Some months ago, when I was finally on an upswing after a fairly dark couple of years, a dear friend and mentor suggested I should take a stab at writing a screenplay. He sent examples and links to people talking about how to write a great screenplay. That phrase “write what you know” came up a bit.
What would I write about if I were to take my hand to such an exciting and audacious creative pursuit?
You know what. The first and strongest idea was my mother in law Nicole. It’s not an exaggeration to say she’s one of the best friends I have ever had in my life. She’s also, outwardly at least, one of the most earnest curmudgeons you’ll ever meet. She’s got a propensity to see the worst in most situations, seems she does this to be pleasantly surprised when things aren’t the worst. She laughs at the human condition and herself and is as much an Eeyore as I am a Tigger. Our relationship, and my mother in law’s life are sources of strength, hope, and laughter for me and the very few people she allows into her space to tell her stories to. Add to that the fact she’s funny as fuck, and quite the cutest mean old lady imaginable, and I think it would be a friendship movie to rival Green Book, Ya-ya sisterhood or even… dare I say it… Beaches!
Mum and I are an odd couple indeed. She’s the Dean Martin, I am the Jerry Lewis. She’s George and I’m Gracie.
While there is an inarguable element of comedy to our odd pairing, in the 17 years of knowing this woman, she has never lied to me. Infact, her honesty and absolute inability to speak with a silver tongue or sugar coat anything has been a comfort through many struggles and has kept me humble and grounded when things are on an upswing.
We have both seen some of our darkest hours over the past couple of decades, and while the whole world checks in on us, it seems her and I are always front and center for each other through any crisis. I was with her in hospital when she got her stents (she’s a new woman) and I translated grumpy mother in law vernacular to charming “please tell us exactly what is going on, we are smart enough to understand” when the doctors did their rounds. When I was hospitalized, she was the only person permitted to see me. And she’s been keeping an eagle eye on me, along with our neighbours and dear friends who also live on our property, Bill and Eva. These are my foundation. These people and my sister leigh and a small handful of dear and honest friends, our children, and my soulmate (and Nicole’s son) Phteven are what keep me tethered to this earth when my mental illness makes it almost impossible for me to carry on. They are also the only people there when I stop functioning and am laid up in a tearful heap, for however long it takes to get back on track.
My mother in law is always there to offer tough love and get me back to health and whatever frenetic level of stability I can manage on any given day. She’s actually my hero. She’s miserable and mean and I fucking Love her more than my own eyes.
I’m crying with every syllable I type right now. Today is her Birthday. I won’t say how old, but I know she’s got some good years up her sleeve yet. We still travel together, and I rely on her council and honesty in every aspect of my life. And you know what, despite the fact she is a rockstar at pointing out the painful and being more than a bit mean to me at times, I suspect she’s actually proud of me and Loves the crazy, loud, needy, passionate hurricane who married her son.
So. On your Birthday Mum… I know you hate a fuss. I know you HATE how open I am. I know you hate my constant gushing and hugs and happiness, but everyone who knows us knows that I adore you and you’ve stood by me through some pretty spicy shit. I just wanted to say thank you.
Happy Birthday, and thank you for my surname, the genes that made your grandkids geniuses, and being my friend even though I drive you around the bend.
Love you today, and every day, even the ones I don’t like you very much.