It's not especially common, or even popular, to not have a few complaints about your in-laws. But when people are playing that game, I smile and nod, and skip my turn.
From the very beginning, Matt's sweet family has accepted me as one of them. Matt and his sister lost both parents by the time they were in their early 20s. The same is true of two of his cousins (Susan and Bruce), whose parents also died young (they also had a sister, Lori, who died very young). The remaining elders of the family were Matt's Uncle Kelly and Aunt Flora. Kelly was related by blood, Flora by marriage. They had one son, Jim. Now, given that Flora was the oldest of seven, she had a lot of nieces and nephews, and their kids - and that got all blended together into additional cousins - because we just made no distinction.
Basically, in dating Matt, and then marrying him, I got added to a big, kind, warm, fun family. And there was no distinction that I was a recent addition - I got as much love and support as any of the "kids".
Which, you know - suits me. I love attention. And I genuinely vibed with his family. We many not agree on everything, all the time, but the love is constant and unconditional.
Last summer, Flora had some health problems that put her in the hospital, and from there into a nice rehabilitation center. Kelly visited daily, so did a lot of the other family, and she was well cared for. Then, a few weeks ago, she went back into the hospital with a few issues. We learned that if the treatments given were not effective, that her time would be limited. Matt and I made a trip to see her - she was in and out during the visit, but knew who we were, that we were there and that we loved her.
She died Monday, and her memorial was yesterday. It was really lovely. Visitation for a few hours, then a graveside memorial. I got to see and talk with all the people I have come to know and love as family, and we laid our matriarch to rest.
There were tons of beautiful flowers for Flora (because you can't be a Flora without some flowers). Kelly came for visitation, but chose to opt out of the graveside - he wanted to remember Flora as she was when she was alive. I totally get that.
They were married 67 years. She was just out of high school, they married, then went overseas where he was stationed with the army in Germany. During that time, they saved all their money and traveled all over Europe. Even after he left the Army, their travel days were many and varied. They had spent time in Russia and Egypt. They had visited a sister city in Belgium. They went all over the US. They raised a son, sent him to college, and then went themselves.
I heard countless people speaking of their generosity. I know from whence they speak. They were generous to us in many ways over the years.
We showed our appreciation to them by offering to drive them to the family parties in perpetuity. I would be a DD for them any time - and they did love the parties. We liked that they never stayed past 10 or 11 - and that was fine with us. When we got back to their house, they would try and feed us - unloading the fridge like it was a clown car - just more food than could have possibly fit in there.
Flora's granddaughter told me yesterday that Flora didn't always have enough to eat as a child and decided that she would always have plenty when she was an adult. She cooked us breakfasts, suppers... the story goes that when she got married, she cooked her husband breakfast, but not used to cooking for one spouse instead of a houseful of siblings, cooked the same amount until Kelly advised her he couldn't eat that much.
Flora danced her ass off at my wedding. She loved a party. She never met a stranger. She loved her husband, her family, her friends, and her cats. When Matt and I were first dating, I came over and she said, "Come on in - help yourself to the fridge. We get all three papers (newspapers - Chattanooga, Dalton, Atlanta) - spread out if you want a nap." Their home was decorated in greens and yellows - different shades for each room. She and Kelly did battle over the thermostat - she was too hot - he was too cold. They had different eating and sleeping schedules, but they were otherwise totally in synch. Whenever we stayed with them - in a little apartment out back of the house called "The Pad" - they had snacks and drinks in the fridge.
They were always happy to see us. Once, Matt wasn't feeling well the day of a Christmas party, and I said, "Well, I think I should still go." And I did, and they were tickled. I tell people I went to a family party without Matt and they are amazed. Well, hell - they're good parties. We should have visited more often. Whenever we left a visit, I told Matt, "Nobody should ever be that excited just to see us."
We held our last party with and for Flora yesterday. So many people came to say goodbye, share a memory, pay respects.
When beloved family members die, it leaves a hole. We were at dinner, talking about the memorial where people spoke, and Matt mentioned that he was surprised his sister didn't speak. She said, "What was there to say? Her life said it all." She went on, "The only thing I might have said is that in the days ahead when things are hard and you're thinking about her or missing her, go out and do something kind that Flo would have done."
Yeah, that's the family I married into. I hit the damn jackpot, and I am grateful for it every single day.
She leaves a huge legacy, a hole that we won't ever completely fill, and a recipe for a coconut cake that I make every Easter.