Meeting the In-Laws….. (especially my Mother-in-Law)

16 May

I married Stephanie in October 78, it was 2nd marriage for each of us.  Steph had been married to a Phd, and I was enlisted in the Navy.  Marrying me was a step down the social ladder.  But it is amazing what love will do for you.  The process of marrying always involves meeting the future in-laws, gaining their approval, and making what peace needs to be made.  It was no different in Steph and I’s relationship.  On Steph’s own she had driven to Kentucky and visited my parents. As a matter of fact, Steph met my Mom at Mom’s favorite Waffle House.  Apparently whatever transpired at that meeting was the right thing, Steph and Mom got along great throughout the relationship.  Steph even created a Christmas tree (using only White House ornaments) similar to Mom’s.  Dad liked Steph immediately, as much as Dad liked anyone.  She could hold up her end of a conversation intelligently, that was the major factor for him.

My meeting Steph’s parents wasn’t quite as positive, Rufino (future father-in-law) and I got along fine from the moment we shook hands, but my relationship with my future mother-in-law started on thin ice on a foundation of shaky ground.  I won’t keep you in suspense, my mother-in-law and my relationship grew to a great friendship, filled with love and respect.  Arlene was a lady with no end of class.  She was well read, and she cared greatly for the arts, and dedicated to her Church. She was well respected during her career, and she loved her children and grand-children and took care of them even in her passing. Steph said she was at one time a great cook, I don’t have any 1st hand knowledge of that to agree.  But in retirement after Ruf’s passing she found the many great inexpensive restaurants.

I have so many fond memories of Arlene, I could write several thousand words, but I am only to relate 3 or 4 stories of our time together.  The first couple will be the negative impact the latter will be the of our better times.

I met Arlene at the wedding of her youngest son.  Steph and I drove up from Norfolk VA. I was just returning to Norfolk VA (from a 7 month Med cruise), with wedding in Danbury Conn., the next day.  Steph and I had a couple stops (picking up my suit and taking a nap), before the all night drive to Conn.  Traffic was bare thru New York City, and with other circumstances led us to be a bit late.  Of course it was my responsibility to get us there on time, but I did fail LOL LOL.  Instead of driving directly to the reception after the wedding we diverted to the motel to check in and change cloths.  We were therefore late to the reception.  Again my fault, gosh I hate being late.  Clearly Arlene wasn’t a big fan of lateness and so far I was 2 for 2 incidents. After the reception we were invited to gather at Ruf’s and Arlene’s to play poker (in Alexandria VA)[[[‘;’;.  This was a family tradition and cheap; nickel, dime, fifteen cents, max bet.  I was in the Navy, I played to win always and I was pretty good.  The players were Steph and I, Ruf and Arlene, Dot (Arlene’s sister) Herm (Dot’s husband) and Bill their son.   Ruf was the hardest to read, Arlene and Dot the easiest, they both had cards that gave hand ranking from low to high, they would look at their hand and run their fingers up the list until they found their hand, and they were honest their fingers always stopped at the hand they had.  I realized way to late that night that from time to time Ruf and Herm would throw in hands so the ladies could win.  I didn’t throw in a hand unless I thought I was losing and I won a bunch of money that evening, and the next couple times we played as well, before I was clued in.  That was my first major mistake.

Over the next few months I didn’t make a lot of headway with Arlene, it was kinda like 2 steps forward and one and one half back.  Ruf and I did great, each weekend when I came to town if he had chores to do at one of the apartments he owned I would help out.  We talked and became friends.  Ruf was an extremely interesting man with a ton of courage, skills, good nature, sense of humor, and a work ethic to the extreme.   He also enjoyed baseball and football which we could also bond. 

Arlene and I were a work in progress.  Steph and I had been asked to take on the management responsibilities at one of the buildings they owned.  It really meant keeping the public spaces clean and the trash out.  We were to do this for reduced rent in a unit.  But we were still required to pay.  I had sold my motorcycle just before I got out of the Navy, this is long before electronic checking, and out-of-state banks still took 3 days to clear checks.  Well guess what happened, that’s right the check I wrote to cover the 1st month rent, and security deposit bounce like a super ball.  Arlene took Steph aside and asked if she realized what a deadbeat (my words) she was going to marry.  Steph explained the out-of-state thing, and that appeased Arlene and took me off the hook.  But it was still strike two.  Let me say at this point it was looking grim.  Over the next several months I worked very hard to get on Arlene’s better side and was making significant progress until we had to delay the wedding because my divorce was not final.  We had failed to tell her folks I was going thru the divorce process.  WOW what a shaky start.  But as I said earlier Arlene and my relationship grew to one filled with love and respect.

