We hosted CG's family for Thanksgiving, the first major family holiday without my father-in-law. We were predictably sad about his absence, though happy to be together. With our house full to the seams, Z slept in our room on the floor leaving CG and I little time to speak privately and we mostly bustled about separately, tending to children, meals and family.
After the long weekend, CG left for a four-day work trip and my mother-in-law stayed with me and the girls to help out. Our lives were quiet and normal. Morning preschool for Z, grocery shopping and cooking for me and E. At night I would retire to my big empty bed, listening to every creak and groan of the house, missing the safety and weight of a slumbering husband within arms reach. I couldn't help imagining my mother-in-law doing the same, every single night.
My mother-in-law and I cooked food to share, picked up after ourselves and each other, asked one another if we'd like a cup of tea "since I'm getting one for myself", the kinds of things you ask one another when you're part of a home, a couple of people living together. I was conscious of how I could rest assured that my husband was coming home to do those same things for me once my mother-in-law was gone.
Despite her company, I found myself missing my husband a lot, wishing I could consult with him about the girls, the house, the minutiae of life you share with a partner. I talked to my mother-in-law about her minor surgery that is scheduled for next week, and wondered about how to manage such a thing when one no longer has a partner to rely on to drive you, be in charge of food and household matters, talk to the doctors and make sure you get to appointments on time.
On Friday, I drove my mother-in-law to the airport and said goodbye with a teary hug. I imagined her navigating the plane by herself, arriving home to a dark, empty house. A cold, empty bed. Without anyone on the other side.
That afternoon, CG arrived home, lay down on the bed next to me, filling his spot. Added weight and substance where I need it. We talked a little, looked at each other, listened, supported, asked, cared.
And, for a moment, I didn't take him for granted. I was so thankful my missing husband had come home to me and wished with renewed vigor that the same could be true for my mother-in-law.