Today I lost my mother-in-law, my husband's mother, my daughter's "Mimi". Although it may be a few days before you read this (out of respect for the rest of the family and friends who deserve to hear and absorb the news personally, not on my blog) I had to sit down to write this tonight.
Writing is my catharsis, you see. Always has been, always will be. To me, there are things that can be said through the written word that few people can express adequately, vocally. Yes, I know, there is often no replacement for the cadence of someone's voice but, for me, I feel my writing comes straight out of my heart more than the, often inelegant, words do via my mouth.
But I digress.
It is not my job to eulogize Rosemary, or "Rosie" as we all knew her, because I only knew her for a relatively short time - about 10 years - but I wanted to write about what she meant to me.
More than eleven years ago now, I met Rosie for the first time. Back then I was just friends with my now-husband. She came down to Southern California to visit her son and, since me and her son worked at the same place and we both worked for her step-son, I naturally got to meet her.
I loved her instantly. She had this air about her that said she was above all the bullshit of life; that she'd been there, seen that, done that, bought the t-shirt and now had no interest in wearing it. She cut right through it all just by who she was. She was who she was and she wasn't going to apologize for it. I so got that.
Not long after, my "friend" became my "boyfriend" and Rosie took on the role of my U.S. mother. (Remember, my own mother was 6,000 miles away for the first 13 years of my time in the U.S.)
I remember the first Thanksgiving I had up in Foresthill, where she lived and where my husband was raised. She picked us up from Sacramento airport in her green pick-up truck. It was raining hard and I think, typically, she had originally missed the freeway exit. She was lousy with directions.
Although it was the first time I had visited her house, Rosie made me feel like the place was "home" right away. That 1,000 square foot house was her sanctuary, for sure, but she shared it willingly and lovingly with everyone who entered. She talked to me like she'd known me her whole life, like I was already family, and I never once felt like an outsider. It felt warm and natural and wonderful to be there.
Not that, as it turned out, we didn't have our differences. In fact, we couldn't be more opposite at all.
I don't think I always understood why she did the things she did or the choices she made, or visa versa. We lived totally different lives with totally different goals, completely different backgrounds, and thoroughly different expectations. But we had a mutual respect thing going.
Rosie never once asked me to be someone else. To act a different way. To say something differently. To make different choices. When I made choices that were not always wise (which I did, often) she never blamed me nor scolded me. She only offered her ear and her support. Next to my own mother and father, she remains the only other person in my life to have never demanded that of me in any way, shape or form. That level of love and acceptance is priceless, especially when your own family is 6,000 miles and a culture away.
We had great chats. I loved how she would always say something left-of-field. Something you were not expecting. Sometimes it came in the form of a question that would make you think. Sometimes it would just be a thought expressed out loud that would make you smile because it was so quintisentially "Rosie". But always I came away feeling "heard" and loved, never judged. I took that to heart and continue to try and pay that lesson forward.
At the end, we talked about dying. It was not a sad and tear-filled conversation but a down-to-earth one that, I feel, represented the straight-up relationship we have built over the years. I thanked her for everything she had been to me and for raising such a wonderful, smart, and compassionate son that I was now lucky enough to have as a husband and father to my daughter. To have a caring sister-in-law and an amazingly smart brother-in-law... that was all her, I reminded her. It was no small feat, given the obstacles she had faced in her life. It is not exaggeration to say that I owe much of the love in my life to her. I told her that. I'm glad I had the chance.
To think of her as gone is just odd....wrong. She was like the acres of trees in her yard. She had a permanence, a quiet strength, and a resilience that just made you think that she would always be there, no matter what the storm.
And so it seems fitting that this is what I told my daughter this weekend about her Mimi: that she has gone away to live in the mountains and the trees and that every time we go up to the hills, we should think about her and know that she is watching over us.
Thank you Rosie.I love you and will remember you, your compassion, and your strength every day of the rest of my life.