Steph, Allison and I visited her mom 2 or 3 times a year.  Sometimes it was for a long weekend, other times a week or more.  Allison would spend a month visiting her during the summer. (those visits could warrant a post on their own) For months prior to a visit I would have Arlene put together a list of things she wanted done around condo.  The list could number as many as 20 or more items, but never so much as to take more than a day or so to do.  Things on the list could include buying furniture, taking donations to the church, clearing a closet, buying tires and other maintenance for her car, or putting her awards on the brag wall.  Then it was golf for me. 

Some folks have accused me of having courage, but Arlene was the definition of courage.  She had a hip replaced prior to me knowing her, and after that she had the other hip done, an ankle and knee surgery, and several small strokes.  Thru it all she made the necessary adjustments to her life.  One of her post retirement goals was to learn how to ballroom dance.  So at the age of 65 she started taking lessons.  Ruf had passed, so she had both time and opportunity to take lessons and she did.  She loved dancing, she loved the music, and she loved going to the dance competitions.  After a couple of years of practice and learning, she started entering dance competitions.  Clearly she entered the age appropriate competitions and she did quite well.  And she did quite well acquiring at least 15 plaques and small trophies.   One day I was tasked to put them all on a brag wall.  Arlene sat in her chair in the living room of her condo, and directed me on the placement of the plaque or trophy.  I teased her without mercy while putting them on the wall.  Arlene sat and giggled like a little girl, when I said “oh, here is the one when you came in second”, (only 2 competitors), true she would say in response, but at least I didn’t come in third.   Or “here’s the one for competitors with medal hips.  You won this one.”  And she had, I was so proud of her efforts, maybe I even learned a bit from her.  But that afternoon we had a wonderful tit for tat, as I placed the awards on the wall.  It was a great experience.   

Over twenty years Arlene and I worked on our relationship.  We shared a mutual respect, and loved each other in and son-in-law, mom-in-law way.  She included Steph, Allison and I in several of her vacations, one of my favorites was Massanutten VA. She was a very nice person, which I am glad I got to know.

As always your thoughts and comments are encouraged and welcomed.  Take care, Bill


Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Grandpa Stories, Humor, Ramblings


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17 responses to “Meeting the In-Laws….. (especially my Mother-in-Law)

  1. Chatter Master

    May 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Bill these stories are fantastic. What great family information for your grandchild. And what wonderful memories. All because you love your wife. 🙂

    • FlaHam

      May 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Colleen, Smiling, I am so glad that you enjoy the stories. I love digging them up and sharing them. Last weekend we had house guests, and I was sharing some stories, and I started talking about my relationship with my mom-in-law, from that conversation grew this post. I am glad it warms your heart and makes you smile. Take care, Bill

  2. gita4elamats

    May 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Wonderful story, filled with warmth. Thanks, Bill. 🙂

    • FlaHam

      May 17, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Soft smile, My mother in law was a fine lady, very respectful, very classy, and quite forgiving. I am kinda like a semi-fine wine. I tend to grow on you, and I did on Arlene. I have several heart warming stories about our relationship, but the ones I did share spoke volumes. Please take care, Bill

      • gita4elamats

        May 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

        Looking forward to all your stories. Good to read that you’ll be out of hospital soon! 🙂

  3. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

    May 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Ran over to this the minute i saw it in my in basket. You feel like a real friend and when you write I feel like I’m sitting across from you with a cuppa and hearing your stories, which I love, and agree with what Colleen wrote — great for your grandchild (beautiful). I don’t know why I laughed when I read you were going through a divorce and hid that from Arlene, I think I flashed on Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman in some movie as in-laws, lol. For my nickel, the best relationships have their challenges and once overcome, with respect… I just feel those roots grow deep.

    I’d love to have you back up even further and share how you met Stephanie, if you care to write about it. And, give her a big hug from your cyber buddy, for loving and taking good care of you.

    Now, rest up, drink your fluids, laugh a lot and get outta that hospital.

    Hugs to you,

    • FlaHam

      May 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

      Paulette, I am so so glad that you enjoy the stories. They flow from random pop-ups which originate in places unknown to me LOL. As I said I could write 1000’s of words about Arlene, how she typed some of my original college papers, to more card playing stories. She had a ton of class. I met Stephanie at a Christmas party. I noticed her lovely large brown eyes from across the room. Yes it was her eyes I noticed first. But she had my heart at that moment. Because Steph is such a private person, that’s as far as I will go in story form. I have grown an audience of folks that like my stories, and that makes it more fun to write them. But even if they weren’t well received I would be writing them for my granddaughter anyway. Please take care my friend and I love your hugs. Bill

      • The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

        May 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

        Oh good, then here’s another HUG!! My hubby is also very private so I understand and completely respect that. I am happy to know that your Stephanie has beautiful brown eyes. 🙂 Now, get well!!!

  4. Linda

    May 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    What a wonderful story about your mother-in-law. She seemed like quite a lady. I think much like your Steph, both classy ladies. What treasures you are writing for your family. Please take your meds and get out of the hospital as soon as you can. hugs to you Bill

    • FlaHam

      May 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Linda, Thank you for you wonderful comments, I am so so glad you enjoy these stories of Ham LOL LOL. I hope in the years to come they will start their own series of stories, and reflections. I am doing as I am told and it appears I will be released on Monday. Take care, Bill — xoxoxo —

  5. DeeDee Granata

    May 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Yay for getting released on Monday. Thanks for sharing another wonderful story.

