It’s Better Than the Alternative

My sweet mother-in-law, Fran

As we approach the end of 2020, I’m thinking of one of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings, “It’s better than the alternative.”  That bit of wisdom comes from a slightly longer adage, “Growing older isn’t so terrible—when you consider the alternative.”  There is some disagreement about where that line originated, but the sentiment is one I’ve thought of many times during this long year.  As challenging as things have been for us, so many people have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I know it’s relatively common for guys to make snide remarks about their mother-in-law, but my wife’s mom is a terrific lady who has never given me any reason to think that way.

My first memory of my future mother-in-law was when I drove four hours to catch up with my girlfriend at her mom’s house.  Debbie and I had been dating for a few months, and it was time to meet each other’s families.

Fran made me feel welcome right from the start.  Recently divorced after thirty-some years of marriage, she welcomed me with open arms.  Realizing that she no longer had someone around the house to help with things that might need fixing, I jumped into action. The fence to her pasture was falling apart, and it was only a matter of time before the animals escaped.  

It was mild where I lived on the coast, but the inland valley was well over 100 degrees that day. What was a two-person job, I foolishly tried to do alone.  I’m sure there was some male ego involved as I tried to prove my worth. 

I completed the job several hours later, but I had come down with a fever by evening.  Heatstroke was no joke.  I spent the next two days in bed, feeling like a fool for thinking I could somehow demonstrate my manhood by being tougher than the extreme heat.

In the years that followed, I got to know and liked Fran more than ever.  She was friendly, kind, funny, and hospitable whenever I came for a visit. After three years, I married her daughter.

When Fran was retiring, Debbie and I were starting our teaching careers.  Debbie became a preschool teacher, and I taught elementary school.  We usually spent Christmas at my mother-in-law’s house.  Fran had also been an elementary teacher for many years.  Wherever we were out and about around town, she had former students greeting her.  It spoke volumes to me that her pupils greeted her with such warmth.  Now that I’ve retired from teaching, I’ve had that same wonderful feeling as I bump into old students, many of who are now adults.

My mother-in-law had the best retirement years.  She traveled throughout the United States and abroad, often taking part in golf excursions with her friends.  It seemed like she was always returning or about to embark to some exciting place.

Another quality that I admired in my mother-in-law was her giving nature.  She regularly took part in community service projects.  Sometimes when we were in town, we’d go along with her to help out.  Two of her regular gigs were volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program and in the weekly food giveaway program for the needy.

Much like my parents and my mother-in-law, I have found joy in volunteering for organizations doing important work.  Before Covid, I was reading the newspaper for a great group called the Society for the Blind.  https://societyfortheblind.org/ This organization tries to assist those who are blind or have limited vision.  I also volunteer with the Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival Committee.  https://www.authorfest.org/ This outstanding group brings twenty-five nationally known children’s authors to our local schools biennially to talk to kids about writing.  The last time the authors visited, we brought them out to over seventy schools in the county.  Since one of my goals is to write children’s books, it has been an excellent experience for me to watch these authors.

I know that having role models like my parents and my mother-in-law has inspired me.  I also want to contribute something meaningful to society. I am reminded of the movie The Dead Poet’s Society, when actor Robin Williams says to his students, “To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Thank you, Fran, for all of the verses that you have contributed.  Yes, it’s far better than the alternative.

94 thoughts on “It’s Better Than the Alternative

  1. What a wonderful way to end this year with a tribute to a lovely lady! May the new year with be an actual better alternative! Stay safe, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 2:06 pm

      Thank you—best wishes to you and Tony. I hope 2021 is the year you can actually retire so that we can see more travel photos.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! And hopefully we can come and visit 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A phrase we use as well. Wonderful story. I had a gem of a mother in law as well. They are sometimes under rated.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 2:10 pm

      It sure makes it a heck of a lot easier when you get along with the in-laws. I’m blessed to have such a gem. (Oh, the wife’s pretty special too.)😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A Beautiful tribute to your MIL! Happy New Year! And great closing thought about what our verses will be!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 2:16 pm

    I don’t know if it’s a symptom of getting old and having more time on my hands, but I think about things like this more often now. It’s nice not to be part of the rat race anymore. Best wishes to you and your family in 2021, Joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a beautiful tribute Pete. She sounds wonderful. Happy New Year to you and yours!🤗🥂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 2:34 pm

      Thank you, Kim. She is a remarkable woman who has lived a full life. Happy New Year to you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed this tribute to your mother-in-law! She sounds like a remarkable woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 2:36 pm

      She has a great sense of humor, which my wife inherited. That has served us well during 2020. Have a great 2021, Liz! Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A lovely tribute to an amazing mother-in-law! Fortunately I’ve been blessed, my in-laws are all amazing too. Here’s a favorite quote from my own mother at age 78, “You’re looking at your future, sweetie!” She never complained and always made us smile. She too was an amazing mother and mother-in-law!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 5:37 pm

