When Meghan Beaudry divorced her husband, her major worry wasn’t how to split their possessions or moving to a new place but rather it was whether her mother-in-law would still be in her life or not.
Meghan first met her future mother-in-law when she was a parent volunteer for Megan’s high school youth orchestra. Meghan said that on performance days, she wore all black like the performers, removing layers of sweaters to give to students so that no student would be prohibited from performance due to a dress code violation. Meghan said that she would often slip her an additional cookie after rehearsal.
During the years Meghan dated her son, she would pack into the car with him and the rest of their family and head to their city’s Chinatown. Wearing a sweater she knit herself, her mother-in-law would order off the dim sum menu in her native Chinese. She’d place a hand on Meghan’s shoulder and proudly present as her daughter to the attendants.
Meghan said that her mother-in-law’s love language is food. After she got married, they would spend time together over the lunch at a local hot pot place. The two of them would show compassion about their careers as teachers.
Meghan could always count on her mother-in-law to take note without judgment. She’d nod her head and react with understanding when she talked about an error that Meghan had made and even if she was talking about her son. They both shared a career track, a love for her husband and and gratitude for a good sushi buffet.
Two years into Meghan’s marriage, she unexpectedly became severely ill with an autoimmune illness. When her husband grew hostile and miserable over her illness, her mother in-law moved in to care for her. Their kitchen filled with barbecue pork, chicken over rice and Meghan’s favorite homemade sushi. Her mother-in-law spent most afternoons sitting at her bedside sharing news from the world outside their house. When Meghan finally recovered enough to walk to the living room couch on her own, her mother-in-law brought her coffee in her favorite mug to celebrate.
Meghan did ultimately recovered from her illness, but her husband never did. After her mother-in-law moved out, her husband grew more aloof. Instead of watching movies on the couch with her, he vanished into his home office after work. He’d explode in anger over a simple question about his day.
One day when Meghan’s mother-in-law was visiting, her husband’s phone vibrated on the sofa beside her while he was in a different room. They would never keep passcodes on their phone and often used each other’s phone. Meghan just picked it up to see if the text was from a common friend. A much younger woman’s name popped up on the screen and text read like “I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again”.
Meghan thought her husband is cheating on her and she told her mother-in-law. Her eyes widened in alarm and she reached for Meghan’s hand with the same empathy she always had for her.
It took over a year of her husband’s lies, unsuccessful marriage counselling and weepy conversations before Meghan knew that she needed to leave but still she delayed it. With her sad eyes and expression, her mother-in-law was also grieving the end of her marriage to her son and sometimes, she tried to convince Meghan to stay.
Meghan doubted if her mother-in-law would still want to spend time with her after the divorce. Meghan said that she could live without her husband but wasn’t certain if she could live without her mother-in-law, the woman who had become such a close friend over the years. She said that she would grieve her cheerful smile and the way she lit up every room she entered at least as much as she distressed Meghan’s marriage.
On the first Valentine’s Day after Meghan’s divorce, alone with a few boxes of books she had yet to unpack, she heard a knock on the door of her new apartment. Meghan’s dogs wagged their whole bodies when she opened the door and saw her ex-mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law handed a container of homemade sushi, squeezed her hand and said that this is for her daughter, Meghan.
Many Valentine’s Days later, Meghan has fail to recall the heart-shaped boxes of candy and the cards that her ex-husband once gave her. She said that real love is home cooked sushi rolled with a pain of sadness.
It’s all about picking friendship and connection even while having a shattered heart.