My mother-in-law is always put together. She loves art and design. Her furniture is modern, her clothes are always put together. She knows a lot about fashion—everything she owns is high-end. She was once a college professor, and a long time ago she lived in Italy.
I am the exact opposite of the woman described above. Messy, curly hair in a bun, sweatpants are a staple, my house has hand-me-down, outdated furniture, my go-to meal is tater-tot hotdish. I’m about as unsophisticated as they come. I don’t think my mother-in-law holds it against me.
The kids call her Grammy. She lives in assisted living because as long as I’ve known her, she has battled Parkinson’s. She handles it as well as anyone could. She tries not to let it hold her back. She comes over on the weekends.
As different as we are, there is a moment in time that forever changed my relationship with Grammy. When my son was little, and not yet diagnosed with autism, I received a lot of unwanted advice from various members of the family. There were a lot of pointed comments about all the things we weren’t doing, lots of guilt when he simply couldn’t do what typical toddlers could. It was a really hard time for me.
You know who always accepted my son no matter what? Grammy.
Maybe we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but after that period of support, she was always going to be someone I looked after as well.
So, recently I planned a special surprise for Grammy. I had been learning photography, so I decided we would take a lovely family photo with her. One she could actually be in and display at home. I bought the cutest winter outfits for the kids. I took out the messy bun in my hair and put on some lip gloss. I wiped faces and straightened bangs. We were ready. Grammy was excited.
Then, one dog kept jumping in the picture.
My daughter came in and had done her own make-up (she’s five and got into it while I was getting the boys ready), and it was reminiscent of Lady Elaine from Mister Rodgers.
My son with autism is handsome as can be, but when posing for pictures, he sometimes looks a little awkward and today was no exception.
Finally, my middle—my busy middle boy was in a mood. The silliness was at an all-time high, and he wouldn’t sit still in his little plaid jacket. He thought it was hilarious to make a funny face just as the camera clicked.
I gave up.
I showed my mother-in-law the final product, mostly as a joke. When I flipped the camera around, I’ll never forget her laugh. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her laugh that hard. We both laughed for a good minute. I sent her the photo. A few minutes later she asked if I could help her text it to a friend—she actually liked the photo!
As I looked at it, I liked it a lot too. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t really posed. It was just. . . . us.
Thank you for loving us and being proud of us just as we are, Grammy. It means more to me and the kids than you’ll ever know.