How to Be a Bad Mother-in-Law

My recent trip to San Francisco to visit my son had me thinking about motherhood and mother-in-law-hood. Actually, something else had me thinking of mother-in-law-hood, and it was something that happened a week before. I related the entire thing to my Internet Boyfriend/Friend, because I was quite upset. It’s nice to have friends to bounce stuff off of. He was very comforting, in that he provided some calm insights.

A couple of weeks ago, I started cleaning out my office here at the office. It’s where I do my work that is not associated with our business, but instead with business I started doing out of my home several years ago. I don’t make much money from that business, but it involves using the computer to design things. When I had my office at home, it was rather messy. When we moved to our current home, my husband said it was too nice of a place for me to have a home office which tended to be messy. (At the time, the nature of design was somewhat cut and paste. That’s why it could be very messy. Nowadays, everything is digital. No mess.) My husband decided to give me office space in our building, which is how I got a private office.

Anyway, I started throwing things away, and at a bottom of a box of very old cell phones, I found an envelope I had not seen before. It was addressed to Mr. Demonic, and in it was a copy of a letter I had written to his mother back in 1998.

My mother-in-law wasn’t a bad person, but she didn’t like me. My own mother died not long after I got married, and I needed a mother figure. She was exceptionally nice to both my children, her only grandchildren. The purpose of my letter was to express my opinion, as I am apt to do. Perhaps I should not have written it at all, except at the time I was up to my eyeballs in personal crap, and my children were very young (8 and 11). Life was coming at me from a hundred directions. It was a very stressful time.

My mother-in-law used to send my children gifts for the major holidays. She lived in another Tundra city about 700 miles away. She would wrap up the gifts and send them individually. My children, being small and extremely competitive, often wondered why one package would arrive, and the other would take sometimes days to get here. They, being of small minds, thought she was doing this on purpose. If I saw any small packages coming, I would secrete one if the other hadn’t arrived.

One day she called and my daughter answered the phone. They had a long conversation, which I didn’t mind. When my daughter hung up, she asked me where her package was. (?) I didn’t feign ignorance, because I knew nothing of a package. My son’s package hadn’t even arrived yet. Then she said, “Grandma said you have my package and won’t give it to me.” Then she went on to tell me I missed her aunt’s birthday and she was sad.

I was not amused. After all, why didn’t my mother-in-law say your father has the package and won’t give it to you? Why didn’t her father (Mr. Demonic) remember his own sister’s birthday? At the time, I could barely remember six hours into the past. I felt that I was being made the bad guy, when I was the one who regularly sent cards and photos and did all the Christmas shopping for both sides of the family.

In my anger and frustration, I penned a note to my mother-in-law. It began “I love you like a mother, but…” Because I did love her like a mother, and I couldn’t believe that she would try to make me look evil in front of my own daughter. In the note, I explained that I had no idea what my sister-in-law’s birthday was. I said that I was so busy, I had not yet sent my own two sisters their birthday cards (one being two months before, and the other a month before) and that they were still sitting on my desk. I said that side of the family didn’t send me birthday cards, nor would I expect them to. Then I admonished her to speak with her son about such things, especially about parenting if she didn’t like the way I did mine. I also told her that it was ME-the Mother and Wife- who made the plans to visit them. Mr. Demonic did not like going “home” as he didn’t see it as his home anymore.

Though I was angry, I thought my note was reasonable and concise. I didn’t refer to her in any hostile tones, I certainly didn’t call her names (and I wanted to), and closed by asking her to be considerate of my feelings.

She rarely spoke to me after that. And obviously sent a copy to Mr. D, who never once mentioned it to me. Perhaps wisely.

Though I was hurt, I got over it. Eventually, my mother-in-law passed away, and then my sister-in-law.

Seeing the note recently as I did jolted me into the same panic-stricken mode of ten years ago. It’s funny how many things lie just below the surface.

After I discussed this with MIB, I felt much better. I couldn’t change the way my mother-in-law was, and probably was looking for her love and approval when I should not have expected her to provide it. After all, I took away her baby. In the end, the only person I could change is myself.

That’s why I’m not going to be a bad mother-in-law.

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The Case of My Missing Mother-In-Law, or a Tale of Wandering Cremains

Many years ago, right after I was sucked into the Beanie Baby craze, my husband purchased a beautiful curio cabinet for me. Once it became apparent that Beanie Babies were an incurable addiction (by the sheer number of the little bean-bagged critters) I moved the “collection” into plastic tubs. A few thousand Beanie Babies now take up space in a room in my basement. One good thing about plastic tubs, is that they stack up very easily.

In the meantime, I put my other collection into the curio cabinet, which is located in my living room. When I was a teenager, I was very much into collecting elephants. (I’ll still pick up an elephant now and then, if it strikes my fancy.) There are also some fancy knickknacks which I’ve inherited from different sources. When my dear Mr. Demonic started collecting wines, he also started collecting vintage and unusual corkscrews, so we keep them there as well. The cabinet has a key, but we haven’t locked it since my son lost the original key and I had to go back to the furniture store to get another. Besides, most of the items are sentimental in value and aren’t worth a ton of money. Truth be told, not much in the house is worth anything, except maybe the piano.

When my mother-in-law passed away about nine years ago, the family had her cremated. The ashes were divided three ways among the three surviving children. In Mr. Demonic’s case, the funeral director put his share of the ashes into three mini-urns, one for him, and one for each of my children. I guess these urns were sample urns that were given to the home from the salesperson selling them the urns. I imagine that it’s much like they used to do in the real olden days when traveling salesmen would show miniature stoves to their customers and they would order from the cute little model. The urns were made of a green jade and came in a crushed purple velvet-lined box of three. It was quite attractive.

When we came home from the funeral, I put my mother-in-law’s cremains into my curio cabinet, along with some antique toys of hers which we inherited. It was kind of weird to have her there, but hey, what the heck? It’s my living room, but we don’t actually live in it. Most of our action occurs in the combination kitchen-breakfast nook-family room, not in the formal living room. It’s not like Mr. Demonic and I were having sex in there with his mother watching.

The other day, I happened to look into the cabinet, and noticed a bare spot. This is highly unusual because the cabinet was jammed full of the artifacts that is our life. I couldn’t figure out what was missing. Two shelves are devoted to elephants and two devoted to corkscrews. The rest is arranged by grouping. (For example, I have some small statuary from Greece together, and antique toys from my childhood that my sister bought me to replace ones that had become lost, along with photos taken of me with those toys.)

This huge space was somewhat annoying to me. I couldn’t figure out what wasn’t there.

That is, until yesterday. I realized that that rectangular shape was where the box containing my mother-in-law’s ashes were. It’s completely gone!

My husband denies moving them, and I believe him. He never goes into the living room at all. I don’t think he could name any of the furniture in there. My daughter thought it was weird that the urns were gone. She travels through the living room to the sun room where her computer is, but doesn’t stop (thankfully) long enough to make a mess in the living room. My son definitely didn’t do it, since he’s in San Francisco.

I’ve had other items disappear from the house, including five swords, a canvas I had painted in 1978 and a book of my poetry. I want to believe it’s not the person who is cleaning my house, or the bug-man. These are the two people with keys to the house.

To have three small urns full of human remains disappear, well, that just takes the cake.

I don’t know. I’m still shaking my head.