She was a college dean’s wife and mother of three sons. She faithfully and competently performed the requisite duties of both jobs. She was also frustrated and angry that she couldn’t fulfill her own ambitions. We don’t know specifically what they were because she never said. She was educated, skilled, creative. She was a creature of the 50’s on the cusp of Women’s Lib.

The Three Sons.

The youngest son, the scientist, and his wife-to-be were the most traditional couple. Most conservative, most ‘normal’. They had two daughters and seemingly no marital strife. They’re still married and devoted to each other. Not much story there.

The middle son, the only really funny one, was graduating from Annapolis and had knocked up his girlfriend. They had a traditional under-the-swords military wedding. It was very story-book, Cinderella-like, except the bride was six months pregnant and it showed. She, Mother-in-law, was mortified. Civil, but aloof. Eventually this son and his wife had a second child. She warmed only moderately to these two children, her first grandchildren. This son died in 1974 in a freak Navy military vs. NASA accident over Moffett Field near San Clara, California. At the military funeral, She received the folded American flag graciously, placed it in on her lap, and sobbed.

But She refrained from reaching out to this daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren. After all, the oldest child was almost born out-of-wedlock. Mother-in-law returned to Connecticut and never looked back.

This daughter-in-law remained on the west coast with the two children. In time, she moved to the northwest, became a beloved teacher, never re-married.

It was the mid-1960’s and the oldest son and Jo were the Ivy League artsy couple. Jo was her favorite daughter-in-law. We’re not sure why. But we think that it was true. They married in a semi-traditional event in 1966. Mother-in-law was delighted. She was pleased that Jo had a gift registry; She strongly influenced choices of china, silver pattern, kitchenware, linens, etc. We don’t’ know whether Jo acquiesced to please, or because she was intimidated, or just didn’t give a shit. But in any case, this endeared Jo to Her.

Fortunately, our own mother wasn’t aware of this ‘relationship’.

Eight years later Her oldest son and Jo had a daughter. One week later Her youngest son and his wife had their first daughter. Now she was “Grandmother Superior”.

That all changed when #1 son and Jo divorced. Their daughter was two years old. Despite #1 son’s infidelity, Jo wrote Her a hopeful heartfelt letter asking to maintain their relationship for the sake of their daughter. She said “No. I have to blame someone for this so it has to be you. I can’t blame my son.”

So sad.

She realized that her #1 son was a serial cheater when she met his third wife years later. She figured it out at her 90th birthday celebration and made a comment to that effect. Their daughter related this to us thereby allowing vindication for my sister Jo.
Her ex-mother-in-law passed away in Florida this past week from cancer at 95.

Again, so sad.

For what might have been. On several levels.

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