Sunday, November 06, 2005
I Married A MAN
To make a long story short, my mother-in-law has a whole host of problems. That's putting it mildly. To begin with, we believe she's got a drinking problem. That's number one. I also highly suspect she's got a mental illness of some sort - depression and/or bi-polar is my best (uneducated) guess. She's not had the easiest life, but she's just plain weird. She has lots of quirks. Privately I refer to her as "Psycho Granny B". In sum:
~ She has sleeping problems that go way back and she takes a near toxic level of meds to go to sleep each night. A few years back she was in an accident and had to be taken to the hospital and when the doctor found out the dosages she was taking he was appalled and shocked. Usually she has to have a beer or two before bed in order to sleep.
~ She claims that tap water - ANY tap water no matter what town or state - causes her to break out. She insists on drinking only bottled water - even in her coffee and ice cubes. She'll ask waiters if they used filtered water for those sorts of things and if they don't then she won't have them. She was given a Brita one Christmas and she now filters bottled water through the Brita. Mostly she just drinks regular Coke (out of a plastic bottle - it must be plastic) instead of other (non-alcoholic) beverages.
~ She's a heavy chain-smoker.
~ She's incapable of holding a job (she's a real estate appraiser) and has been self-employed for years. She can't support herself - her parents have been subsidizing her probably since the divorce from Mr. Chick's dad when he was 9 or 10. So over 20 years. She's almost 60 and still relies on her parents money.
~ She lives alone and once spent an entire summer essentially homeless, choosing to go from campsite to campsite every 2 weeks instead of living where she had been when her roommates' daughter came home from college. That triggered her parents to buy her a house so she'd have a place to live.
~ She's always late and incapable of multi-tasking.
~ She holds grudges forever and refers to things that happened forever ago as if they happened yesterday.
My personal thought is that the root of her, um, idiosyncrancies? lies with problems she has with authority and men. Religion and politics are big subjects with her. The fact that I was raised Catholic and still technically claim Catholicism as my faith is bothersome to her.
These character traits are innoculous in and of themselves individually, but when you put them all together, wrapped up in a dysfunctional package, you end up with my mother-in-law. And she has ruined, RUINED, many a special event over the years.
There are many, many stories about the strange, upsetting behavior she's displayed. Like the time Mr. Chick and I came home to an answering machine message from her, mumbling something about "if you don't hear from me I'll be in jail.". It freaked us out. Mr. Chick tried calling her but got no answer. He called the local jail to see if she had been incarcerated. She wasnt' there. We spent a couple of days not knowing what happened. Turns out a neighbor called animal control about her cat because Punky was super-old and in failing health and looked really bad. Animal control came and took Punky and left a notice telling MIL where to go. At the offices of Animal Control they told her that Punky needed to be put down, that she was suffering, and MIL freaked. She was screaming and hysterical and assaulted an employee. The cops were called. She was given several citations. She was drunk when she called us, and was saying that it was possible, depending on the court outcome, that she could go to jail for a year. Worst case. THAT's the message she left us. That she was going to jail. Not the back story. Just the worst possible, highest sentance a judge could impose. But she said it like it was a reality. And then didn't get back to us for days, leaving us panicking in the interim.
She moved shortly after that, convinced the cops were out to get her and she could no longer live where she was.
Or like the time we were visiting the city where she lives (thankfully about 1000 miles from us) to attend the med school graduation of Mr. Chick's best friend (and best man at our wedding), and we stayed with her. I was pregnant with Lauren at the time and Nicholas was not yet 2. She "forgot" to pick us up at the airport and kept us waiting for over an hour. When we got to her house, she didn't have any food in stock beyond boxes and boxes of who-knows-how-old leftovers she keeps for herself and her dog. No biggie - we simply went out to the grocery and stocked up on a few things we'd need (mostly for Nicholas) for the 4 days we were there. But it was the start of many things. The house was overwhelmingly reeking of cigarette smoke. Fine, it's her house - who are we to complain, right? We spent as much time as we could outside or elsewhere. Except that she left her ashtrays and cigarette butts all over the place ON THE FLOOR where Nicholas could get them the whole time we were there. And she smoked incessantly in the car. With us. Without the window rolled down (ok, it was cracked but she held the cigarette in her right hand, not next to the window, and the smoke drifted right into my face in the back seat). And neither of us could take it. When Mr. Chick asked her, politely, if she could maybe refrain from smoking just when we're in the car with her (seeing how I'm pregnant and all and the smoke was making me nauseated, plus with Nicholas being in the car, too), she flipped out. She staunchly refused to cease smoking and called Mr. Chick rude for suggesting it. She wouldn't even stop smoking for a 5 minute drive to a resevoir, forcing us to drive two cars and pay twice for a parking permit. We had borrowed our friends car by that point. We ended up staying a night with our friends since they were pretty far out, and the night we were gone she slept in our bed. IN OUR BED!! ON OUR SHEETS! That creeped me out. She came with us to the graduation, but then started acting strange and completely disappeared. She missed most of the graduation and offered no apologies or explanations as to where she was. She didn't attend this same friends' wedding (Mr. Chick was a groomsman) because she was pissed that Mr. Chick stayed with his buddy for the wedding festivities instead of with her. She had rsvp'd her attendance and bailed at the last minute.
