The Mother-In-Law and the Jaybird

I’m sitting with my Methodist mother-in-law in the living room. We are replaying old memories like worn out records. There is a ballgame playing in the background. Braves are winning.

She sits in her wheelchair, nursing a nightly glass of Metamucil. I am sitting in a fold-up rollator walker, drinking one of her Ensure meal replacements. Chocolate.

The white-haired woman gets a sly look on her face and says, “Do you remember that one time…?”

There is mischief in her voice. And I already know where she’s going with this. Even so, I prod. “What ’one time?’”

“Oh, the time I came over to your house, unannounced, several years ago…?”

I knew we were going here.

“You mean the time you saw me naked?”

She laughs and sips her fiber supplement. “That would be the instance of which I speak.”

I might as well tell you the story now that we’ve brought it up. And I’m sorry if this is offensive because I consider myself a sincere gentleman. I mean it. I open doors for ladies, watch my language, and I don’t slouch.

But the truth is—and I can hardly say it—my mother-in-law has indeed seen me wearing nothing but the Joy of the Lord. And I mean the full biscuit.

Don’t make me repeat myself.

It happened years ago. And the violation occurred right in my own house. I’m forever traumatized. In fact, just writing about this causes unpleasant feelings to start swimming inside me, some of which date back to middle-school gym showers.

I can’t really explain how it happened. All I know is that one moment I’m waltzing across my empty house after a shower, enjoying the invigorating springtime air, then (WAM!) a peeping Thomasina is standing in my kitchen.

“Mother Mary!” I squealed—but in a masculine tone. “How’d you get in here?”

“I have a key, ding-a-ling.”

“Please don’t use that word.”

She handed me a stack of envelopes, but did not turn away. Her demeanor could only be described as unimpressed. “I was bringing your mail.”

I felt my face get hot. “My eyes are up here.”

“It’s mostly just bills.”

“Miss Mary, I’m naked.”

She agreed with this.

Then without breaking her non-Methodist stare, she said, “Sorry, I didn’t bring any ones or fives with me.”

Without uttering another word I trotted to the bedroom and heard loud whistling and cheering behind me. I edged past her, one hand covering the stern of the boat, the other shielding the bow.

The thing is, I’ve never felt so violated. A man’s house is his sanctuary, his dojo. Mothers-in-law can’t just pop in for half-priced peepshows whenever the mood strikes. There are laws against this sort of thing in civilized countries.

I suppose even after all these years I still don’t know how to act now that my mother-in-law has seen the authentic me. Nothing has ever been the same between us. I have a hard time looking her in the eye.

Take the holidays. Thanksgiving with the family is awkward. I want to know who prays the serious and reverent blessing with a straight face? It can’t be me. I can’t say grace while she’s bouncing her eyebrows at me. I know what she’s visualizing.

What about going to church? For years after the incident whenever our congregation would sing a hymn, Mary would slap my back pocket and say, “I got your Blessed Assurance right here.”

Isn’t it sad how something like an innocent pair of hindcheeks can rip a family apart with awkwardness? Which is why my advice to all sons-in-law reading this is, keep your family close and your skivvies closer.

Mary finishes her Metamucil, and after we are done retelling the old story I realize how much this past experience traumatized me. I never forgot it. It laid me bare, so to speak. So I ask Mother Mary where two traumatized souls go from here.

Mary suggested we go for drinks and dinner.


  1. Cynthia - May 23, 2021 8:02 am

    And this is why I always knock first and pause. Lol

  2. Sandi. - May 23, 2021 9:56 am

    I definitely agree with Cynthia’s sage advice about always knocking first and waiting a moment! Mother Mary sounds like a bundle of fun! Sean, tell her you’ll dance in your birthday suit at her 100th birthday party! That will give her something to really look forward to when the time rolls around.

  3. Leigh Amiot - May 23, 2021 10:04 am

    “…bouncing her eyebrows…” 😂
    Nothing like stifling laughter while your loved one is sound asleep!

