Comforting Words: My Own Fockers

Sunday, July 10, 2005

My Own Fockers

Once I knew the date of her arrival, two things became clear to me, one that I had to write this piece and two, that I had to see the movie “Meet The Fockers.”

The latter was a hilarious experience, albeit it started a bit slow, resulting in Juds not sticking with it to the end. My daughter and I, however, spent the almost two hours of the movie in stitches.

Admittedly it was not the greatest comedy I have ever seen, however, bearing in mind that my inspiration for watching “Meet The Fockers,” had to do with a certain arrival – it was funny enough for me.

Almost fifteen years after meeting my personal Fockers, this is one of the first times that I am ‘officially’ reflecting on what “My Own Fockers” has meant to my life.

After reading these Words of Comfort along with these Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart I do hope you can look at the Fockers in your life through different lenses.

Words from Scripture

From the New Testament:
Mark 3: 31 – 51

“[Jesus’] mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brother are outside, asking for you. And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”

Words of Comfort

Her flight gets in just after 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday and unlike many other occasions when anticipation of her arrival would cause me great consternation – this time is different.

Actually, it has been different for many years now. Take last year for example. This was her first visit to us in Canada. We had only been here just over a year and she decided it was time to accept our open invitation to “come whenever.”

She stayed six weeks and although I did my usual of purchasing new bed linen, bath towels, kitchen towels and placed flowers in her room, I was not tense but rather quite enjoyed her stay.

This was a new experience for me, as normally her visits, even when she lived less than an hour’s drive away, would have my stomach so knotted wondering what she would say. My blood pressure would soar as the visit progressed and I would need to meditate and pray for calmness for hours after she left.

My mother-in-law, for the want of a better term, is quite a nice lady, emphasis on lady. She grew up in polite society and did the things that proper ladies did, including have tea – the full works – at the end of the day. Her style of dress over the years suited the part and although I met her in 1991, she had never worn a pair of jeans in her life.

Living outside of the box for her meant using ‘swear’ words such as “damn,” and to go to a social event without her husband or an appropriate escort. Although she was an accomplished professional in her own right, my mother-in-law found certain activities unbecoming for women and if you were to curse “s…” in her presence, her ‘high-brown’ complexion would turn as red as a beet.

She had a husband who loved her to death and who did everything in his powers to support her – professionally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. He looked after the children, for example, while she went to Europe to do some professional upgrading, when my partner and her sister were quite young.

My partner tells me that every evening he would listen for her car to turn the corner of their upper middle class neighbourhood to put the kettle on for tea. Almost every Sunday, they could be seen sitting in the second front pew at church, side by side, praising God.

I remember being so shocked that after both of them drove fairly old model cars for years, when the time came to purchase and import into the island a new car – it was she who got it. Talk about being a well-kept woman, sorry lady.

Knowing some of this history before our first meeting back in 1991 made me very nervous but intrigued. My nervousness had much to do with the fact that in Jamaica meeting the parents of your lesbian partner is not a norm – still is not.

As if that was not enough, my socioeconomic background was quite the opposite of my partner and her family’s in many ways. I felt inadequate as, in my view, I was bringing very little to this table, except trouble maybe.

Looking back now, maybe I did just that – brought trouble but my entry was also the first time that this family had to really think outside the box and accept that their daughter was not going to marry a man.

My life has always been about pushing the envelope, never satisfied to accept things as they presented themselves. ‘Joining’ (forcing may be a more apt description of my entry) a family with such ideals as my partner's has, was both painful and a blessing to me.

Out of this forced entry, all parties have grown. Recently someone wisely said at a gathering that it is a lie that we do not get to choose our family. I agree. My partner’s parents and her sister, for example, after the initial upset and discomfort my persistent presence caused, have embraced A. and I and have called us family and meant it.

I have made mention before of the relationship that developed between Juds’ father and I – one of few words but such felt mutual concern and affection even, at least on my part.

My mother-in-law and I have a similar bond. Although it has been unspoken, as this is a family more of action than words, our bond goes well beyond concern and affection. She has modeled for me a different kind of motherhood – one that has helped me in my own role as mother to A.

Regular readers of Comforting Words know by now that my relationship with my own mother has been turbulent, unhealthy and suffocating in many ways.

What this Lady, and I use the designation with much love and affection, has shown me is the kind of love the Fockers gave to their son in that silly movie. It is a love that is oblivious to achievements but focussed on family and connections.

The latest book that I am reading is entitled “Soul Prints,” by Marc Gafni, in which he posits that connection might very well be the objective of our soul search and the greatest gift we might offer to other human beings.

Whether this is true for you only you can answer but I know that that is what my mother-in-law, Lady R., has gifted me - connectedness.

There have been times over the last almost fifteen years when I was not sure I could pay the price of this gift, when either her idiosyncrasies or mine would seem too much to bear. There were moments when her own struggles with our sexuality manifested as painful comments, such as “Only family,” as she excluded me from a photo session.

However, who says that it would have been any easier in a traditional family? I have asked myself that question many a times when the going got rough and uncertain whether my relationship with Juds would weather the storm.

To answer that question I have had to look to the many photographs, she has taken of A. and me right in the midst of the ‘family’. When I consider the many school functions and birthday parties she has attended for A, when she did not have to, I know the answer.

She has supported us, emotionally and financially, through tough times. How many times have I sat in her kitchen, sipping tea, while she quietly guided me to the right decision, something my own mother has never done? No wonder the passage from Mark resonates so much with me!

Now 75 (I believe), Lady R is making her second trip to Edmonton and in Juds words,“She is as excited as a child to be coming.” I can believe that and I look forward to her infectious childlike giggle to brighten up the next forty-two days.

None of us can predict the future – only death is certain and so, whatever happens with my relationship, unlike Terry McMillan, who was the subject of my last voice post, I could never regret having had the privilege of spending this time with not only Juds but Lady R.

Being connected with both have been and continues to be life-enriching and so I look forward to the lessons in ladylike manners that Lady R will teach me over the next six weeks.

I will cherish the memories of her visit and I am sure she will leave behind tons of photographs, just in case we should forget anything.

Words from the Heart

MOTHER IN LAW
By Robert H. Madden

Source: League of American Poets

I JUST WANTED TO TAKE THE TIME
TO THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO
THROUGH THE UPS AND DOWNS
THE HARD TIMES YOU'VE HELPED US THROUGH
YOU HAVE HELPED ME IN WAYS, YOU'LL NEVER KNOW
THE VOID IN ME YOU HAVE FILLED
SOME THINGS I WAS MISSING IN MY LIFE
SOME OF THE VALUES THAT YOU INSTILLED
YOURS WAS THE VOICE OF REASON
WHEN I WOULD HAVE SWORN THAT I WAS RIGHT
NO MATTER HOW I FOUGHT IT
YOU HAVE HELPED ME TO SEE THE LIGHT
YOU'RE JUST LIKE THE NORTHERN STARS
A BEACON WHEN I FEEL LOST
A STRONG SHOULDER WE HAVE LEANED ON
NO MATTER WHAT THE COST
YOU STEPPED UP AND MADE ME FEEL
LIKE [A.] AND I WERE YOUR OWN
WE KNOW YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO
AND BECAUSE OF THAT WE'VE GROWN
YOU GAVE MORE THAN YOU HAD TOO
AND I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH
SO THANK YOU FOR JUST BEING THERE
WHEN LIFE FEELS SO TOUGH


Blessings, until Wednesday’s voice post.

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