One of the toughest relationships any man has to maneuver through is with his mother-in-law.
They eye you with great mistrust and skepticism, often with good reason.
Twenty years into my marriage, I was still unsure how my mother-in-law felt about me.
She did not find me particularly amusing, which really hurt someone who fancies himself a humorist, but I never quit trying, even when my wife would shake her head and say, “Give it up, funny guy.”
A way to her heart
It took a while but I finally found a way into my mother-in-law’s heart. It was so simple I couldn’t believe I overlooked it for so long.
The two of us shared a deep and abiding love for all things sweet, particularly if they came from a bakery.
I became my mother-in-law’s fix for a piece of cake, a slice of pie or some cookies.
There was a little problem since she had diabetes to deal with, but I figured that by the time she reached 85 she was living on house money anyway.
When I would venture over to Delhi to see her I would stop at Harrison Home Bakery, Graeter’s or Servatii and pick up something sweet for her.
Never anything big. I didn’t want to kill her with sugar after all, but a little something to bring some enjoyment to her life.
Her response was exactly the same whenever I brought a treat for her: “Ooohhh.”
It wasn’t the hysterical laughter I had dreamed of achieving for all those years, but it was music to my ears nonetheless.
I had found a way to make this wonderful woman happy. I felt pretty good about myself.
My mother-in-law, Jean Stockelman, died last Friday morning, just three weeks after celebrating her 93rd birthday. She had a cupcake on her birthday and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.
When you are 93 and can’t maneuver around your house without the aid of another person, I imagine much of the joy in life is gone, but even to the end she knew what she wanted.
In the hospital, surrounded by her children last Thursday night, somehow the subject of ice cream came up.
Suddenly, her voice rose a decibel or two and each of us clearly heard her call out for some ice cream.
Hours from her death, she wanted a bowl of ice cream. And, oh yeah, a Coke too, while you’re at it.
I would have loved to honor her wishes one last time just as she honored me by raising a wonderful young girl who grew to be, as her own mother was, a wonderful wife and mother.
Jean Stockelman was not someone people read or spoke about.
She was just the greatest of blessings that God hopefully bestows on each of us: a wonderful mother.
I’ll think about her every time someone offers me a piece of pie or a slab of chocolate cake.
I’ll try to resist the urge to eat those treats, but I’ll look at them closely, get a whiff of their wonderful aroma, and say, “Ooohhh.”
Bob Hyle covers sports and writes a weekly column for The Harrison Press. He lives in Bright.
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