      That’s wonderful! I’ve used that same line with my son, especially when I’m having a moment of forgetfulness. We were also lucky that Mom retained her usual pleasant demeanor. That is such a blessing since things can also go south for people.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This adage often comes to mind when I have the need to complain about my circumstances, as negative as they may be… Could always be worse is what I always say…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 7:12 pm

      Yes, somebody else has it worse than us. It’s been rather cold lately, and Covid is an issue with the shelters. That means many people are living on the streets. Happy New Year, Bossy Babe, to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your ‘verse’ shines brightly, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 10:15 pm

      Thank you, Laura. I’ve got an awful lot to be grateful for. We do have a responsibility to set a good example for the next generation.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. what a wonderful tribute to your mother in law. It sounds like the two of you had a beautiful relationship because you both had such positive attitudes about life.

    I was also lucky to have had a wonderful mother in law…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 31, 2020 — 10:41 pm

      She came from humble beginnings and never forgot it. When you earn everything you achieve in life through hard work, you don’t take things for granted. Glad to hear you have a wonderful mother-in-law, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. and when you earn something through hard work, you appreciate it more…

        Liked by 1 person

  11. A lovely tribute. Not many son-in-laws would do this. Being handy around the house certainly helped Sam gain favour with my mother, and so you had the right idea at first, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:27 am

      I’m not particularly handy, but I try. I’m that guy who takes twice as long as I should but still manages to get the job done.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great that you finish the job! A chap I used to know would always run out of patience and motivation halfway through and leave many jobs incomplete.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. how lucky you are, and what a wonderful tribute to a wonderful mother in law

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:32 am

      Our son used to get such a laugh when she’d tell someone on the phone that “the kids are here for a visit.” (Emphasis on “the kids.”) 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A lovely tribute to Fran, and some fitting thoughts as we leave behind a year that none of us wanted and, hopefully, move towards better times. Happy New Year, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:35 am

      The logical part of us knows that flipping to a new year doesn’t change the current mess we’re in, but it still feels like the chance for a fresh start. A good part of that optimism is knowing that we will finally have an adult running the country.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really hope that your country gets the fresh start it needs and deserves after what it has gone through – and still is, while he encourages rebellion. Our fresh start is the beginning of the effects of our country’s mass suicide – I just hope it isn’t as bad as I fear!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Love your story of your Mother-in-law. I am a woman, but I had a wonderful Mother-in-law. I watched the Dead Poet’s Society – a very good movie indeed. I love Fran’s statement – “It’s better than the alternative.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:38 am

      It’s a great reminder not to wallow in self-pity when so many others have things worse.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. She sounds like an amazing woman and you have given tribute in beautifully crafted words, Pete! I really enjoyed this retelling of the story of how she has impacted your own life. We should all be this cognizant of how the people we admire have helped us become who we are and find the time to thank them personally and directly. Well written, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:43 am

      I think part of that attitude stems from my years as a teacher, realizing the amazing opportunity I had to positively influence my students.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. A wise woman, Pete! and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well done Pete. You have made an excellent point, i. e. we should recognize our important role models, and share their influence on us with others, a terrific way to honor them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:49 am

        We, teachers, recognize that sometimes all our students need is for someone to believe in them. Look at all the teachers in your family who have made a difference in so many lives. You and Marsha must be proud of your daughter for continuing the teaching legacy.

        Like

    2. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:44 am

      Thanks for dropping by, Noelle. Happy writing in 2021!

      Like

  17. An inspiring post, Pete. Happy New Year. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:50 am

      I hope 2021 is a good one for you, Teagan. Happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Are you able to visit in person rather than virtually at this time. I know you enjoy being together so I hope you are able.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 9:53 am

      My mother-in-law is now 97 and living in an assisted living facility several hours away. We had that difficult situation where no one could visit in person for several months, but now my sister-in-law can drop in once a week, and my wife can Facetime with her mom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh good. They have lifted some restrictions then? Will she get a vaccine soon?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor January 2, 2021 — 3:34 pm

        Like much of this, I don’t completely understand the situation. We got her on Hospice, and that has allowed for more visits. They take good care of her, but there is a bit of a language barrier, making things challenging.

