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Marriage isn’t just a union between you and your mate. Along with the acceptance of the vows one takes you are now joined with the family of your spouse as well. We often hear and see stories about in-laws being pretty mean people and sometimes downright evil. We put up with them because we love the person that they birthed and raised.

In my mind, my in-law’s were the ones from hell. While we were never technically betrothed, my fiancé and the mother of my child lived together for five years and everything about the life we lived was in fact a marriage. We were there for each other through better or worse, richer or poorer (emphasis on poorer and richer being after we got tax returns), through sickness and in health (depression and cancer), and we loved and cherished each other until her death.

Her parents didn’t see it that way. For the most part, they were caught up in their own expectations of what they wanted for their little girl. I’ve tried to understand how and why my in-laws were just crazy, for lack of a better expression. As a parent to a little girl, I understand that in my head I have all of the things that I want and pray for her to have everything she could ever want, all the way down to the kind of man that I’d like for her to marry. If he doesn’t come in the form that I’d expect I could care less, as long as he takes care of her, I’m good.

For my fiancé’s parents, I wasn’t what they had in mind. They were big on control, and I wasn’t who they had in mind for their daughter. I wasn’t a suit and tie kind of guy, I had tattoos, and locs down my back. That was only part of it, though. Their daughter running around with me meant liberation from the bubble they had built and kept her in. They tolerated me as long as they possibly could. Two years into us living together, my wife’s mother brought her old high school crush over for Thanksgiving in a “look at him now” fashion. (I found out about this later). They really wanted that relationship to work even though she and I were happy. It caused a rift between us and for a few months she moved back home to Virginia from Atlanta and they dated for a while. Needless to say, her parents weren’t happy when I made things happen and she moved back in with me. My in-laws always hoped I’d be a passing phase. Then my wife got pregnant. So in some capacity they’d have to deal with me for the rest of their lives. We were all pretty cordial.

Honestly, I never liked them either because of traumatic stories I’ve heard about her childhood but they’d never know it by how I interacted with them. They gave me a nice-nasty vibe and they had to shut that down because they knew that my woman would choose me over them eleven out of ten times.

Then things changed forever. Days after our daughter Cydney was born, my wife was diagnosed with stage four cancer. We were living on Long Island at the time and her parents wanted us to either stay there or move to Virginia…anywhere but Buffalo where most of my wife’s family was originally from, but hat’s what we did. We didn’t see much of her parents for many reasons during our seven months up there. My wife wanted to move to Virginia in what would be her last days, and of course, I got questioned about loyalty by her family and was told I couldn’t visit her in the hospital and was illegally evicted from our apartment.

On November 19th, I told my girl I loved her, I’d be back in a couple of weeks. “Keep your phone by you because if anything, I’d like to speak to you on my birthday,” I told her, which was November 22nd. Her phone was turned off. I called everyday for nearly three weeks. The morning of December 9, 2011, I was getting all kinds of phone calls asking how my wife was doing and I honestly couldn’t answer. I found out through a direct message on Twitter that she had passed away that morning. Her parents never reached out to me. They told acquaintances from college and that’s how I found out. The family from Buffalo told me that they weren’t invited to the funeral. I even called to find out when the funeral services were being held, and never got a call back.

What ensued after that was five months of DNA tests (because I was told I could take my daughter when I could prove that I’m the father–which was insulting) and five months of custody hearings in New York and Virginia because my “in-law’s” were trying to adopt Cydney behind my back. I had to negotiate my visitation rights in front of a judge with her grandparents like they were the ones I married. The last hearing I had was January 6, 2014 in which they were granted supervised visits. It was the first time we’d all seen each other in nearly two years. My mother-in-law told my sister (who accompanied me to court) that they did the things they did because it was my wife’s dying wish.

Nowadays, they call and Skype with Cydney and I leave the room while it happens. I have forgiven them, but I don’t have to like them or pretend to either. But I do what I do for my daughter and her mom, who’s gone.

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