Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
TITLE: Finding Mary
By Linda Germain
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A backlog of tears, whose well-spring reaches to some mysterious place way past my heart, mixes with a light rain. Both sources have hours to go before they are spent. I force myself to stand up and trudge back to the small rental cottage.
I curl up in the overstuffed chair by the fireplace and stare at the flicker of a flame trying to make a connection with the perfectly placed logs. I think about paper; pieces of paper, paper-dolls, newspaper. So much of life begins and ends with paper. Birth certificates to death certificates, diplomas, marriage licenses and driver’s licenses, and one of the most painful--divorce papers.
It is difficult to process how a legal document, a thing that would easily burn in seconds, can change so many things in a person’s life. Filed away with other memorabilia is the one that tells me I am a spouse. In another place is cold authentication that I am not. What is harder to fathom is how to unhook from the family who embraced me with love and acceptance. There is no paper declaring what endearment I now bestow on my beloved mother-in-law. I cannot bring myself to say Mary is a former anything.
She taught me how to march forward and take care of business. With good humor and determination, her constant mantra was always, “How hard can it be?” She is never deterred by the size of any project. When her mother’s hot water heater stopped working, Mary simply removed the old one and followed the instructions to install the new one. While she was at it, she poured a concrete patio by her mom’s back door.
In the early years, we spent many hours wallpapering nearly everything in sight. One day, after finding the perfect paper for the wall by the stairs, we kept saying we felt like we had seen that pattern before, but neither of us could remember where. Once we returned from shopping I heard her infectious giggling. She hollered, “I found where we’ve seen the paper. It’s in the living room!”
Her ability to see a challenge and step up to the plate helped me to confirm the woman I know I am. Through her eyes I could see it’s okay to try to be the solution, not the problem; that whining about something is too unproductive; that figuring out how to fix things yourself is more fun--and besides, as a rule, no one else is going to do it for you.
Stories of her escapades when her children were growing up are priceless. Her husband and son were members of the volunteer fire department. Sometimes the fire truck was parked at their house. One morning a call came in and no one was there to drive. I’m told she ran out in her housecoat and slippers, with her hair in rollers, jumped in the front seat, gunned the engine, and with siren blaring, took off to meet official volunteers at the scene. This amusing memory for her family is more evidence of her willingness to put herself out there, and again, take care of business.
After the rain stops I finish my cup of tea and return to the sand. The air smells so fresh and clean and the hint of a rainbow speaks right to my soul as I take one last walk for the day. I’ve thought about that woman all afternoon, trying to figure out what she is to me now.
I take a deep cleansing breath, almost like inhaling the future. When my lungs are full of the sweet sea air, I exhale all the frustrations and pain I thought were here to stay. Like a lightening bolt, a flash of insight nearly knocks me down. I get it. Mary is not an ex anything. She is who she always was: my child’s grandmother, my sister in Christ, my precious friend.
I hurry back to the warmth of my beach dwelling to look for some suitable paper. There’s a letter waiting to be written.
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