The Best Mother-In-Law There Is

In the years I've known her, I've watched her give that welcome to anyone she meets. Everyone from cashiers at Piggly Wiggly, to chatty redheads dating her daughter.

It’s suppertime. My wife is teaching school late tonight and I don’t like eating alone. So, I picked up barbecue from a place my mother-in-law likes.

I appeared on her doorstep, unannounced, holding a fresh bouquet—fresh from the supermarket.


She’s independent, my mother-in-law. She lives alone—not counting her cats.

She fell recently. A few times. Once in the garage. Again this morning, in the bathtub. She has a bruised tailbone. I can tell she’s in pain. I wish there were something I could do.

Sandwiches and flowers are the best I could come up with.

“I brought supper,” I say. “Hope you’re hungry.”

I’m in luck. She is.

Mother Mary uses a walker. It’s candy-apple red. The same contraption that took me four tedious hours to assemble. We call it the General Lee.

When she finishes arranging flowers, she tells me she’d like to eat supper in the den, on her recliner. So I get her situated.

The Weather Channel is blaring at a volume loud enough to interfere with air-traffic transmissions.

I start to turn it off.

“No,” she says. “Leave it on, I wanna see tomorrow’s weather.”

Yes ma’am.

And so we eat pulled pork while Jim Cantore demonstrates the impact of high-pressure systems on the greater southeastern region.

“How’s Ellie Mae?” my mother-in-law shouts.

She’s being polite. I don’t have kids, so she’s asking about my coonhound.

“She’s good,” I holler.

She adds with a wink, “I like it when you write about your dog, but I like it better when you write about me.”


I know Mother Mary’s not feeling well. I can see it on her face. But she’s sophisticated to a fault. She comes from a world that’s peppered with Antebellum columns and parlors with high ceilings.

She’s learned how to smile through pain and make dinner guests welcome.

In the years I’ve known her, I’ve watched her give that welcome to anyone she meets. Everyone from cashiers at Piggly Wiggly, to chatty redheads dating her daughter.

People feel easy around her. People like me. She can fill up dead-space in discussions without using many words.

She tells good stories. She talks about Huntingdon College, about fishing with her daddy, about her pet coon. About Brewton—before they tore down the train depot.

She speaks just like the Alabama she grew up in. Slow and relaxed. And she knows how to turn supper on the sofa into a country-club brunch.

Her house is getting too big for one woman. Even so, she still manages to keep gardenias on tables, her bed linens still get ironed, and there’s beer in the fridge for her son-in-law.

She likes it when I write about her.

So, by God, that’s what I’ve done.


  1. Christy Jordan Keyton - January 24, 2017 2:15 pm

    I love this so much. My MIL is gone and I miss her. She was so much like you have described- right down to the fact that she went to Huntingdon college. Her name was Betty Wood and she was the example of a Southern lady!

  2. Sheila - January 24, 2017 2:38 pm

    I wish there was just one day I could get through your story for that day without crying. No, I am not telling the truth. I don’t wish that. A good cry is like a good medicine for the soul. Don’t stop using your gift.

  3. Philip - January 24, 2017 2:39 pm

    I hang on every word you write. I live in the big city of Charlotte. I’m from small town Camden AL. Your stories remind me of all the time I spent there and makes me want to move back so bad.

  4. Debbie Beach - January 24, 2017 3:08 pm

    I also love hearing about your mother in law! Keep ur coning

  5. Connie - January 24, 2017 5:47 pm

    Luv this…parts remind me of my Mother everytime I go to her apt: tv up full blast, shouting conversation, still much pride in being a Southern woman…your posts Sean are just music to my soul each day!!

  6. Wendy Boston - January 25, 2017 1:14 am

    Just loved this one.

  7. Mary Ellen Hall - January 25, 2017 1:37 am

    You’re BOTH “BLESSED” to have each other!!
    She’ll LOVE this article-you did GOOD!!!

  8. Judy - January 25, 2017 3:14 am

    Now Mary, the more silver that comes into our hair, the more we need to be a bit more careful where we step. I only say this because I took a fall last week. I was moving too fast and caught the toe of my shoe on the entryway rug.

    • Gerald - March 6, 2017 2:02 pm

      Judy rehalibation folks say you should have throw rugs of any sort. They are the most common cause of falls.

    • Gerald - March 6, 2017 2:04 pm

      Judy rehalibation folks say you shouldn’t have throw rugs of any sort. They are the most common cause of falls. SORRY

  9. Robert M. Steiger - January 25, 2017 10:57 am


  10. Cherryl Shiver - January 25, 2017 12:03 pm

    You know we have two sons, good boys. When they were getting close to marrying age I told them to pay real close attention to the girlfriends Momma, because good chances are that is what she is going to grow into. They both picked good ones……..I have been very,very blessed, more than I should have ever been.

  11. Carol DeLater - January 25, 2017 12:59 pm

    Hello Mother Mary. You are the mother-in-law that I always wanted. You have a great son-in-law and you MUST have a wonderful daughter to have nabbed him. Best wishes for your bruises to heal quickly.
    xx, Carol

  12. Cat - January 26, 2017 2:44 pm

    Love it . Thanks Sean

  13. Margie - March 1, 2017 4:32 pm

    What a lovely story!!! My Mother is 92 and just like Mother Mary.
    I am also an Alabama girl!
    Thanks for including me in this group!

  14. Laura Simmons - March 3, 2017 2:00 pm

    Adore it. Be sure to tell her how many people LOVE reading about her. You remind me of a more soulful Lewis Grizzard. I’m a new fan.

  15. Connie - July 30, 2017 1:08 pm

    I love this. My mother in law went with her son when he left, but I still talk to her often and still love her. She didn’t raise him to be the kind of man who throws his family away, but she had to support her son. I understand that and still see her whenever I can. A good mother in law is something to write about. You did good. I hear your love in every word.

  16. aawgreen - April 4, 2018 1:25 pm

    Laura Simmons is right. I’ve said more than once. Sean is like Lewis Gizzard only he’s in touch with his feminine side.

  17. Linda - April 4, 2018 2:45 pm

    It is a pleasure to read such stories, of the gentler (now harder to fine) southern charm. Thank you for sharing Caitlin.

  18. Rick Norman - April 4, 2018 3:30 pm

    Sean, I absolutely love the content, the brevity and the way you write. So natural, heartfelt and talented…a gift I am thankful you share so freely and regularly. Your short stories are about nothing and everything at the same time…no that’s wrong. Your stories are about every day things that mean everything to someone at sometime and I feel it. Thank you Sean. I know He’s proud of you.

  19. Sue White - April 4, 2018 5:02 pm

    Mary was a young mom and wonderful neighbor when I was a newlywed in Brewton. I am not surprised that she is a beloved MIL.
    Loved the story about Jamie and you in the Mobile paper recently, and immediately became a fan.
    Hi to Mary from Sue & Norman White!

  20. Charaleen Wright - March 21, 2019 5:39 am


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