When it was all said and done, my husband spent six weeks in the miserable land of the injured. A world many of you know is filled with extreme pain, a dizzying dosage of painkillers, crutches that leave the armpits raw, and that depressing feeling of will I ever get my normal life back?
Thank God after Dan’s complicated knee surgery we had neighbors, friends and coworkers drop off meals and give us extra help with our kids.
My mother-in-law, in particular, was a total rock star. She dropped everything in her life and came to our rescue. And during the time she was living with us she somehow was able to refresh my memory on a significant matter I had lost sight of.
Let’s just say after Trump came into office, I may have been guilty of recoiling and might have avoided this really sweet, caring woman. It is totally ridiculous because she is a person rooted in love and compassion for her family, but I was off too busy keeping my distance to remember that.
When I was younger I assumed all mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships were doomed from the get go. There was so much that that hinted at the fact that I was not even supposed to like this woman. All the different cultures that surrounded me had their snarky mother-in-law jokes. And, come to think of it, my own mother’s relationship with her suegra was a rocky one. I was pretty well convinced mine would be the same.
But, back in 1999 when I met my future mother-in-law, Jackie, I thought she was pretty cool. She was a gracious host, a good storyteller, and always made sure everyone was well fed and comfortable in her country home. The only thing she was guilty of was trying to fatten us up with homemade pies, and the fluffiest biscuits and gravy made from scratch. Every time we hugged farewell it was easy to forgive her for my plumper waistline. As we drove back to our life in Boulder Dan and I always looked forward to the next time we’d see his mom.
Over the years our relationship with his parents was easy considering our incredibly different backgrounds and politics. Through all those years we could agree to disagree about many issues, but mostly we’d just steer clear of political conversations and focus on playing cards and throwing back a few beers. They could look past the fact that I was this liberal minded Aspen kid going to CU Boulder. I, in turn ,could forgive the fact that they watched Fox News around the clock and ignored the books on her shelf that had titles like “How to Talk to a Liberal (If you must).”
Fast forward to the presidential election of 2016. We all know what happened that night. We know who won and who lost and exactly how we felt as the states on our TV screens started turning red. On a macro scale that decision skewed our politics and spun our country in to a very divisive, opinionated, hateful spiritual crisis of sorts. On a micro scale it may have caused distance between families, and possibly distracted some of us (*ahem* like me) from what and who truly matter in our lives.
Maybe we wrongfully started believing we belonged to a different tribe and even falling into the blame game. Maybe we were afraid and felt for some reason or another somewhat vulnerable and told ourselves we had to stay at a distance to protect our little family from… well, I’m not exactly sure. Criticism? Conflict? Maybe I was just bewildered by the fact that that someone I cared for so much could support a president that was so outspoken about people like me- a Mexican immigrant.
It’s unsettling to think how easy it was for me to distance myself from family when our national politics got ugly. And how easy it was to point fingers from afar. It took our little mini crisis for me to realize that sometimes at the front lines are the very people we push away.
During this time when our country is so at odds, I think it’s especially important to remember that we need to check our politics at the door when dealing with loved ones and maybe, just maybe we need to pull these people in closer. Up close is when you see them magnified into who they truly are and where love and family clearly transcends politics.