I didn't always get along with the woman, especially as I grew older and more likely to speak up in defence of myself, my opinions, my choices and grew less likely to remain silent to avoid a scene. Twenty-nine years ago it was a different story - we got along quite well and enjoyed each other's company....as long as I agreed with her or kept silent if I didn't...and feeling my way through the first years of adulthood, respecting her experience if not always agreeing with her opinion, it was easy to do.
The first year of my marriage to her son, my own mother was in England caring for her father as he faded away from the cancer that raged through his bones - the woman stepped in - I had a bit of a health scare and she stood beside me every step of the way. During those early years, I worked just down the road from her house - most summer days found me on her back porch sharing lunch before I headed back to complete my work day.
At the birth of her granddaughter a few years later, things began to deteriorate - something not unusual in most families - I wanted to do things the "modern" way and resented her interference in this raising of my first child. I tried to set boundaries, she continued to step over them and our relationship suffered. There were disagreements and there were outright fights but after a cooling off period, we were talking and laughing and enjoying each other again...until the next time.
As I neared 30, I was less tolerant of her lack of respect for the boundaries her son and I set. We spent less and less time together over the next decade. As I grew more confident in myself, she lost more control over me and the times we spoke only when necessary became more and more frequent. By the time I reached my forties, the relationship was clearly damaged beyond hope of ever going back to that time where we could be friends and companions.
But, it wasn't always bad and as we prepare for her funeral now I try to remember those early days when we laughed and discussed religion and politics and agreed to disagree on some points and found we were in perfect harmony on others. I try to rise above the pettiness that has erupted in the days since we learned of her passing and remember that if, in the end, we had nothing else in common, we loved the same man.