        Like

  19. Fran sounds like a wonderful role model!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 1, 2021 — 3:06 pm

      She’s a wonderful person. My wife inherited some of her best qualities. Happy New Year, Becky!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I loved this tribute to your mother-in-law Pete and how you have had such a wonderful relationship with her. The whole story just buzzed with positivity and admiration. I had a great relationship with my mother-in-law too. She had so much love for her family and grandchildren and would do anything for them. I wanted to be just like that. Also, I love that you worked for the visually-impaired organization. I did the same thing at CRIS Radio in Chicago. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but the closet one where I live is 3 hours away. Anyway, it was the perfect piece to start the year – very inspiring. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 2, 2021 — 9:06 am

      Thanks, Melanie. We do feed off of the positivity of those around us. For example, yesterday, I heard from one of my former students (I’m guessing she’s about forty years old now) asking if I knew anything about her principal when she went through the school. I was delighted to tell my former student that the principal is now in my writing group. At eighty-two years old, she continues to be a mentor to me. What a far reaching influence!

      Your new profile photo is great, Melanie! You look so healthy! Happy New Year to you and your family!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is remarkable that the very person she was looking for is in your writing group! You have helped to created a great circle of support with your writing. I envy you. Anyway, thank you for your kind words on my new profile photo. I continue to feel well. Happy New Year to you and your family as well Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Another great reflection Pete. You better start working on that memoir! Appreciation for those who have helped you is a reciprocal thing. You’ll find lots about that in Emerson.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 2, 2021 — 12:02 pm

      One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I seem to be far more reflective of those who have been a powerful influence on me with age. I’m trying to figure out if that is a symptom of getting older or a guy who has much more time to stop and smell the roses.

      Like

  22. A wonderful tribute to your mother-in-law! I can imagine how you felt when she welcomed you with open arms, and also how you felt when seeing her former students greet her. I must watch Dead Poet’s Society again, as it is an excellent movie. I want to see and hear him say Walt Whitman’s “Oh me! Oh life!” Happy New Year, Pete. Your posts are an inspiration to me (and to many others.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 2, 2021 — 3:37 pm

      Thanks, Jennie. I feel the same way about your posts. You understand children so well and what they need. Did you have some time off from school? Are you returning Monday?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Pete. And thank you! As to time off… well, we moved into our newly renovated building, so everyone has rolled up their sleeves to be ready. A move is never easy, and I’m glad it happened this year when we really can’t do much due to COVID. Students and teachers return on Monday. It will be all new!

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Your Mother-in-law is a very wise woman, Pete, and you share your wisdom by appreciating her words and speaking highly of her.

    One of the biggest indicators of a classy, kind woman is how she makes you feel. “Fran made me feel welcome right from the start” speaks volumes about her and volumes about you, recognizing her admirable qualities.

    I love how you have written this tribute to Fran and brought it full circle and shared her wise words.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 2, 2021 — 10:24 pm

      It’s awkward when I’m with some of my buddies, and they’ve got these hideous mother-in-law stories. I don’t say much. I’m just thankful for mine and the wonderful daughter she brought into my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. What a beautiful tribute to a grand lady, Pete! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 3, 2021 — 4:42 pm

      She’s a great lady who has lived a full life.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I can tell from your wonderful posts that you made, and continue to make, a huge difference in people’s lives, Pete. I like your M-I-L’s quote, it suits my glass half full mantra. Positive outlooks certainly make for happier days 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 3, 2021 — 10:32 pm

      Positivity is infectious. Who wants to be around an old grump? I’m glad that you’re on the right track with your health challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Pete, What a lovely mother-in-law, and a a lovely son-in-law. Fran sounds like such a remarkable woman. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 4, 2021 — 8:57 am

      The best testimonial for me was watching how my mother-in-law’s former students felt about her whenever we went anywhere in town.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. What a lovely, Mum in law, Pete. Happy New Year to you, Debbie and all your loved ones. I am wishing you all much love, abundance and peace in the coming year. ❤ Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 4, 2021 — 8:59 am

      Right back at you, Jane. I trust that you are happy and settled in your new home. We finally got to see our son after nine months (a pandemic can do that to you), and it was reassuring to know that he’s happy. That makes up a lot for missing him.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am so glad you were able to see your son, Pete and get together. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Pete, this was a lovely tribute and testament to Fran. I’d say she was lucky to get you as a son-in-law too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 4, 2021 — 4:57 pm

      It is remarkable how many similarities I share with her. The biggest one being I’m married to her daughter.😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The universe brings us to who we should connect with 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  29. Fran sounds like a lovely lady and she is lucky to have a good son in law which makes all of you very lucky…Both my mothers-in-law were strong ladies but great role models and a positive influence for me in my younger days :)x

    Liked by 3 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 4, 2021 — 11:25 pm

      You would like her a lot, Carol. As my wife likes to say, “Mom has had a great life. No one enjoyed retirement like her—eating, drinking, and playing golf.” She wasn’t self-centered at all and always made time for others. I’m always singing the praises of role models.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure I would , Pete..retirement is such great opportunity to do what you have always dreamed of doing when circumstances and life didn’t allow for that when you were younger and working and bringing up kids…it sounds like Fran grasped every opportunity with both hands ..fair play to her 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  30. What a sweet post, Pete. I love how you take the time to honor people who have inspired you. Your mother in law sounds like a lovely person. I wish her and you and yours a happy, healthy new year. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 5, 2021 — 8:03 pm