This last spring we were in Michigan to visit Mr. Chick's grandparents, who are wonderful people. MIL usually visits at the same time if we're going. Her parents are her best friends and the only people she respects. But only from a distance - when she's in their presence she sort of wigs out and reverts to being child-like. We made plans to take the kids swimming at a local indoor pool and MIL came with us. She, Lauren and I all went into the ladies locker room together. Lauren and I had our suits on already, MIL did not (again, the whole multi-tasking inability and chronic lateness), so she told me to take Lauren out to the pool to join Mr. Chick and Nicholas and she'd follow. Normal, right? Well, she never came out. We waited and waited. At one point I went back in to see if she was OK, but she wasnt' there. Our family swam for about and hour and had fun, and she never showed. She had come with us in the same car, but she'd disappeared. We all got dressed and had to search the whole facility for her. After about 20-30 minutes she wandered by where I was sitting like it's wasn't strange she took off. She never really directly answered our questions about where she'd been, only saying that she found a quiet spot to sit. Later that night she and Mr. Chick's grandmother were going to watch the kids so Mr. Chick and I could go out together. Only MIL ended up sneaking off to the basement and raiding her parents liquor stash that was 30 years old and getting drunk. By herself. In the basement. While her 83 year old mother took care of two young kids and got them both to bed by herself. Nice, huh? When we got home she was in her room with the door closed and we chatted a minute with his grandmother before going to bed. No one knew at this point that she was drunk - it was never mentioned by his grandmother (they protect her and never say anything). But then MIL came into our room, where we were in bed together and the kids were sleeping, and started babbling some nonsense about her earlier disappearance at the pool. She rubbed Mr. Chick's chest and got weepy and saying stuff about how cute we looked in bed together. It was very odd and very uncomfortable. The next day she stayed in her room, probably hungover, and didn't join everyone in going out to lunch, and came within minutes of missing her flight. She seems to miss more flights than she catches. That's normal for her. She rarely gets to see us or the kids, and yet manged to not spend more than half a day out of 3 with us. She flips out and disappears. It's her M.O.
Or the time, most recently, when she ruined Mr. Chick's graduation from law school. She flew out with her parents and we got them hotel rooms. It was a big deal that his grandparents travelled so far for his graduation. We had breakfast with them before the ceremony and gave them directions to the graduation. They arrived at the ceremony, but didn't sit with us. We're not sure if they didn't see us or what, but I was frantic thinking they'd gotten lost and was trying to call the hotel to track them down, etc. I was saving seats and pissing people off in doing so. In the end I was just glad they didn't miss seeing Mr. Chick graduate. We had a big reception party planned for after graduation at one of the nicest restaurants in town. It was to start about an hour after the ceremony ended and was a block away from the location of the graduation. MIL and her parents decided to return to their hotel to rest before the party. No sweat, right? Except that the party started, a lovely dinner buffet was served, and things were underway. But they weren't there. We were worried. For over 2 hours they didn't show up. Then Mr. Chick's grandparents arrived. Just them, no MIL. Dinner had been cleared so I had to make arrangements for them to get plates, etc. Still no MIL. They didn't know where she was, either. She stood them up at the hotel. She left for some reason and never came back. The hotel ended up arranging for transportation to get the grandparents to the party. They stayed a short while and then left. Still no MIL. Finally, 4 HOURS after the party started, she slinked in. Drunk, we think. She wasn't able to say where she was other than she got lost trying to find the restaurant. People, this is a relatively small college town - it's impossible to get lost for 4 fucking hours. You could practically drive to Seattle in 4 hours. You could be in California in 4 hours. She stayed mostly to herself for the short time she was at the party, started getting emotional and babbling some bullshit about seeing everything she's missed with Mr. Chick over the years, and took off. At one point she said something about enjoying a chat she was having with some guy she met at a bar, so we're not sure what she was doing for those 4 hours. Hanging with strangers at a bar instead of being at her only child's graduation celebration. Mr. Chick was so pissed his beloved grandparents weren't able to participate in everything because of her. She missed the party. They left the next day and it's never been spoken of again. That's how they are - they simply don't mention the white elephant in the room.
MIL recently asked Mr. Chick to not send him pictures of the kids anymore "because it hurts too much to see what I'm missing." Uh-huh, right. But then on the phone the other day she says something about not getting any emails from me lately. I say that's because Mr. Chick said not to send pics fo the kids, and that's the primary reason for me to email his family - to send pics of the kids. She just sort of laughed it off, saying she wants so much to do things like babysit the kids. Over my dead body.
In between all of these situations Mr. Chick has received many strange, negative emails from her. Random, odd, short emails that are very upsetting. We suspect she sends them late at night when she's drunk. Normally just sends them to Mr. Chick and he doesn't always tell me when he receives one. He's been shielding me from her craziness. Apparently she will sometimes bash his dad about something that happened when Mr. Chick was a kid. Or say critical things to Mr. Chick himself. Occasionally, however, I've learned she's also included my family as fodder for her negativity. My mom, mostly, and the Catholic church. A couple of days ago she included me in an email as well as Mr. Chick, and it upset us both.
