ironed with concern. Ironed with love. Ironed because it was all she could do.

Sometimes grief makes us blind. Sometimes we are wrong.

That was the last time I ever saw my mother-in-law. We never again sat at the same table sipping coffee and chatting. But we spoke many times on the phone.  

"Hello," she'd say. "Are you okay?"  I'd smile and answer, "Yes Mom, I'm okay. I really am."

And I was.

Post a Comment

  1. My eyes well up by reading your post Sue.

    When in depressive state it's truly hard to recognize caring actions by people who truly love us and we seek for more comforting gestures when it's there, right in front of us. We just refuse to notice, opting to wallow in our negative emotions. I think this is exactly the page where I am right now.

    I admire you gained the strength to bounce back and eventually appreciate the things your mom-in-law did for you :) Same for me, every day I am doing my best to see the small acts of love my beau does for me while adjusting in a new life in this foreign country.

    Thanks for sharing this story for the A-Z April Challenge!

    I surely would go back to read more of your posts. :)

    1. Maria Kristina,

      I am so sorry you are having a difficult time at the moment. I've had a few times in my past where I've felt like a stranger in a country. It takes time to feel comfortable, to make friends and get a sense of belonging. I hope things get better for you soon. Small acts of love... your beau sounds very caring. Yes, sometimes we can't see past our own pain and we don't notice the little kindnesses of others. I can see you understand.

      Thank you so much for reading my story and for stopping to chat. I am pleased to meet you!

  2. Dear Sue, you really did it this time ... I just read this and burst into tears (I am not even a crier!). It was short, sweet and powerful. It yet hit me right in the belly. I am not even sure why but it went Kapow! Sue you constantly amaze me. You have such a gift ... I am so sorry that you have ever had to experience such tragedy ... but thank you for sharing it and your story with us. xxx

    1. Lisa,

      Oh my! What beautiful words you have left me. I didn't mean to hit you in the belly but I am glad we could share the experience through my story. I didn't know I was going to write this one. I was thinking about inside out dresses but this appeared instead. I cried too while I was writing it. It was sad to remember.

  3. For once in my life I am speechless. This is riveting, heart-tugging; I cannot read it without all of my emotions engaging. It occurs to me that such writing is in excellent literature, but not found so much in blogs. Please forgive me for sounding dramatic, but the word "brilliant" springs to mind.

    1. Nancy,

      You mustn't leave such beautiful comments otherwise I might not get my head through the door. Playing around with words, improving our writing... we've been talking about this. I am glad to have the opportunity to do this while I remember. Thank you so much for reading and for being so encouraging. I appreciate it very much.

  4. Sometimes I have to wait to read your posts...wait for the right moment...because you touch such deep places within me with your words. Even after the waiting..tears still come. I miss my mother-in-law very much. But I thank you, dear Sue...for helping me sense her caring presence here again with me today. And everything Nancy said..."ditto" from me! Brilliant...and brave. xooxox

    1. Trish,

      Thank you so much or your kind words. It is a privilege to connect with you and your mother-in-law. You must love her very much. I didn't appreciate mine until it was almost too late. Brave... it can be very difficult putting myself in a bad light but it is honest. We are quick to complain that no one understands the grief stricken. But we are sometimes slow to see that others are trying to help, trying to understand. So many misunderstandings... Anyway, thank you! xxx

  5. Beautiful, Sue. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Colleen,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I hope you're having a very blessed Holy Week. God bless!


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