  4. Joanne Viola - May 23, 2021 10:40 am

    And this would be why I don’t ever use my keys to enter any house but my own, LOLOLOLOL! I love Mother Mary!

  5. Ann - May 23, 2021 10:58 am

    Ok…. I laughed all the way through this one…. and laughter is sooooo good
    Have a blessed day😂

  6. Bar - May 23, 2021 11:10 am

    I needed this good laugh … thank you (and Mother Mary).

  7. joan moore - May 23, 2021 11:43 am

    Well Sean, you have revealed that your Mother-in-law barely has any signs of memory loss! All puns intended!

  8. Helen De Prima - May 23, 2021 11:46 am

    Coke-out-the-nose laughing.

  9. Pondcrane - May 23, 2021 11:53 am

    Good one, Sean

    • Larry R. Terry - May 24, 2021 2:43 pm

      I’m a journalist and a son, grandson and great-grandson of the South. Until I can move back home to Mississippi, your prose and your deeply resonant recollections will help sustain me.

  10. Debbie - May 23, 2021 12:17 pm

    I lost it at “Please don’t use that word.” 🤣🤣🤣

  11. eliza - May 23, 2021 12:32 pm

    oh my gosh…too funny and love Mother Mary….

  12. Wendy - May 23, 2021 12:48 pm

    Only tears of laughter today! Nice story, it’s like I was there to peep with Mary.

  13. Marilyn - May 23, 2021 1:34 pm

    Thanks for the humor! It was needed this morning.

  14. Iris Hamlin - May 23, 2021 1:43 pm

    I’ve got it played out like a movie in my mind. I’m not usually a fan of comedies but I’d pay to go see this one. You gave me a Much needed laugh! Love you❤️

  15. Connie - May 23, 2021 2:00 pm

    Thanks for the giggle. But it truly blessed me that you love your mother in law so much. Even in a funny story, that shines through. Love and hugs.

  16. Debbie g - May 23, 2021 2:52 pm


  17. JonDragonfly - May 23, 2021 3:01 pm

    WELL! There is only one cure for this. Remind her that “turnabout is fair game”. Whether or not you ever follow through, the threat is always there.

  18. Christina - May 23, 2021 3:11 pm

    Love Mother Mary! Count it a blessing Sean that she has seen you and still want to go out for dinner and drinks with you 😝

  19. Pamela Smith - May 23, 2021 3:12 pm

    Too funny… AND for some reason, I had the Beatles ear worm running through my head while reading: When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…

  20. Rhonda Williams - May 23, 2021 4:35 pm


  21. Linda Moon - May 23, 2021 4:59 pm

    You had me at the title. My curiosity was piqued about the content of this column before I opened it to read it. And right there in the first sentence there she was…Mother Mary! I think I even heard her mischievous voice. But wait…there’s more…the visual of you and her and the violation! Tell Mother Mary I’d love to go for drinks and dinner with her. But none of my family stories we might talk about would be as traumatic as this one, thank Heaven!

  22. Susie Murphy - May 23, 2021 5:22 pm


  23. MAM - May 23, 2021 5:39 pm

    HAHA! You and Mother Mary deserve one-another! Must be why Jamie married you. You reminded her of her mother! And that’s a compliment to all three of you!

  24. Rebecca Souders - May 23, 2021 8:08 pm

    Love the story, Sean … Thanks for sharing (color me laughing!)

  25. chrisineedstoshare - May 24, 2021 3:39 am

    Too funny!

  26. Suzi - May 24, 2021 3:57 pm

    Precious memories 🎶how they linger🎶🎶🤣🤣🤣

  27. LauraD - May 25, 2021 1:05 am

    Mother Mary is a hoot.

  28. Kate - May 25, 2021 12:29 pm

    So funny, and of course I had my mouth full of coffee so it went everywhere. Thanks so much for the laughter. It is so needed. I will read this later to my husband and start laughing all over again.


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