Lessons Learned and my Mother-in-Law

For those who know me well, this would be a very strange post. Adriana, my mother-in-law, and I had the kind of relationship that people write jokes about, the kind most people are afraid of when they marry or warn their daughters about. You do not see eye to eye or have opposite views on most everything or she is just so difficult. In my case, all of the above!!!

Yes, when I got married, I had already met her. Knew exactly what to expect……and I was wrong. It was actually worse and it didn’t get much better all the years she was alive after our marriage. This is not to say that we didn’t have our moments; I made an effort from time to time and she adored my children, which made a big difference in our relationship. It was stormy to say the least and I am sure people felt sorry for me, she was just difficult with everyone around her. Not a walk in the park, but a learning experience for me. Absolutely, I am admitting I learned from her. This is something I would have never done even a few years ago…….much less write about for everyone to read!!! It is the truth, though, and it’s never too late to accept that fact. Adriana was very true to herself. She knew what she wanted and got it most of the time. Her opinions and views were firm, unquestionable and never abandoned. You might not have agreed with them, but you could not have been but in awe of her perseverance. Having an argument with her was useless. She never lost her cool, never raised her voice. It could be infuriating!!! Still, I learned that if you want to make a point, getting hysterical and losing your cool was NOT the way to go. Here is lesson Number One: know who you are and be true to yourself.

She knew how to take care of herself. Since she was in her teens, when she spent a year without being able to walk, she learned the value of exercise. Yes, she took care of getting some exercise everyday, rain or shine. Be it a swim in the ocean or a walk in her yard. Her friends told me that she went on a diet for three months before her wedding, so she could fit in the dress she had designed….This was in 1945!!! When I met her, she was 52, slim and impeccably groomed: just right, never overdone. Later in life, she would take a day off a week and she didn’t work! She would go swimming, have lunch by herself or with friends and return home in the early afternoon. I have walked and lifted my 5 pound weights for years and learned to enjoy traveling on my own and to play bridge. Here is lesson Number Two: take care of your body and make time for yourself.

Adriana knew how to get the best service everywhere she went. From restaurants to boutiques, from airports to hotels, she always got someone to do her bidding. She got the best table or the room with the best view. She could convince sales staff to bring her clothing or shoes to her car for her to try at home. Then return what she didn’t want and pay for the rest!!! Would ask for a wheelchair at the airport when it wasn’t the thing to do and would hand over her carry-on to some stranger to handle for her. Never lost anything……Not there yet, but I have learned to get the best table and change rooms if I am not pleased. Here is lesson Number Three: it’s all in the way you ask and the way you present yourself.

She was not interested in housework, but knew how entertain. Something we had in common, I don’t like housework, as you know by now. Adriana had a flair for ignoring the whole thing, never letting a little dust or an unswept floor get in the way of her day. I am still trying to learn that one. She’d rather entertain and when she decided to, she would get organized: whipped a few munchies or a full dinner in a matter of hours, called everyone she wanted to see and practically ordered them to come. Most people would just come and ended up enjoying themselves!! I learned to take it easy with housework, still working on entertaining. Did learn from her to make a mean roast-beef. Here is lesson Number Four: learn to live the day, don’t stress about housework, it can wait.

Adriana passed away in 2001, after a short illness. In the years since, I have slowly realized that without meaning to, I learned a lot from her. I find myself, at times, appreciating the way she did things. Who would have known…..maybe it means I am getting older!!!