basementsongs

grobanI’d like to pay tribute to my mother-in-law, Judie, a woman whose perseverance has set an example not only for all of her kids, but for all of us to follow. In the summer of ’92, before I began dating Julie, I knew her mother as a customer at the Bin, the natural foods store where I worked. Back then she was just Mrs. Flynn, and once a week she stopped in to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, bringing a ray of positive energy into the store. I first took notice of her kindness when my dad went in for open heart surgery. Judie expressed great empathy, even though she hardly knew me. Her kind words and prayers gave me some peace of mind during a turbulent time.

In August of that year, Julie and I began dating. The day after our very first date, the two of us were hanging out in the Flynn kitchen, holding hands at the table. Mrs. Flynn came in, beaming at the sight of the two of us. It was as if she could recognize just by the way Julie and I looked at each other and how we interacted that something powerful was happening. In October I found myself sitting at the same kitchen table, across from Mrs. Flynn and her husband (a great man in his own right) asking for their permission to marry their youngest daughter. My stomach was spinning, concerned that wanting to get married a few months after Julie’s sister would add more stress to everyone’s life. Yet Judie never hesitated in saying “of course.” I was welcomed into their family with open arms.

What inspires me about Judie is her knack for finding the goodness in people despite their flaws. I am amazed that she raised three daughters as a single, working mother until she met Mr. Flynn. Furthermore, to witness her battle rheumatoid arthritis and maintain a brave face, never complaining and never slowing down; to see her always extending a helping hand to whomever she can, most importantly her family, time and time again, makes me want to be a better parent and a better human being in general.

I am proud to say that I am her son. From the moment Julie and I announced our engagement Judie has treated me as if I were her own flesh and blood. Not just me, but her other two sons-in-law and her daughter-in-law, as well. This loving bond extends to her grandchildren, too. She would not hesitate to get on an airplane tomorrow if we asked, and she smothers her seven (soon to be eight) grandchildren with an abundance of love.

My personal relationship with Judie has deepened over the years. While we don’t have similar tastes in music or film, she still expresses an enthusiastic interest in all that I’m trying to accomplish as a writer. When we do find common ground, it always results in lively conversation and plenty of laughter. Over the Christmas holidays, I was asked to review an English mystery series and decided to get Judie’s opinion. (She has the largest collection of Agatha Christie and Murder She Wrote DVDs of anyone I know.) The two of us sat in her sewing room watching an Ian McShane series on a small color television as the evening turned into night and the kids got ready for bed. We laughed and compared notes; it was a wonderful couple of hours.

I’m not sure what kind of music she listens to as her PT Cruiser, as it’s often overrun with library books on tape. However, I do know that she loves Josh Groban. Personally, I’m not all that familiar with the talented Mr. Groban. I like this particular song, as syrupy as it may be, having heard it played in the Flynn household over the past couple of years. When I hear “You Raise Me Up,” I think of Judie, because the message of the song rings so true to who she is a mother and a person. She once told me that when she saw Groban in concert, she felt like he was singing to her. Whether you appreciate his music or not, it takes artistry to be able to communicate with your audience in a concert hall and make the performance feel personal and not too preprogrammed and rehearsed.

Judie, this song is for you. You bring us great joy and comfort, and inspire us to be better people. Thank you for welcoming me into your family and making me feel as if I’ve always been a part of it. I have been blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day.