[Note: One of the sweetest and best ladies I’ve ever known, Vernell Cotten Nance, my mother-in-law, just passed away. Maybe this is a good time to reprise this column from August 2012.]
My mother-in-law has just moved from her apartment down and around the corner from our house, where she moved around five years ago, to assisted living in a community about 75 miles away.
I don’t like it much. I know—we’ve all heard the jokes about mothers-in-law. And, yes, I’m afraid we’ve all seen some who deserved both to be the brunt of jokes and to be drop-kicked a blessed distance away.
But by far most of the mothers-in-law that I’ve known actually do the job quite well and are a major blessing. And I’m convinced that mine is the best of all. Vernell simply amazes me, and from the first moment over 37 years ago when it began to look like I might become her son-in-law, I knew for sure I was getting the better end of the bargain.
I would describe her first as Christlike, and that means loving and unselfish and grateful and winsome and . . . all sorts of good things. I could talk for a very long time about all the good things she is.
But one thing keeps occurring to me, and it centers on what she is not and never has been. She has never been a whiner. (I wish I was more like her!)
Dr. Charles Siburt, a truly amazing Christian man, professor, minister mentor, church fuss mediator, etc., passed away recently, and a friend of mine remembered him saying this: “There is no way to modulate the human voice so as to make whining an acceptable sound.”
My mother-in-law would have liked him. Vernell is one of the most patient and forgiving people I have ever known, but my wife, truly her daughter in this respect as well, will tell you that her mother has never had much patience for whining or whiners. Juana remembers, for example, coming home from school as a child and starting to fuss about a situation, another student, or a teacher.
“Now, Juana . . .” her mother would say, and then give a lesson on “Why We Don’t Whine, Why Whining Is Obnoxious, and Why You Are Never Allowed to Become a Whiner.” She didn’t actually give the sermon a title, but that’s what the lesson was. For most of the rest of my wife’s childhood, two words were all her mother had to say to silence completely any whiny utterance: “Now, Juana . . .”
The gift Vernell gave her daughter has been passed on. My sons and I know quite well that if we feel like whining, we’d better look elsewhere than to the wife and mom who loves us too much to let us get in the habit of emitting whiny sounds.
Vernell has buried two fine husbands, and she genuinely grieved, but I’ll always remember what she said: “I don’t like this, but if I were the only one this had ever happened to, I might have a reason to complain.” Wow.
She will be happy in her new home. You can count on it. She plans to be.
It’s okay for us to be sad that she won’t be as close by. Healthy tears are allowed. Just not whining.
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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.