I'd like to tell you a little about my mother-in-law.
Today was her last day of a very successful 22 year career as a medical coder. And while there is no doubt in my mind the people that worked with her, for her and around her will miss her terribly, around here we are jumping for joy. Her retirement is well-deserved. But around here we have never defined her by her "day job".
From the very first day I met Shari, she has hugged me like no one else ever has. She has wrapped me in strength, friendship, grace and unconditional love. Now, before you get all, "what about your own mom and dad's hugs?" We hug too and my own family is quite affectionate. And, if you ask either one of my parents, they are genuinely thankful for the family I married in to. In-laws are different though, and to be completely honest, it was hard for me to accept at first. But over the years, the hugs have gotten a little longer, stronger and more frequent.
I am going to tell you why.
Dale was young when we met...well, we both were, but I am 3 years older than him, so he was REAL young. He had never lived on his own and just worked, worked, worked. A trend you tend to see in both Shari and Al's respective families. But, he always made time for me and swept me off my feet pretty quickly. I remember feeling weird at his parent's house since I had been living on my own for years, but very quickly it became clear that Shari and I had connected and I looked forward to having dinner with their family, even though Dale sometimes rolled his eyes at this.
Fast forward through my deployment to Kuwait/Iraq, the purchase of our first house, a move six hours north for 5 years, the purchase of our second house, the birth of her first grandchild and the move back home. Here's where the really good stuff starts.
With the grace only Al and Shari Ripp could muster up, they allowed us to move in to their house with a six-week old child, two dogs and an unemployed daughter-in-law. It was meant to last only a couple of months while our house sold. Well, we had two birthday parties for Miles and got pregnant with Madeline while we lived there...you do the math. In that time though, instead of being annoyed and frustrated, Shari and I just became closer. We shared lots of conversations and wine (not in that particular order) about everything under the sun. Her and Al basically helped us raise Miles in to the sweet and smart kid he is. And, I missed her when we moved out, even though it was just down the road.
It wouldn't be right if I didn't shine light on what an amazing mother she is to her own children, Dale, Kim and Amy. She ran her own in-home child care so she could be home with them for most of their young years. When they got old enough, in her mind, she went back to school, earned her associates degree and went back to work part-time at first, then full. Although I was not there, I just know she had a hot meal on the table every night, shuffled kids from practices and was at every game, recital and competition possible. She has been a true champion. Those kids have all grown up to be responsible, caring, successful, loving spouses and parents. They are all different from one another in their own way but a common thread of respect and grace runs through each of them, surely from as close to a perfect parenting foundation as you could find. I think I can speak for both of my brothers-in-law that they sure raised some good ones.
She held the honor of being the mother of a groom and two brides, the grandmother of 4 (almost 5, Yay Amy & Chris!) and the wife of Al for almost 37 years before his unexpected death earlier this summer. I just know that he is beaming with pride among the clouds. As far as wives go, he married the best. I am sure he would agree with me when I say he couldn't have done all the good he did in this world without her unending love and support.
Over the course of the past few months, I have been asked, "How is Shari doing?" As you can imagine, that's such a loaded question. How do you answer that correctly? If I say good, maybe it's too soon for her to be good. If I say she's struggling, maybe I get that pity face I know she would hate. So mostly I have started answering that she is most physically, emotionally and spiritually strong healthy person I know. She knows her limits and has her boundaries and listens to and trusts her heart. She has an amazing family and support system in place. And not by chance. She has cultivated her tribe throughout the years with her unrelenting friendship, respect and humility.
I wanted to take this moment in time to share her with you. This really only scratches the surface but I also wanted to thank her publicly for the help and encouragement in anything we have ever done. She has weeded, planted, sown seeds, weeded some more and done more of my dirty dishes than I can count, figuratively and literally. But mostly, she gave me my life...my little family of four that wouldn't have ever been possible without her...on so many levels.
Shari, to you: I wish you every joy, happiness, sunshine and rainbow on your new adventure. From my favorite movie quote of all time, "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window." I hope that window only blows fresh, warm air on to you every day. I am so honored to be your daughter-in-law. But, let's be honest, I like telling people my mother-in-law is better than theirs. I am so excited watch the next chapter unfold for you.