"In the eyes of the Catholic Church, men who molest boys don't go to prison........it is okay........they get moved.
So, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, no man should go to prison for molesting a boy???
Patty told me that if you would live here, she would hate me...........real loving and Christian."
Followed immediately by this email:
"I don't have sex in my life now. How do I join the Catholic Church??? There are Priest who like sex. Perhaps I can do what they did....have sex with the kids."
I resisted my urge to fire off an reply email and tell her where to get off, instead opting to go get a cup of hot tea by myself at Starbucks. While I was gone Mr. Chick took care of business on my/our behalf. He told his mother, essentially, that she's created a big wedge between them by insulting his wife and family. That he won't allow her negativity be around the people he loves most - his family. He told her that he doesn't think he could ever leave the kids with her (something we've both felt and agreed about for a long, long time but have never said anything as it hasn't come up specifically since she lives so far away). There has been some discussion about everyone (us and Mr. Chick's grandparents) going to her house for Christmas this year (vs. going to Michigan, as is what usually happens). We were actually considering it - not so much to see her but to see the grandparents and some dear friends who also live there. But Mr. Chick told her we wouldn't be joining them for Christmas this year. She's just too unstable and our visits are horrible and stressful. I have to walk on eggshells. I don't trust her, I dont' like her, and I certainly don't want to stay at her house ever again. Sadly, she wouldn't understand our desire to stay at a hotel and that decision could possibly set off a major drama. And worse, we love Mr. Chick's grandparents dearly and are sad to not see them. They're getting up there in age and you never know how long you have with someone. Anyway, Mr. Chick sent this email to his mother and copied his grandparents and father. He wanted them to see the type of crap she's been pulling for years and he's never said anything about it. Bold move. His dad won't be surprised, but it will hurt his grandparents. They defend her, their oldest daughter, no matter what. They're not stupid - they know something is not quite right about her - but just ignore it, choosing instead to deal with her as she is.
I'm so proud of Mr. Chick. It takes balls to stand up against your whole family. He's an only-child. He has divorced parents, neither of whom had other kids. His paternal grandparents both died before I met him, and he's very close to his maternal grandparents. They've referred to him as the son they never had. His mother, sadly, is a whack job. She can't cope. She sits alone in her house all day long (well, she does have a drop-kick dog), and drinks. She doesn't have many (any?) friends. The one friend I do know about died last year from cancer. Then she was claiming her deceased friends' husband was flirting with her after the funeral. She has real issues with men. Mr. Chick has told me that she's gotten beaten up by a boyfriend before. She "dates" mostly sketchy guys by the sounds of it. But then again, she could be talking about a boyfriend like it's someone she's currently or recently seen when in reality it's someone from 15 years ago.
Mr. Chick went to live with his dad when he was 14. Thank God he did. But his dad is old-school and insisted that Mr. Chick call his mother regularly as well as his grandparents. He did, and continues to do so nearly every week. He's better about it than I am, and I'm pretty close with my family. I believe his mother is an embarrassment to him. It makes me sad. Her life is pretty sad. I try to remember that when we're dealing with something. But it's hard. And recently, with the email Mr. Chick sent, a clear message was sent that he/we are done putting up with her bullshit and pretending it's all ok. It's NOT ok. It's hurtful. I've always thought she might benefit from some therapy and possibly meds. But she flatly refuses to admit anything is wrong. At one point her father tried arranging full medical check-up's including a psychiatric evaluation, and she did everything except the psych eval. She refused that element of the check-up. I think she knows something is wrong but refuses to face it. But we're at the point of no longer putting up with her unless she does something to get help. It's hard to take a stand, but Mr. Chick did. It takes a man to do that. A man looks out for his family and refuses to let anyone - even family - hurt the people he loves.
I married a MAN, and I'm so grateful he is who he is.
Congrats on the house sale!
I try to be a good daughter-in-law and have held my tongue and done everything in my power to be pleasant and respectful. I think I've done a good job (so far). I honestly want her (my mil) to be happy and clearly she's not. No one that troubled can be happy.
Power to us both! Isn't it nice to be married to men willing to stand up for us?? I can certainly fight my own battles, but it's nice to have someone standing by my side. Sounds like you have a good man, too. :)
I remember the story of the graduation disappearance, but I have to tell you that I was shocked to read of the other stuff. Luckily, my husband's MIL doesn't have the respect issues and we actually have a pretty good relationship. Although, I know what it's like to have a flaky one - as that was definitely the case for years.
I'm so sorry to read all the garbage you've had to deal with from her. Sadly, I know that Mr. Chick's email probably will go in one eye and out the other.
I'll pray though, that it makes SOME positive impact - even if it is getting support from other family members who've let her behavior slide in the past.
I'm sorry you have had to go through this craziness, but I am glad Mr.Chick took a stand. You cannot have her ruin your lives, and your childrens. At least your children have one set of good grandparents. I feel bad for our husbands, it must be tough on them. I am glad that they now have chosen to protect our families, our kids, etc. How hard it must be for Mr.Chick who is an only child. How sad.