Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mother-in-Law o' Mine, Part Two

~ I should mention that this picture and the one I posted yesterday were taken at the Frontier Culture Museum a few weeks ago during our wonderful field trip there

{continued from yesterday's post}

During the eight months of my engagement to Jeff, my relationship with his parents was cordial, but not particularly close.  There was the physical distance to consider, for one thing; I was finishing up my senior year of college in Pennsylvania, and they were living in the mountains of California.  I did fly out to the Golden State a few times during those months (for Valentine's Day, I think, and also the week between the end of exams and my college graduation); and during those visits, we got along fine as we got to know each other more and more.  But despite our amiableness, another defining moment came along that shaped our relationship in a downward direction.

Jeff's parents chose to not come to our wedding.

I'm sure there were numerous factors involved in that decision, not just a disapproval of me; but it became clear that it wasn't a matter of not having enough money to make the trip because, at about the same general time as the wedding, they traveled to Tennessee for Jeff's dad to paint a mural in a church building there.  

Part of me was hurt by their decision, but somehow Jeff and I were able to move on from that and dwell on the fact that we would still have a wonderful celebration at our wedding (and we did) and maybe it was for the best that they weren't there.  I'm not sure how we escaped the root of bitterness that could have easily sprung up; but, unless I'm being completely blind to my own sin, I really don't think we became bitter about it or held a grudge against them.

However, their decision to not attend our wedding certainly did nothing to draw us closer!  In fact, after we were married, when we would go to visit them, I remember certain uncomfortable moments when something about the wedding would get brought up, but...oh!...they weren't at it, so maybe we shouldn't talk about it!  Awkward!

During those early years of our marriage, we lived in San Diego, a few hours from their home in Big Bear.  I'm finding it difficult to remember clearly how often we visited them, but I do know that there were visits back and forth, sometimes in our home, sometimes in theirs.  Again, things were always cordial as we spent time together, learning to know each other, and building up memories that would tie our hearts together.

A few memories stand out from those years:

Jeff's dad was an artist; and although I didn't know a hill of beans about visual art and was embarrassed about my lack of culture in that area, I was able to relate to him through my study of and skill in music.  Plus, he sometimes listened to classical music as he painted; and that gave us something to talk about.  :)

Sometimes we would go up to Big Bear to visit them, but also so that Jeff could work in the barber shop there that was owned by Joe, the gregarious Italian who had originally started Jeff on the path of barbering.  (In a nutshell, when Jeff was in his late teens, Joe said to him, "You need a trade that you'll always be able to do.  Why don't you learn barbering like me?"  So Jeff did.)  There were days when Jeff would be at work in Joe's barbershop, filling in for his former mentor who was out of town or recovering from health challenges, and Jeff's mom would be at her job in the office of the water department for the city, and Jeff's dad and I would spend the day together.  I remember going with him to the farmer's market in Big Bear to buy sunflowers so that he could paint them.  I also remember actually watching him paint some of the sunflower paintings that he did during those years.  Is it any wonder that I treasure the two sunflower paintings we have by him?  

Even at this point in my relationship with Jeff's parents, I still felt plenty shy and insecure, tentatively feeling like a part of their family but not being quite sure of their acceptance.  But a day came along that helped to change that, and this is one of those crystal-clear memories that are so precious.

Jeff and I and his dad were sitting in an Italian restaurant in one of the shopping centers in Big Bear, eating lunch while Jeff's mom was at work.  I'm not sure how or why the subject came up, and I can't remember the exact words; but at one point in the conversation, Jeff's dad in essence admitted that he was wrong about his first impression of me and that he had come to realize that I was the perfect wife for Jeff.

Man!  Talk about another olive branch!  :)

I've never read The Blessing by Trent and Smalley (although I would like to do so someday); but from what I understand of the concept, that moment with Jeff's dad was when I received The Blessing from him.  I treasured that moment; and the fact that I'm writing about it now shows that...

...I still do.

Once again, I've got to cut this off and hope for more time tomorrow to write...


Morning said...

I'm intrigued by this story, Davene, and have thought about you so often today. Your grace, patience and understanding in the face of what must have been a very difficult time is, honestly, quite astonishing to me. I realise of course that I can have no real knowledge of the many facets that must be involved in the story, and of course wouldn't expect you to comment on anything more than you have written. But I wondered whether, as a mother of boys and a person of strong and particular faith, whether you would approach a similar situation differently if it were to occur in your future, especially since you have experienced the situation from a daughter-in-law's perspective. Or do you feel that your time of proving yourself as a helpmeet and mother have infact led to a stronger relationship than if your parents-in-law had simply accepted you as Geoff's choice, even if you were not their ideal?

Margie said...

I've been meaning to leave a comment about this for a while, and hope to leave more - but the girls are up and we have no school and it looks like the day will be busy! What I want to say is that I am impressed and amazed that the bitter root didn't grow when Jeff's parents didn't come to the wedding. It says so much about you that you were able to still build a relationship with them, in spite of the initial discomfort. This is an incredibly inspiring story.