Doris Stephens

Doris Stephens

The mother-in-law joke is one of the lowest forms of humor, and one of the oldest.  Adam probably bored Eve with mother-in-law jokes, even though neither of them had one.  OK, they may not be quite that old, but there is some historical evidence that the mother-in-law joke existed as far back as Roman times.

Sorry, but I’ve never found them all that funny, which may be because I really liked my mother-in-law.  For some reason she liked me, too, so we got along great.  I realize that is not a universal human experience; I was lucky, I guess. 

Many years ago, my wife and I were with some friends who didn’t have cordial relations with their relations, and they weren’t holding back.  To hear them tell it, their in-laws were… well, you know:  “she’s so awful, rabid dogs run away from her,” and so on.  And they had horror stories to support their claims that they had unwittingly married into a coven.

Finally, one of our friends noticed that I had been uncharacteristically silent.  “Wait, wait,” he said to the others, and then he turned to me.  “Tom, we’ve all complained about our in-laws for years, but you’ve never said anything negative about yours.  Come on — I want to hear one bad thing about your mother-in-law.”

I thought about it for a while, and all I could come up with was this:  “When she gives me a kiss, she leaves a smudge of lipstick on my cheek.”  That lame response earned derisive hoots from my friends, but it was the best I could do on short notice.

Doris Stephens was my mother-in-law for over forty years, and it’s still the only complaint I have about her.  Although she did make me very sad the other day — she went and died on us, a couple of weeks short of her 91st birthday.

  There are a lot of us who loved her, and who will miss that lipstick smudge on our cheeks.

6 responses to “Mother-in-law

  1. Very sweet.

    We’ve been thinking of you all this weekend.

    Take care and enjoy your memories.

  2. A nice way to talk about this very special lady, Tom. I thought you might have something to say on your blog. I will see you Saturday. My sibs and I are drifting back over all our memories since we heard the news. It’s a great picture too.

  3. Thanks, T.A. That’s a lovely tribute to a lady who was hugely fond of her son-in-law.

  4. Beautifully said, Tom. You were lucky to have her in your life all those years. And a lot of her lives on in Sally!

  5. This is a beautiful tribute to Doris, nicely attuned to the beautiful picture.
    You write so well—no surprise—that surely you can turn out a publishable book. You could start anywhere–left-handed people, the Panama Canal, towers, whatever. Lee

  6. Thanks for the loving words for the loving lady. If everyone were like she was the world would be one big happy family (as hers is).

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