      It’s my way of saying thank you to the important people in my life. Fran is one of the many who have blessed me. Many happy moments to you reading and writing in 2021, Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. My heart melts. So beautiful and so respectful. Beautifully written and shared. Your mother in law is fab. But you also are great to see and accept her.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 5, 2021 — 10:00 pm

      When it’s all said and done, I think the essential question is, “have we made the world a better place by being part of it?” My mother-in-law touched a lot of lives, and her answer is a resounding yes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a great question and a great life objective to pursue.

        Liked by 1 person

  32. What a remarkable woman. I have been blessed with many like her in my life. My dad would always say, “It could be worse.” In fact, I know he would be saying it right now if he were here. Because of course, it could be much worse. Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 6, 2021 — 8:30 am

      I love that comment about your dad. There have been many times when I’ve heard my parents’ expressions or sayings coming out of my mouth. Happy New Year to you as well, Darlene!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. This is a lovely post, Pete. Your MIL sounds like a great person. My in-laws are also wonderful and I am lucky to have them. Happy New Year, Pete, let’s hope it’s a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 6, 2021 — 10:07 pm

      Thanks, Robbie. It sure makes it easier when there are no issues with the in-laws. My wife got along well with my parents, too—something I was always grateful for. Happy writing in 2021!

      Like

  34. such a wonderful story! thanks for sharing🤍

    Follow @everythingtips for tips and recommendations if interested! It would mean a lot to me🥺🤍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 8, 2021 — 7:57 am

      I’ve pretty much maxed out on the number of blogs that I can follow, but I’ll give it a look later today. Thanks for reading my post. Much luck to you in 2021.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ohh thank youu! hope you have a great day!

        Like

  35. This put a tear in my eye, and my heart swelled up. What a wonderful MIL, but really Pete, you are an incredible SIL also. You’re fortunate that she is still alive – wow, 97. My mom passed in May of Covid at 96, but if she hadn’t gotten the virus, she’d still be alive and kicking (literally as well as metaphorically, since her dementia). But I digress. I like your mom-in-law’s attitude, and the older I get, the more I need to remind myself that the vagaries of aging, of not having the energy I once had, to never feel like I have enough time to write all the stories waiting inside me, to not be able to race to my grandkids and kids and hug them deeply – well, what I CAN do is better than the alternative! Here’s to taking care of ourselves by taking care of others, to giving a part of ourselves to make life better for all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 8, 2021 — 7:33 am

      Thanks for your inspirational thoughts, Pam. We all need a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, and I’m finding that joy in writing and being in the company of others trying to support each other. An arthritic back makes life a bit more challenging, but there’s a lot of fight still left in this old dog. I still can walk every day, and that serves me well physically and mentally.

      May we find inspiration from those around us and not take any aspect of life for granted. If we can bring a little more joy to the world, I’m signing up.

      I hope that you have many happy memories of time well-spent with your mom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amazing memories of my mom and me and our adventures together. Over the years I’ve blogged about our times together, and those posts have always been some of the most liked! 🙂
        By the way, I reviewed CALL ME MOM on Amazon and Goodreads. And I’m so sorry, I just added it to my list of “books read in 2020” on today’s blog post. For weird reasons, I was going to include it in 2021, but I changed my mind. ;-0 That’s the prerogative of the, um, more mature woman.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor January 8, 2021 — 7:54 am

        I love the term “mature woman.” I may try that out on my wife today just to get a reaction. 😎 Thanks so much for the review, Pam. I’ll check that out sometime today. I’m heading out to walk with some buddies right now, and that always improves my spirit.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just returned from a two hour walk in the 34° sunny day. Made me feel so good I’m suddenly less mature. 😆

        Like

      4. petespringerauthor January 8, 2021 — 2:10 pm

        😂 You should have seen me sometimes when I was running around playing chase games with my students at physical education time. I’m sure some of the other teachers and parents thought, “What’s this guy’s deal?” The moral of the story—sometimes it’s better to act like a kid. Maturity is overrated.

        I just got a chance to read your kind review. As you know, some reviews carry more weight than others. Since I have great respect for your writing, I’m glad you liked it.

        Like

  36. Such sweet recollections! How quickly time goes by and how valuable to stop and consider all that you have. Far better than the alternative!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor January 9, 2021 — 10:27 am

      Don’t we all like to be around people who put off a positive vibe? We can either grouse about our bad luck or be grateful for our blessings.

      Like

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