May 8 is Mother’s Day. I want to acknowledge my mother-in-law, Judy Tischleder, and celebrate her for Mother’s Day. Like the flowers that grow in her garden, she is bursting with life-strong and everlasting.
Most of my girlfriends have so-so relationships with their mothers-in-law. However, a few of my friends cannot stand their mothers-in-law, and dare I say, even hate their mothers-in-law. A friend described her mother-in-law as a vampire. “Every time I’m around her she sucks the life out of me!”
My relationship with my mother-in-law is the opposite. I admire her quiet strength. Judy was diagnosed with cancer last year. The bravery she showed during her battle with cancer made me love her even more. She focused on the things she loved: her family, friends, garden and books. Her cancer is now in remission. She celebrated the end of her treatment with a hot-air balloon ride over the St. Croix River with her friends and family. Recently, she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
One of the qualities I noticed right away during my courtship with her son, Brian, was his respect for women, particularly his mother. I am Hmong and my traditional culture doesn’t always respect women or acknowledge their finer qualities.
My mother always told me that you can tell a lot about how a man is going to treat you by the way he treats his mother. Before I met Judy, Brian spoke fondly of his mother. Around the same time I was dating Brian, I was also seeing another fellow who hated his mom for reasons he could never elaborate on, and even went so far as to tell her on the phone to “go to hell.” At that moment I imagined him hurling “go to hell” at me, my mother and our daughters. I ended the relationship soon afterwards. I believe my husband’s respect of women stems from the values his mother instilled in him to honor women.
I hope one day, if I am lucky enough to be a mother-in-law, that I show the same strength and respect to my daughter-in-law as Judy has shown to me.
Ka Vang was born in Laos and raised in St. Paul. She is a poet, playwright and community activist.