Her first words to me were “I hope I’m going to like you and we can get on because I really don’t like my other daughter-in-law”. She then added “We were very shocked when Alex announced he was going to marry you.”. This as I say was said on meeting her for the first time!
I now wonder what she was so scared of.
So a great start! But then I don’t think my mother-in-law liked anyone much. Always swift to criticize and slow to praise she built a barrier around herself against the world. A world which seemed, in her eyes, to be continually out to get her and make her life miserable. Her husband was a lovely, kind and gentle man. Loving and caring. A wonderful gentle wit – rarely, it seemed to me, appreciated by his wife. He had that lovely twinkle in his eye. Appreciative of a funny moment, he often appeared to be enjoying a private joke. I loved him. I always felt Alex took after him – the same gentle outlook on life – a good decent guy. Much more so than either his older brother (who never seems that happy) and definitely more than his sister (who takes after her mother!). Sadly my father-in-law died in 1998. So we were left with his mother – now in the grip of a bitter determination to carry on! Her smile never reaching her eyes.
My sister-in-law (Alex’s brother’s wife – let’s call her M), the dreaded other daughter-in-law, may not have been the easiest person on the planet. In fact she wasn’t – she could be incredibly difficult. Dogged by depression she had moments of bizarre behaviour but she wasn’t bad! In fact she could be incredibly kind. But Alex’s mother was convinced. The woman was dreadful. She had blighted the lives of her children who had only been saved by the actions of my mother-in-law or their father, Alex’s brother. There was, in her eyes, hardly anything to commend her. Well that was her view until sadly M died of a heart attack (probably brought on by the onslaught on her body of the different treatments she had tried, to combat her various ailments).
From that moment on my mother-in-law conferred on M a saint-hood that was stunning. Previously slated into the ground she now had qualities hitherto unheard of. Her every kindness was remembered, her qualities rolled out at almost every opportunity and nearly all the grievances either forgotten or justified.
History was re-written. And re-written with a passion. Alex’s sister (always in the shadow of her mother) confirmed the status by following suit. Even Alex was surprised – then!
Not now though. Last time we chatted about it (probably a year or so ago) he also had started to re-write the past and told me his mother had never been anti M. Excuse Me!! I didn’t dream up the diatribes that we both witnessed!!
I wonder what they give themselves, this family, by re-writing their view of the past. Is it brought on by guilt? Guilt that they thought unkind thoughts. Probably. So – as I’ve written on numerous (in fact probably too many!) occasions it is with Alex and our marriage. But in reverse. So much easier for him to convince himself that our marriage was awful for a long time and there was nothing good about it so the only option was, clearly, to run, than to dig deep and remember he did love me once and had – once upon a time – chosen to spend the rest of his life with me!! And if it was so horrendous why did he ‘stick it’ for so long – Oh I know let’s home in on the one emotion his family is so good at – GUILT!!!
So it would seem that the only way to be loved in Alex’s family, apparently, is to die! Guess what if that’s what I have to do – I don’t want my saint-hood! Ever! And I’m sticking around on this planet for a long time to come so there’s no need to line it up – or the halo that goes with it – anytime soon!