Sunday, July 01, 2007
Impending Doom
I haven't written about my mother-in-law here in ages. Which is odd, but nice, because she used to be a common topic of discussion and never in a good way.

She continues to act oddly and delusionally in the wake of my father-in-law's death, which was last August. She's playing this grieving-widow card to the maximum extent allowable by law, which is just creepy seeing as how when he was alive she was never able to string together a single, unconditional, nice statement about him. Even now, she talks about how he was The Love of her Life, but then has to qualify that with a remark about how flawed and unworthy he was. 'Tis bizarre.

A new, and possibly related, theme from her is this sudden attack of free love and rampant affection for all, including Yours Truly. Her normal means of communication is to call our house and, when I have the gall to answer my own phone in my own home, say, "Oh. Kate. Yeah, hi. Can I talk to my son?" (Always "my son," and I have never been her "daughter-in-law." I am her son's wife and the breeder of the grandchildren.) Recently, instead, she has been calling my husband's cell phone directly, and then asking to "just say hi to Kate" when they're done. Which is always awkward and uncomfortable, and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She has decided to kiss up to me as enthusiastically and simperingly as possible, and I cannot figure out why.

Cynical of me, I know, but I refuse to believe that she has actually made a decision to be nice to me simply for the sake of lessening the hostility and conflict in the world. I may be an incurable optimist and a naive, smiling infant set adrift in a cold, cruel world (or I may be sarcastic and suspicious, whatever), but I do have the capacity to learn. There were times in the past when she would begin to treat me nicely and I would buy into it, only to get hurt once again when she suddenly recalls that I am the Spawn of Satan brought unto the earth to steal away her son and her grandchildren. I'm not interested in being hurt again, because it would be all my fault for allowing it to happen. So I'm suspicious and cynical, waiting to figure out why she's been puckering up in the general vicinity of my derrière.

There's also the matter of Emily's vacation time. Last summer, she spent a week away at my mother's house, and it went swimmingly. This summer, she wants a week "or maybe two" at my mother's, and we're sending her to sleep-away camp for a full week, to be surrounded by strangers with unknown criminal records. But when my mother-in-law called to ask when Emily would be able to spend a week at her house, it triggered a several-week process of Willem and I trying to find a polite euphemism for "not until well after hell has frozen over."

It's not that I think that my mother-in-law is so wildly incompetent or toxic that I won't allow her to be alone with my children... not yet, anyway, though there's always time for that to develop. But right now, she's still acting oddly and delusionally, and I don't feel that it's right to leave her the responsibility of a bossy-and-headstrong 7-year-old for an extended period of time - nor do I think that said 7-year-old is quite ready to navigate the waters of grief and narcissism alone. So, no. Emily won't be spending a week at mother-in-law's alone this year.

As a compromise, Willem is taking both kids out for several days at the end of next week. This should, in theory, present the best of all possible worlds: she gets time alone with Her Son and the grandchildren, without my polluting presence, and we're not dealing with the doubts and worries of sending Emily alone. I don't know if mommy-in-law-dearest has quite figured out yet that this group visit means that there won't be an individual one... that'll be a fun conversation.

And until then, it's just this sense of impending doom in the face of niceness and limit-setting. Neither of which sits comfortably on the head of my mother-in-law.