  6. bloggingbyrgottier

    May 18, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Bill!
    I have just got done reading about your story about your time with your wife & mother-in-law. I am so close to my own fiancée` who loves to play with my mind & heart sometimes, but more times with every part of me. She was pulling all the strings to yank at every emotion she could. We are not actually together yet, but we have had a great 5.5 years of getting to know each other & will finally be here with me in June. We have been through thick & thin, & also have had my bouts with both her parents when she doesn’t exactly know about life on her own. She is so rambunctious, lovable, trusting, honorable, etc. She knows how to fight to get me to think a lot differently to keep
    us together. I have really enjoyed this post a lot. It brought up a lot of thoughts to talk about here.
    this is the 1st post I have read of yours so didn’t know about you being in the hospital. I was in an accident & had a compressed disc in lower back. I have recovered most of the way, but am still
    having problems with the sciatica which is back muscles & sciatic nerve where nerve is inflamed & gives pain when pushes against that back muscle too. I will stop & let you come to my wordpress blog to see my posts & how my life has been & am trying to change for the better. Loved your post here & will see you at mine soon.
    Rodney Gottier

  7. Wanda

    May 20, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    As I write this, I’m guessing you and Art are doing your level best to get you out of the hospital–hopefully you will have a safe journey home as it is storming in a big way. We’ve probably had at least an inch of rain in the 30 minutes or so I’ve been home. But, on to your story…

    I met Art’s mother early on in our relationship (Art’s father was already gone). Though we had very little in common, she was always nice to me.The only thing I knew how to do at that point (I was only 20) was to be observant as possible about what she liked (green and pink, deli roast beef on thin rye, seafood salad, and milk in her hot tea). It took a while for us to develop a relationship but Karen’s arrival a few years after Art and I were married sealed the deal.

    As for Art meeting my parents, we went a whole different route. Geography was the limiting factor for us–we lived in Georgia and Florida and they lived in Montana–not exactly a weekend jaunt. So…we got married and finally, nearly three years later, we got our act together to go visit my family. (As you say that could be a post in itself, so I’ll save that for an appropriate time ;-)). Anyway, it took about five minutes for my Mom to decide that Art was the best thing that ever happened to me and my Dad knew by watching how Art treated me that all was well.

    So…thanks for the opportunity to remind myself of that long-ago time.

    • FlaHam

      May 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Wanda, Thank God for Art, his friendship and patience have been a life saver for me. And while I seem to look for that last nerve, he never lets me find it. He is truly a wonderful friend. He is a good man, and I clearly unde rstand your parents immediate acceptance of him. As you are well aware, this is Steph and I’s second marriage. I remember mom giving me the hi sign when she met Steph. I also remember, as clear as day, my mom making the point of telling me that my soon to be 1st wife wasn’t going to good for me. Heck even a couple brothers tried to warn me LOL LOL. Hell I should have listened to her then, but if I had listened I might never had met Steph. You never know what cards your dealt until you look at them. Thank you for your comments, and the memories you help stir during our exchanges. Please take care, Bill

  8. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

    May 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thinking of you today. Any lights at the end of the hospital tunnel? Sending you lots of good thoughts and hope that you’re finding enough laughter in the day to balance other stuff. xox Paulette

    • FlaHam

      May 22, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Paulette, I must have felt them all day, your thoughts, I was going to write earlier but I forgot. I got out of the hospital on Monday evening. Got home about 6pm and have been kinda resting since. I still have the pneumonia, and all the indications are that the illness is still winning, so I will be on antibiotics at home for at least another 10 or more days. I really don’t care how long the picc line stays in as long as it is being used and it shows signs of winning. Right now I am extremely weak, and the SOB is really trying to break me. So far I have hung in there. Next goal is to get thru the cruise with family in July. We are going on a Disney cruise, we are taking daughter and her family (husband and granddaughter), on a 7 night 8 day cruise. Kinda like a bucket list thing. After that one step at a time. Thank you for you continued support, it really means the world to me. You and several other bloggers have really helped me stay cool and focused. Do you have a suggestion for a topic? Take care, Bill

      • The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

        May 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm

        You’re home!! Oh that’s good. Phew. I love that you’re planning on a family trip. And, since you asked about topics…how about family trips. Any good stories in there? That you could share? Or any past trip vacations? Anything in your life that excited you, that turned out to be a thrill when not expected, anything along that line, I think would be a terrific read from you. If you can’t come up with anything from this, let me know and I’ll think of some more ideas. But, when you’re ready. Don’t feel obligated or tire yourself out, your resting and getting better is what’s important. We love you! Paulette


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