Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Ugly
And where, one might ask, was my mother-in-law in all of this? Sitting by, quietly, grieving yet recognizing her questionable status given their imminent divorce, considering the needs and feelings of others during a difficult time?

Yeah, right. Have you EVER read this blog before?

She has been horrible. Truly. I've had to finally face the stark reality, which is that she's not just selfish, she's not just passive-aggressive, she's not just thoughtless or confused or midguided. She is actively trying to hurt me. And sometimes she succeeds.

Like on Saturday, when she insisted that I go to her house to pick up Jacob, rather than going to my father-in-law's house, where she and Willem and Jacob had been staying for the week. My father-in-law was still alive and conscious at this point, and I had hoped to say good-bye. But she couldn't fathom how my friend Wendy could possibly not make my father-in-law uncomfortable and awkward (I'm thinking, by not going in to talk to him, but apparently I'm just being silly and not considering his telepathic abilities coupled with a give-a-darn level which extends to social niceties while in the end stages of illness), and I didn't think it was worth a fight, so I didn't fight. So I didn't say good-bye. This isn't the end of the world for me, I'll cope and have closure anyway - my father-in-law and I occasionally argued, but we always settled it and came to an understanding, and I don't feel like there's anything left unsaid or otherwise worth regretting. But it's annoying.

And more so because my father-in-law fell into a coma on Saturday night and never woke up again, and he died Sunday afternoon.

The kids and I remained in Niagara Falls Sunday night because, logistically, it just didn't make sense to leave before then. We went to my father-in-law's house on Monday morning. And - get this - Wendy went, and behaved herself, didn't do or say anything audacious or upsetting. Go figure, me not having idiot friends. I doubt my mother-in-law noticed.

I did my best to just steer clear of my mother-in-law and brother-in-law Adam, for very different reasons. Adam has always been an enigma to me, quiet except when he talks and then he talks AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE, shy except when he takes over the conversation, passive except when he's arguing or lecturing. My friend Jeff's gaydar goes off around Adam, and it's true that Adam is 28 and never had a girlfriend, but who knows? He certainly won't come out as long as his conservative homophobic outspoken parents hold any influence over his life - and death has nothing to do with influence. Anyway, he's always been somewhat erratic and impulsive, and though my in-laws have consistently treated him horribly (they assigned Willem the role as The Good Son and Adam got to be The Loser), he was devastated when my father-in-law got sick and more so when he died.

I have a theory that the more complicated your relationship is in life, the more difficult your grieving process will be after death. Adam - and, for that matter, Willem and his mother - had an extremely complicated relationship with his father. So now he is just flooded with emotions, and so fragile that it seems like a simple hug or sympathetic glance will shatter him.

And my mother-in-law... in an effort to give her the benefit of the doubt, she also had a very complicated relationship with my father-in-law and has a lot of emotions to work through. But you know what? She chose him. She chose to stay with him for many years of what she claims was mistreatment. Then she chose to stay with him for another decade in this weird quasi-separated state. Then she chose to go back and play around-the-clock nurse to him when he got sick even though no one asked her to and she was 2 weeks away from the completion of the divorce - which SHE initiated. At least Adam and Willem can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they didn't choose their parents.

So I gave her a wide berth on Monday because I was already feeling hurt by her actions on Saturday, and I really, really, really, really, REALLY did not want to start anything, or say anything, or hear anything, that would have bigger repercussions than it should have had, given that it was all less than 24 hours after my father-in-law died. I mostly succeeded. But the one time we were close enough to have a conversation, it went like this:
MIL: [Staring at a calendar] Wow. There's just so much to do.
ME: There is. But give yourself time and space, it'll all get done. Don't feel like you need to accomplish everything at once.
MIL: Yeah. I know. I have to plan the memorial get-together for October, I think Columbus Day.
ME: Okay. Be sure to let me know if I can help at all in the planning.
MIL: Oh. Are you planning on coming to it?
ME: [blank stare] Sure, of course. He was family.
MIL: Oh. Right. Well, I guess you can come, you can watch the kids. But Willem and Adam and I will spread the ashes.

First of all, of course that should be left to the immediate family and I would never consider asking to be involved. I demonstrated an iota or three of tact and sensibility at Willem's grandmother's memorial in 2004, I think I'm still carting around some of that awareness. Second of all, I don't want to handle anyone's ashes, thankyouverymuch. Just not for me. Third of all, and maybe this should have come first, bite me. Twice. No matter how hard you push, lady, I'm still a member of this family and just because you wish me away does not mean I'll disappear. I'll be attending family gatherings and paying my respects and continuing to live and breathe and exist, so there. Nyah.

So, she's just horrible. I don't know if I'm adequately conveying why her words hurt me... but I'm still tired from it all. Not to mention that I came home to work a 36-hour shift. So, just, yeah. It hurt.

I think my mother-in-law views grief like a bucket of marbles. A finite thing, with only so much to go around. She wants to be the sole person in charge of distributing those grief marbles. Which means she gets the vast majority, and she'll grudgingly give some to her sons so that she has someone to "share" this experience with. But no one else, LEAST of all me, gets to have any guilt. It's just not as REAL as her guilt.

She told Willem, "There's no love lost between Kate and H." Except that I actually did care for the guy. I don't dare say love, because to me that's a reciprocal emotion and I don't know what he felt for me. I think he did like me, and I know he respected me, and I think he was fond of me. That's good enough for a guy with more issues than your average newspaper.

So, no marbles for me.