Thursday, December 2, 2010
Sometimes a thought will just pop in my mind. At the time, I have no real clue what it means or why the thought came into my head until later. It's like pulling a couple of sentences out of a book without a clue where in the story those sentences belong.
I had such an experience just this weekend. I was in the bathroom and I remember asking myself, "Will you ever forgive her?"
The her was my ex-mother-in-law and the story behind the forgiveness denied goes back decades.
My relationship with her was at best tenuous. Before I had ever met her I had been told how she had neglected my husband when he was a child. The story was that his Dad had died and his mother began dating and her children became a millstone around her neck.
Her daughter wound up getting married at 16 and getting pregnant right away and her son was often at the bottom of her to do list.
At the time I was very young and very in love with her son. He seemed protective of his mom willing to drive hundred of miles to try to help her escape her new husband who was very cruel and abusive.
I wanted to like her. I wanted to reach out to her. All of this went out the window from our first meeting. After some idle chit chat she told me that she was happy that "things worked out" because when she first found out she was pregnant with him she had wanted to have an abortion. It was a sucker punch I was not prepared for and it colored my every encounter with her. I just couldn't imagine a mother sharing this information with someone she barely knew.
Within a year of being married my husband received a phone call from her and he wanted to have her move in with us. This didn't happen but the specter of having to uproot our lives to offer her a place to stay was always there.
Oh there were other snubs and subtle power plays. One of them is a perennial favorite tale that I tell every year when people talk about the WORST Christmas gift EVER.
While certainly not rich, my mother-in-law certainly wasn't so poor she was deciding between buying her meds or having to eat cat food. She shared Imelda Marco's passion for shoes and when she found a pair she liked she'd buy it in every color. She would wear them each less than 10 times and then according to her they just didn't feel right.
Every year she would give me large trash bags filled with shoes. This was fine because my salary seldom stretched far enough for me to buy more than one or two pairs a year. I certainly had no problem with receiving the shoes and I always thanked her for them.
No the insult the bad Christmas gift should have SHOUTED worst gift ever just by the way it was wrapped. It was a big black trash bag with a small red bow and my name on the label.
I eyed it suspiciously and when it came time to open the gift there it was....a vacuum. Oh not a vacuum in a box shiny and new. No. It was a vacuum that had been hers and when she bought herself a new one she gave me hers complete with a canister almost full of dirt. Let's just be honest. What girl wants a vacuum for any gift? I certainly didn't.
My husband on the other hand received a couple of books he'd wanted and a few new shirts and pants. Heck I'd have been happy with one of the books.
This however was not the reason for the rift. No for me the battle lines were drawn during the summer of my pregnancy. Even as I write about it I can't fully explain why or how I was able to hold on to my feelings of betrayal for all these many years. I will try to explain it to you.
My husband began cheating on me within a year. I was pregnant but that made little difference to him. He beat me up, abandoned me, and moved in with this other woman.
I wanted desperately for my husband to come back. I was willing to do anything, say anything, endure anything if he would just come back to me.
During the summer of my pregnancy my husband took his mistress with him down to meet his mother. She allowed them to stay at her house.
This was a woman who made us sleep in separate rooms when we visited and I was engaged but here was my husband, a married man, with a baby on his way and she allowed him to sleep with his mistress in her home.
I was hurt. When I learned about this I told her how upset I was and she told me, "I'm his mother, what else should I do?"
What else? I don't know, talk to him, say, I love you but until you are divorced this really isn't a good situation. Please don't drag me into this. Your child should be your priority.
During the divorce she wanted my husband's attorney to make sure she had access to our son. This despite the fact that our state and many other states were against rights for grandparents.
I did relent and did let our son spend the summers with her but I seldom spoke with her. My son would come back from visits telling me that "Grandma is really proud of you Mom." "Grandma says you are a good Mom" Big deal I thought. You can't make it up to me now. What you did was so wrong.
Sometimes he'd say "Grandma says you're her only daughter-in-law." I'd laugh, when he'd tell me that one. Of course I was her ONLY because my ex didn't marry the little tramp he'd been with while I was pregnant.
Slowly but surely the years rolled on by. She always had health problems and ever since I knew her she was certain that her days on this earth were numbered. I had gotten to the point that I didn't take it seriously anymore.
Instead when I heard she was back on death's door again, I'd mock her by grabbing my heart and saying in my best Fred Sanford voice, "Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had. You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey."
My son is grown now and he still visited her from time to time and I didn't begrudge him that. I didn't spend much time thinking about her but when I did the walls went up immediately.
I had no reason to think of her that day. The thought just came to me out of the blue.
The next day my son called me to tell me that she had died.
I feel a sense of loss. A loss for the fact that I set aside my pride to forgive her despite the fact that she never asked for forgiveness. All those years I wasted angry with her. How different would it have been if I had forgiven her? What lesson about love and forgiveness could I have taught my son. Instead, I kept bashing her because I was right and that meant so much more to me than anything else.