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It's not much of a secret that my mother-in-law and I have never been too keen on each other. We got off to a bad start. She was hoping for an MD, JD or PhD for a son-in-law and instead got me. And while I do possess a great and growing knowledge of certain things -- livestock excrement is my current passion -- I've never been able to stick with any single subject long enough to deserve an impressive set of letters at the end of my name. (Perhaps I'll end up with an M"PU" in my current field!) Nevertheless, I suppose I can understand Mother-in-law's disappointment. What proud, upstanding woman would wish to brag about her daughter's husband the "manure spill sleuth" to the folks at Bible Study?
Now, in our third decade of loving the same girl, Mother-in-law and I dwell in a cool detente. I've never measured up to her hopes and dreams, and I try to do my daily best to remind her of that fact. I've settled comfortably into the role of "odd duck" of the family and I embrace this character with pride, working always to further validate her poor opinion of me. It's the least I can do, really. Lord knows she loves to be right!
Most recently, when Mother-in-law swirled into town for a rare visit I had to beg off the day-trip she had planned for us.
"I'm so sorry," I told her, "but I won't be able to make it back into town from my job in Amish Country to go visit Amish Country with you."
This was precisely the response she was hoping for and she hustled Kristin off to Holmes County, along with my father-in-law and brother-in-law, long before I arrived home.
What a wonderful, peaceful Friday afternoon I found waiting. I decided to celebrate by mowing the lawn. And given that Mother-in-law had so readily granted me the gift of my own freedom, I made it a point to reward her by trotting out the "odd duck" at his eccentric best.
Just as the entourage pulled into the drive I was whirring away through the grass behind my old-school, motorless, reel-type lawnmower -- the one I couldn't resist at 80 percent off when the hardware store went out of business last winter.
I presumed that since my neighbors have declared the practice "downright crazy," Mother-in-law would surely feel the same. Instead, my father-in-law literally jumped from the car in a fit of nostalgia, then seized the thing away from me and took off through the yard spouting stories about his boyhood days on the farm! Within minutes a line formed. My brother-in-law clipped a swath. Next was my wife. And then, in a moment too outrageous for even my own madly eccentric mind to have conjured, I witnessed my own mother-in-law pushing a mower through my lawn! It was magical, transformative even! Maybe, just maybe, my mother-in-law is just as odd of a duck as me!