The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Fifteen: My In-Laws

No, I’m not trying to suck up to my in-laws. I’ve been in the family for sixteen years, dating back to the day this picture was taken. We’re waaaaay past the sucking-up stage, I have to say. I have the wife! And the child! They can’t be taken away now! Bwa ha ha hah ha ha ha! Actually, I don’t want to test that proposition, since it would involve shovels, a dark hole in the ground, and an entire clan of tight-lipped Ohioans. “Hey, didn’t Krissy have a husband at one point?” “She might have.” “What happened to him?” “Couldn’t say.” And that would be that.

But none of that is in the offing, so to speak. I’m noting that I’m thankful for my in-laws Mike and Dora because, quite simply, I genuinely like them and am appreciative of them in all sorts of ways great and small. A small way: When Athena was younger and Krissy and I wanted a date night, they were happy to babysit. It’s not a big deal, but date nights are, actually — it’s nice to be able to spend time with your spouse and just your spouse. Another small way: Dora is a fantastic hostess and if you escape her house having consumed less than 18,000 calories you may have gone to the wrong house. Yet another: Mike mows my lawn. Actually, that’s not small, since my lawn is five acres.

One not so small way: I keep them in mind when I’m writing my novels. Neither of them is generally a big science fiction reader — he likes history and she likes Nora Roberts and Julie Garwood — but both of them read my books, because, well, I’m their son-in-law. And I want them to be able to enjoy them. So when I write I ask myself if whatever science fictional concept I’m playing is being written in a way that my in-laws will follow. This is emphatically not the same as dumbing down the writing — these aren’t stupid people — but is a way to remind myself that not everyone knows the last 30 years of science fiction literature, and that it’s worth it to bring those folks into the story when it’s possible. I don’t write for Mike and Dora (or other non-sf readers) specifically, but I try to write for them too. I think that’s made a material and positive difference in my career.

One very big way: The ways in which I see the both of them in my wife. From Dora there’s her considerable wells of understanding and empathy, a desire to make people welcome and comfortable in her home, the warmth of her friendship and an extraordinary reservoir of stubbornness which makes her a force to be reckoned with. From Mike there’s her stillness and reserve, a thoughtfulness that most people lack, her no-nonsense straight-line thinking that makes her the person others turn to for help and advice, and the personal strength of character that makes her the rock her family — and I, certainly — have built their foundation upon. And also, I suspect, her physical strength, because, damn, that woman is strong.

It’s a pretty nifty thing to see the things ones admires in one’s spouse and be able to trace them back to the parents; it means it’s not just a lucky thing they’re there. I can see some of these same qualities developing in my daughter. I don’t wonder where they came from.

Plus, they’re just good people, and really, that can’t be appreciated enough.

So, Mike and Dora: Thanks for being you, thanks for being great parents to your daughter, thanks for being terrific grandparents to my daughter, and thanks for always making me feel welcome, going back to the very first time we ever met, at that July 4th party in 1993. I love you guys and am thankful you are part of my life. May I never cause you to reach for a shovel.

18 Comments on “The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Fifteen: My In-Laws”

  1. Very nice, John. I too am thankful for my in-laws, and for some of the same reasons. My wife and I have a three-month-old son, and my in-laws take him once a week so we can have date nights, and my mother-in-law is also a great hostess, providing as much food as you can eat (and more!) when you visit. Most of all, they raised a wonderful daughter whom I love with all my heart.

  2. I don’t have the citation handy from the Social Work or Psychology paper I read years ago, but quantitative analysis supported the theory that American married couples primarily fight about 3 things: money, sex, and in-laws.

    My wife’s parents and mine are all, sad to say, deceased. But we liked our in-laws when we had them.

    As a gentleman, I do not discuss the romantic aspects of my nearly 27-year marriage. But money? I’m ready to have a bestselling novel any time now. If even one of the 10 novels that I wrote in the past 2 years makes it, by direct royalties, film or TV options, whatever.

    People keep making snide comments to me on Facebook that my “Alzheimer’s War” trilogy is a blatant attempt to hit the mother lode of Old man’s War. Well, if one can’t follow the lead of one’s predecessors, what should one do?

