My mother in law and I have never really clicked. From the beginning she has made it plain that I was never going to be good enough for her son. She didn`t let me forget it when we were first married and was not averse to making hurtful comments towards me around what a poor mother I was and a poor housewife. I have many memories of how unhelpful she could be but here are a couple that stand out for me;
One time when the children were small she came to see me. I can only conclude the house did not appear clean enough since she wouldn`t come inside and instead drank a cup of tea in the front garden. It was quite bizarre and I have not forgotten it. On another occasion we had gone to stay with her for the weekend. My then husband and I went out for a drink with his brother leaving the children with their Nan. When we came back she had taken all of the children`s clothes out of my overnight bag and washed them announcing to me that she liked her children to be “sweet smelling.” I gathered my courage around this intimidating personality, packed my bag, took my children and went home. It was a long time before we spoke again but it was a happy time for me, without her criticism and interference. As the years went by and I grew up and to some extent, so did she, we gradually pieced our relationship together again.
When I separated from my husband in 2001 he and I remained good friends and so I also remained in touch with my mother in law. My dear old father in law had passed away, he was lovely and I imagine he was part of the problem for while he was alive, he loved me and expressed his love in huge hugs and affectionate chat. I think my mother in law found that difficult.
I recognise now that she has always been an unhappy woman, she appears almost embittered with her lot in life and doesn`t seem able to experience joy. I have developed a lot of compassion towards her over the years and on lots of occasions have enjoyed taking her and her sisters out and about for meals and a drive in the country. I call them The Golden Girls and like small children, they bicker all the time they are together.
Recently, I returned to live with my ex, not in the biblical sense but because my relationship with someone else had come to a close. It`s a temporary measure until I work out what I need to do. Yesterday I was reminded of how acerbic my mother in law can still be, even in her mid – eighties, she`s still not giving it up!
We were talking on the `phone and she said to me,
“It`s absolutely none of my business,”
and I thought, “ here we go,”
and she asked “ are you and your fellow now finished?”
And I said, “Yes we`ve finished but we shall stay in touch and say hello from time to time.” She said, “Oh that’s` good, because he drinks and in my opinion, you should have never set up home with a man who drinks, it`s a disgraceful thing.”
So I said, “Well if that was the case then I would never have set up home with your son now would I?”
So she paused for a bit and then continued to ask me if I was going to remain living with my ex. I explained that neither of us is really sure what we want to do, I might stay or I might get my own place next year, we haven’t made up our minds yet so we`re going to enjoy Christmas and the New Year and just take it from day to day and see what happens. I said to her, “He has said that I can stay as long as I want, as long as it takes.”
And she said, “He`s very good to you isn`t he.”
I said, “We`re good to each other, it`s a two way process.
She said, “In what way are you good to him?”
I was stunned because it instantly hurt, it took me back over the years and the familiar tears stung my eyes, but once again I gathered my courage and said, “You know, he and I were married for thirty years, we had our two wonderful children who we adore, all that time I cooked for him, cleaned for him, washed his clothes, generally took care of him, went to work and contributed financially most of my life to a house that we both love. I still do all of these things.”
So she stopped then and said, “Well let`s not go down that path.” Only she already had.
I cannot understand how after all the years of knowing her, I still allow her to rattle me so much, I don`t comprehend why I haven`t yet learned not to take the bait. I could have just said a few words and remained polite. Anyway, I spent Christmas Eve in her company and I chatted to her and brought her plate to her and asked her again if she would like to come to us for Christmas Day which she didn`t, thank you God.
When her son, my ex husband dropped her back to her house later that evening she turned to him and said,
“Are you coming in for a drink? I`ve got gin, I`ve got wine, I`ve got brandy….. “