Mother-in-law thoughts

When Peggy and I started dating, well, let’s just be generous and say that Peggy’s mother did not like me very much. I never really understood why, and I was just arrogant enough not to be bothered by it. I always figured it was because I was a year older (that seems to matter more when you are 16 and 17) and because Peggy was her family’s golden child.

The longer we stayed together the worse it got. I’ve heard people talk about being treated with disdain by in-laws. Disdain would have been a giant step up in class — seething dislike is more accurate.

I thought it would improve when we got engaged, but the feelings just ramped up at that point. At the church on the day of our wedding, Peggy’s Mama begged her not to go through with it. Fortunately for me Peggy had made up her mind. Anyone who knows her knows what that means.

Our wedded bliss did nothing to soften her feelings toward me. I was always respectful and polite, but I can be forgiven for not being overly demonstrative towards the family. After a little over two years of marriage, we found out Peggy was pregnant. Everyone was predictably excited, especially as Peggy had a very smooth pregnancy (the summer electricity bill in our tiny house is a subject for another time). When we went to the hospital we decided to wait until we had something to tell before we started notifying people.

As stress-free as Peggy’s pregnancy was, the delivery was the exact opposite. She was in labor for more than twenty-four hours before her water broke. We called her parents then and told them we were at Presbyterian Hospital.

Nine hours later the doctor came in and told us that the baby was in distress and we needed to do an emergency caesarean section. We did not have time to tell Peggy’s parents what was happening but asked the nurse to go let them know. Thirty minutes later our son was born and both he and Peggy were healthy.

When I walked out into the waiting room to share the news with Peggy’s mother and father, I hugged them both and shared what had happened. I will never know exactly what happened, but something about that moment finally melted Mary’s resistance. From that day forward she became the greatest mother-in-law that a man could ever have.

Since that day, she has literally spent more than twenty-eight years apologizing to me for the way she acted, and I have spent the same amount of time asking her to not worry about it.

Mary, Peggy’s Mama, went home yesterday.

Over the next few days I will have more to say about this remarkable woman and the remarkable woman she gave to me.

Today I can only think about one thing — she won’t feel the need to apologize anymore.  


Mary Elizabeth Bruton Harper
July 27, 1928 – March 4, 2016

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