Life is full of choices. Which cereal to add to the cart, which movie to watch, which direction the toilet paper is hung i.e. the right way or the wrong way. So many decisions are made throughout the course of our day that we hardly even think about. And then there are the things that we don’t get much say on: real existential affairs like the passage of time, or which side of the bed we get to sleep on. One of the most impactful events in many of our lives involves a bit of both: choice and consequence, albeit there is some serendipitous nature to it as well. I speak of course of the partner we share our lives with, and the in-laws that come along.
Before I go any further, I promise that I know what I’m doing here. I am no fool and know that my mother in law checks in on this blog every now and again, and I am writing this particular post with the sincerest of hopes that, if she reads only one more entry from my catalogue, it is this one.
I have written posts in the past of my up-bringing, my parents and my brother, all of whom supremely and positively shaped my life and who I am today; my gratitude never ends for having them in my life. Fast forward to when Alison and I met, some years ago, and my family expanded to include more love, and a new perspective on family that I am fortunate to share a space with in this world. For while we may “choose” our partner in life, the people, experiences and family they bring along with them are not always a known part of that choice; and for some partnerships, that doesn’t always go in favour.
Out of respect for privacy, I will not disclose personal details or history on individuals, but instead speak primarily to how I have been directly impacted by their presence in my life.
First and foremost: I am inspired by the relationship my mother in law has with her children. Alison and her mom have a relationship that is close, honest, respectful and full of love. I watch them learn from each other and carry on in a very fluid and natural way, as they have mastered the art of conversation. It is clear to see in both of them that a high value in life is a connection to people and conversation, and there is much I have learned from them on how to carry a discussion, showing genuine interest, asking questions and shutting out other distractions. Conversation is paying attention and not simply waiting for your turn to speak. It’s a lovely value, and how my mother in law shows care for others through such compassion, is something I hope to pass down to our own children.
She is part of her community, and her community a part of her. In the past 12 years I have never known her to rest on her laurels, waiting for the world to come to her. She is an adventurer, taking in the culture of her present location, sharing what she has learned, and she is never slowing down. Whether campaigning for what’s right, chairing committees for film and art festivals, teaching English to families new to Canada, or sponsoring ways to advance our planet, she is active within her community. The most beautiful part of that whole sentiment is that her ‘community’ has no borders; she is a true citizen of the world. I get quite excited (and perhaps a little jealous) every time I ask her “What are you up to this weekend?” The answer is never the same, could involve connecting flights, volunteering at the hospital gardens, a rally, an air bnb in the county, or taking in an independent film at The Bookshelf. Whatever her answer is, it makes me excited for retirement.
Perhaps where we share the most in common, however, would be through her desire for exploration. Not one to take the same route twice, she recognizes that, while you might be a tad bit disoriented, you are not lost; you are simply in a new place you’re discovering for the first time. All inclusive trips have their time and place place, but when she says she’s travelling to Costa Rica, for example, she is off the beaten path and finding secluded beaches and local fare that many others are fearful to experience. And her sense of adventure does not stop at travel, she is just as interested in exploring the culinary delights of ‘anywhere’ , as she is the sights and sounds. Every dinner we share at her table is an exploration in a new recipe, from a new butcher, cheese shop, distillery, or market that discovered in her day to day travels. I mean, there is perhaps no better way to share your experiences and conversation than through breaking bread at the dinner table.
Experiences are the best gift of all. Come Christmas, birthdays or some random Thursday in June, she is always considering experience over ‘things’ and values time together above all else. Though I have never heard her say this directly, and perhaps I should ask her before assuming, but I equate this value to recognizing that we have no idea how much time we get on this planet, and ‘stuff’ can’t come with you to whatever comes next, but we can collect and share memories with others to leave behind, and perhaps impart some change for the better while we’re at it. There is both beauty, and pain, to see beyond our screens, and experiencing those and many more feelings with others, can teach and change us more than anything wrapped from a store. I have seen countless pictures of Michelangelo’s David, for example, but there was no comparing that to standing before it with Alison in The Accedemia. I’m sure there’s more to it, for her, but that’s at least part of what I find inspiring and hold true myself. This, again, is a value we aim to share with our children.
There are so many lovely and inspiring pieces of who she is, that I hope she understands are known and seen by others. She genuinely cares for people, our environment, fairness, equality, and, while she has strong opinions, she listens to the point of view of others and doesn’t simply shut them down. Out of this I see her appreciation and recognition that, for as long as we are willing to listen, we never stop learning or growing. She is a strong and inspiring woman who lives a life of adventure, experiences and our children are so lucky to have a Gran that pushes their mind to grow.
There is so much more I have to say and share on how she inspires, be it her reading recommendations, podcast suggestions, her keeping up with technology, or how unbelievably giving she is with her time. To sum it up simply: She loves and she is loved.
So, thank you for agreeing to bring me into your family. I’m done embarrassing you…for now.