The news about my mother-in-law is unsettling. It’s not that she’s at death’s door; we don’t know what’s wrong with her. And it’s not that it would be a tragedy if she died; she’s 94. It’s that she could die, and then this woman who has been a symbol of resilience will no longer exist, her absence making the world feel a little less steady.
My mother-in-law is an ordinary woman—an old-fashioned housewife with no special talents or accomplishments, save one: a sturdy, down-to-earth cheerfulness in the face of terrible tragedies. She lost two brothers in World War II, three of her four children, her husband, one of her legs—and righted herself like a bop-bag clown after every blow.
When I asked her late husband what had made him fall in love with her, he replied, “She knew how to have a good time.”
Of all the genetic qualities I’d wish upon my children, my mother-in-law’s gift for having a good time is foremost. I care less that they learn from their mistakes than that they not be undone by them, less that they have great adventures than that they take pleasure in daily life, less that they fulfill their potential than that they not be driven by fear. Good old Granny was a wonderful model for living a good life.