Annie Laura Jones ended her earthly journey Wednesday, September 20, 2017. She was born May 8, 1937, and blessed with 80 years and a little more than four months here on earth. Ann, as she was known to just about everyone, was a wife, a mother, a friend and family member to many. She was also my mother-in-law for the last 20 years.
I knew Ann many years before she became my mother-in-law. That’s because I knew her daughter, Terry, many years before she became my wife. Ann and Terry were both hairdressers working together in a salon they owned in Center, Texas, and that’s how I came to know them. Terry kept my family’s hair styles looking nice for a time until life took us in a different direction. A few years down the road, our paths crossed again, and this second intersection of pathways brought Terry and me to marriage, and Ann to be my mother-in-law.
Ann was a good mother-in-law, most likely because she was first a good person. Reflecting on Ann’s life the last few days caused me to think a little about what qualities make a mother-in-law a “good” one. Any couple joined in holy matrimony already knows that families can make a marriage wonderful, or can make it miserable. Ann and Paul, her husband of 62 years, have been nothing short of supportive and encouraging of their daughter’s marriage to me. From day one, I was welcomed into the family as if I had been born into it.
Mother-in-laws are classically characterized among humorists in our society as meddlesome and quick to offer more advice than is needed. While Ann was not one to appear bashful about offering advice to anyone on almost any topic, she offered very little to me in terms of marriage. I quickly learned, however, any wisdom she felt was appropriate for me to hear was sincere and was something that I needed to hear. Truthfully, there were times when I wished she had more freely shared some of her wisdom with me when I needed it the most. In any case, Ann’s advice to me was just that, honest and sincere advice that was never judgmental or discouraging.
I’ve also heard it said that a good mother-in-law never says anything that she wouldn’t appreciate being told. Honestly, that’s a philosophy that all of us would do well to adopt. I’m confident Ann never said anything to me, or anyone for that matter, that she would mind them saying to her. In fact, it’s a good bet that any advice she offered, that wasn’t gained from personal experience, was guidance given to her by family and friends.
I learned a lot from Ann by simply listening and absorbing whatever she shared with me and accepting it as good advice. Because it was.
A mother-in-law who is a good cook is always regarded as a “good” mother-in-law, and Ann lacked nothing in her culinary capabilities. When Terry mentioned, “mom’s cooking,” I dropped anything that might have stood in the way to make sure I was there when the table was set. Special holiday, birthday or any day for no special occasion at all, there was more than enough food when she cooked, regardless of the number of people helping themselves to a plate in her kitchen. Mother-in-laws are sometimes regarded as a little secretive with prized recipes, but not Ann. She readily shared hers, most likely because she no longer needed them. Another trait of a good mother-in-law: cooking without a recipe to make dishes filled with love. She did that, she loved to cook and when she did, everyone was invited.
We gathered to say goodbye to Ann last Saturday at the North Jericho Cemetery just outside Center, not far from where she lived most of her life. In my heart, she was a good mother-in-law for a myriad of reasons and a good friend as well. I can’t begin to tell you how much I will miss her.