The gift of hugging
by GLENETTA SHUEY
Some people are not so lucky in the in-law department. I, on the other hand, won the lottery. I had the kindest and most giving mother-in-law and father-in-law. My husband’s only sister has become like a sister to me. The rest of his relatives have become my loved ones as well. Blessed is what I am.
Originally from Pennsylvania, my husband is a Yankee by birth, but a Cajun at heart. He cooks Cajun food as well as some true Cajuns. His sister married a Cajun, so she is unofficially one, as well. I recall vividly the day I met my in-laws for the first time. They were living in Daytona Beach, Fla., and I was nervous, as to be expected. However, it didn’t take long for Pop, Bobby’s father, to make me feel as though I had been knowing him for years. My mother-in-law was only a bit of a woman at 4’ 9”. For once in my life I felt tall, sort of. She was quiet in contrast to Pop. Mom was the observer, but make no mistake about her size – she was the one in control. Didn’t take long to figure that out. Her ancestors came from Lithuania, and she was as tough as they come. She spoke only Lithuanian when she began school, but by graduation from high school she was valedictorian of her class.
Mom, as we called her, made me feel special. We traveled together quite a bit, and we shared the love of theatre. She often traveled from Florida just to see one of my community theatre plays. Pop was an amazing artisan; he never met a creative project he couldn’t take on. Into his 80’s, he was still climbing rooftops or on his hands and knees weeding his yard. Carol Ann, my husband’s sister, can and does nearly everything imaginable. She is an artist of nearly every genre. More importantly, she is always there for me and my children and grandchildren. I can’t list all she has done; just too many things. She has helped me with projects for the theater, such as costumes. She also makes costumes for my grandkids for Halloween and helps my daughter in her classroom in so many ways. Her husband, Lennard, is generous and compassionate as well.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Florida are lifetime military. I am quite proud of them and their service. Valerie is an Army Lieutenant Colonel and Don is a Navy Commander. They are more like friends than relatives. Add to all of that, many sweet and special nephews, nieces, aunts and cousins.
I have been part of this wonderful collage since 1977 when I met my husband-to-be. So many memories flood my mind as I think back on all the vacations with my in-laws. I can remember their wonderful home in Daytona Beach, then their ranch style house on the 50-acre Boy Scout campground that my girls loved so, and then finally their home near Tampa with the swimming pool which became the main attraction for all the children and grandchildren.
Mostly though, I remember the love and laughter we all shared. Many of those laughs came because Pop was so comedic and full of life. His jokes were corny, but his love of life was so apparent. The last time I saw him, not long before he passed away, he gave me a big hug, put me at arm’s length and gave me the best compliment I have ever received. With tears in his eyes, he said softly, “Thank you for teaching me how to hug.” He then hugged me again. I could not speak.
I miss Pop’s wit. I miss his ability to create an environment that made all of us bound to each other in such a loving way. He made us all smile, and Mom would sit by simply grinning at a lifetime’s worth of memories. Who would have thought that the simple act of hugging would be an act that one could share? An act that had made a difference in the life of one simple man with gifts unable to be measured.
I hug my grandkids every time they leave me. I want them to know how important it is to hug. After all, if it was good for Pop, then surely we all could use a few of them now and then.
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