They messaged with only a moment’s notice – the pair who served as my in-lawed parents for a decade. They were in town for their annual Christmas break week with my girls – their grandchildren. My daughters wanted to show them our new home and without thinking about the state of my living room a few days after Christmas, I said yes.
I have seen my former in-laws on a handful of occasions since the divorce over 5 years ago at the occasional dance recital or soccer game when they come to town for a visit. We would exchange brief pleasantries and that was the extent of it. My former mother-in-law and I occasionally exchange messages with photos of the girls, or funny quips about our shared political views, but that is a stark departure from how I used to confide in and seek advice from this woman as I was growing into a wife and a mother.
We toured our firm’s newly expanded law offices. I stumbled over my words when it came time for me to introduce them to a newer employee who had no idea who they were. “These are my former in-laws. I am sorry, that sounds weird and I do not know how to refer to you.” My former mother-in-law gracefully took over. “Well, we still very much consider ourselves part of the Dunne family.” I choked back the lump that instantaneously formed in my throat.
She remarked with amazement at the progress of my business. She remembers me graduating from law school. She remembers when I was an associate in an office of 4 (total) employees. She was proud of me now managing a team of 15 and growing. She kept up with a steady stream of “remember when” statements that made us both smile.
We went to my home, where she filled the space with compliments and heartfelt happiness for my girls and me. We moved into our reading nook where she saw book covers framed on the wall from cherished books she and the girl’s grandpa gifted my children as toddlers. We all felt it as a marker of a time now seeming long ago. Sadness hung in the air about the change in path for our family. But we simply have to move forward from it. There is no other alternative.
I am a lucky one. I enjoyed relationship with my in-laws. I loved and still love them. I very much miss them in my life. This inevitably led to tears flowing after they left. But in reflection I see that we are all doing our best. That we will forever have been each other’s historians and family members for a decade in time and that will not be lost. And my children’s Nana was right when she reminded me that we are still, and always will be, a part of each other’s family.