  3. So when I write I ask myself if whatever science fictional concept I’m playing is being written in a way that my in-laws will follow.

    I applaud you and them, then. It clarifies something I’d kinda noticed, but not hugely — which is, I think, exactly what you want to happen.

  4. Well, I wish I had in-laws, if only because that would mean I’d found some poor schlub fine man to marry me!

    Seriously, if I ever do have in-laws, I hope I’m as fortunate in them as you are in yours. There are all these stupid jokes about in-laws, but everyone I know gets along somewhere between “all right” and “famously” with theirs. Still, yours sound exceptional.

  5. You didn’t mention any of the negative ways that your in-laws could have influenced your life and didn’t, so I’m going to feel free to do so… but in a positive way! :)

    Some in-laws can interfere, and sabotage, and generally make life miserable between you and your spouse by making them choose between you and the parents that they have known and loved all of their life. They can hate you, and by hating you they can poison your relationship with their offspring. Apparently, that’s part of what happened with my wife and her ex-husband, and absolutely NOT what’s happened with me. Maybe because I’m a better person, but my in-laws are hugely supportive. Once I verbally slapped around my wife’s father a few times, he got on board and has been as big a booster of me as my own parents have been. It took my wife’s mother a little longer, but she’s come around too.

  6. Speaking as an Ohioan, you almost speak Ohioan. Idiomatically, here’s how “Hey, didn’t Krissy have a husband at one point?” “She might have.” “What happened to him?” “Couldn’t say.” would actually go:

    “Krissy’ve a husband once, hunh?”
    “He still, or, uh?”
    Which is of course why I live elsewhere; I never really mastered it myself. Twice a year I call my brother and get all the news. Sometimes takes five minutes.

  7. You know, we probably don’t say this enough about you John.
    We are thankful that we have you. The things that you do make the world a completely different and better place.

  8. Very sweet. And made even sweeter by the brilliant good fortune you acknowledged in an earlier entry.

    Lovely people!

    Also loved the Ohioan colloquialisms. “couldn’t say” indeed. =D

  9. I adore my inlaws. I refer to them as Mom and Dad. They’ve welcomed me into their (rather extended, on my MIL’s side) family with open arms since the day their son brought me home. I was still almost physically doubled over in pain from the lingering effects of major surgery I’d undergone in the recent past, but their welcoming attitude made it the pleasantest afternoon I’d spent in years. It’s also made a huge difference in my life that they don’t view me as a “drama queen” when I tell them what it was like for me growing up. They (and their son) do me the courtesy of accepting my interpretation of events as fact, not fiction. One of the best moments in my life was when the Maternal Unit blurted out “You’re their daughter now, but he’s not our son!” I’m certain she meant to hurt me when she said it, but that was my Get Out of Jail Free Card. I’ve grown very close to my inlaws in the last eight years. They’re elderly, so they don’t have many years left. I intend to enjoy every minute I have left with them to the fullest.

    I’m grateful to my husband for bringing me into the family. And I’m grateful to my inlaws for raising such a wonderful, compassionate, caring son.

  10. What I found when visiting someone I used to know was that her new
    wife was quite resentful about my existence, but when she saw me
    sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa with all the little dogs sleeping
    on me?
    The new wife kinda decided not to shoot me, and bought coffee.

  11. I’m lucky enough to have known my in-laws since the age of seven (general consensus is even earlier than that, but my memory is a little fuzzy before then), as they were good friends of my dad’s and invited our family to join theirs in many happy summer festivities. In my teens, they unofficially adopted my best friend who was in need of a loving home, cementing my familial feelings and undying loyalty. Several years after THAT, the crush on their eldest son that started at seven grew big and requited and I made them my in-laws in a quiet ceremony on their back patio. They rock.

  12. I met my husband several times before dating him. Turns out I had known his parents for years (used to buy newspapers from me when I was a kid). When I formally met them for the first time I knew that I would marry my husband just to be able to be a part of this family. They have been the best family a girl could marry :-)

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