Mother In Law

She loved me and hated me for the same reason--I married her son.  Oh, the abuse I put up with!  Very subtle.  A mutual acquaintance in college told me, "He's not normal, they share a checking account!"  When he dashed off to medical school graduation weekend, I had a party with some mutual friends and his mother (who wanted to whisk him away without the cake!) and I will never forget her quip:  "You are doing an awful lot for someone you will never see again."  Well, we got engaged anyway and my first trip to visit (at her house, of course) she served homemade split pea soup.  I thought, "oh gag me!" because I absolutely HATE peas.  (Now I will eat them but certain conditions apply)  Huge tureen of soup was placed in front of me, there they were, shells and all.  I don't know how I forced that stuff down, but I know I didn't finish it.  (Here I must insert that 25 years later after I left, my mother finally told me that she had told her that I couldn't eat peas, and therefore, she had probably planned for that. Really?)  And then I had to sit there for at least an hour while she went through her notes.  She'd take every scrap of paper she could to save to write notes on and put it in a stack and sit there with my husband (this went on all our married life) picking up a note and reading it, then expounding on it.  This first time she looked at me and said, "You don't know any of these so I know you won't be interested."  I sit here 30+ years later and think, "wait a minute.  That was rude!" 
And that was the way life went.  Over the course of years, she expounded her opinion, lectured ("you must've been a good girl to deserve this new kitchen, what did you do and how much did this cost?").  I remember having my second baby and she came for the first week to "help."  Help?  Help!  I was up and around and decided to tackle the powder room when she came in and said, "you aren't cleaning that toilet bowl right" and proceeded to lecture me, telling me the dangers of not cleaning it correctly (it could explode and break with lime build up--to this day I am paranoid over lime buildup).  I finally dropped the brush into the toilet and said, "okay, you clean it." and walked away.  I took a nap, then I felt abit sorry I'd been abrupt and went to her and said, "I'm sorry I was short with you and wanted to apologize" to which she remarked, "Well, I know you don't love me like you do your mother." 
She had her good points.  She would take us on vacation because it's the only way she could get there with us.   I remember being in a condominium in Orlando and we were laying in bed while we could hear her up in the loft folding her plastic grocery bags (which is how she packed because they were easier to pack she said, and of course, we cannot forget the snacks she'd collect from her volunteer job at the hospital for lunches, just for these special vacations.  When my husband would get frustrated and yell at her (not often, it would build up and he'd blow a fuse), I'd end up defending her because it was something ridiculous that he'd blow up over.  I digress.  Back to vacations:  nightmare city:  she'd taken us to Florida to visit her dad for Christmas.  I had finals and we were leaving after my economics final, evening, 9 p.m.  He picked me up and said, "you have your choice, you can sit in the front between us (bench seats back then) or you can sit in the back seat.  I opted for the back seat because I was tired and could lay down.  No, I couldn't.  I shared the back seat with a big big box, there was enough room for just me to sit for the next 24 hours.  This was her trip, her treat, she paid for the meals (3rd year of marriage and we were poor college students), which consisted of frozen sandwiches and granola bars and bags of off brand name chips.  Poor old Pappy was in the hospital, they didn't want me to know that part, he'd had a heart attack, and here we were driving down (I figure, I would have put my foot down and said no trip, so they didn't tell me).  Pappy and I got along really well, but she was such a thorn and wouldn't shut up the entire time.  And then we had to go visit the clergyman, the funeral director, etc.  And listen to the same story over and over and over about how much she supported her father paying for meals on wheels, but it was a secret because she wanted him to think they just liked him and gave him the meals for free.  That way she could get her crown in heaven for it.  (We'll leave that topic alone).  Add to this the fact that unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant and had nausea.  By the time we reached Miami Beach I was plotting sneaking out of the place we were staying (I think it was an apartment in a church that she could get real cheap--we had left Pappy and were visiting Sam and Helen, a couple in their 90s), and wondering if I could find my gf in West Palm Beach and hitchhike up there (ironically enough when I left I did locate this gf, now in upstate NY, and moved in with her). 
I could go on.  I will wrap up this part of the story though and write more perhaps later.  Things did not get better over the years and I would have to write a book to get it all down.  I finally "divorced" her, and two years later left him.  It was wrong to let this person get to me, which is why I write this, to warn those that have issues with mother in laws.  Go ahead and be mean.  I say mean because I haven't a mean bone in my body and if I had just stuck up for myself I would have been so much better off.  In the end, she won.  I left and she had him for the rest of her days, although I understand that when he got a gf, she would stick her tongue out at her when she thought she wasn't looking.
She told my firstborn (that's how she referred to him) that if he'd change his name to his father's name (the 3rd) she'd pay for it, because she wanted it.  He told me once, "Mom, Grammy doesn't like you." (he was about 15)  I said, "yes she does, she just has a strange way of showing it."  "No, she doesn't Mom, she talks awful about you."  Now, how pathetic is that?  And she was a born again Christian and this is the influence she had on her grandson. 
She's gone now.  When she died, my oldest had come up here to live with me and we went down together.  She lay there, smiling even in her casket.  I looked at the pictures of her youth and noticed pics of her and her first husband. I pointed it out to my ex and we all started jokiing about how she'd be so upset if she could see them there (no one was supposed to know of a first marriage and everyone knew!) 
I won't ever forgive her, but I will learn from her.  I learned:  how to make mint tea from the plant, how to make Copes corn's baked corn supreme, how to save rubber bands, string, etc., because you never ever know when you will need a piece exactly that size!  I learned:  let your children go, they are yours but only for a short season, teach them to be self sufficent and let them go.  I learned:  your grandchildren really are your sweetest reward and nothing can beat a grandchild! 
I cannot forgive her horrid treatment of me, but I can understand her as an older woman.  And that's what I prefer to remember.
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9 Responses Nov 19, 2011

I identify with this. I added you. It's ok if you don't wish to add me back. I would just like to read your stories. Thank you!

Oh make me fear getting married a rather bit. Good thing I'm too young for that sort of thing.... She sounds so horrible, I have no idea how you could have done it for as long as you did. You must have been such a saint not to have left so soon/blown up at her/thrown her out the side door of a vehicle etc.... If I have an overbearing mother in law, I will keep you in mind, and be sure to be assertive for my rightful place. Thank you for sharing.

Your late MIL sounds very cold and bitter towards you. I am sorry you had to deal with that. I'll bet she felt insecure when you were in her presence because you were probably an all-around better person than she is in general, and everyone else could see that. Those who refuse to self improve try to tear others down instead. That's their way to take some sort of false pride in themselves. Especially since she is a "born again Christian" all hung up over "earning a crown in Heaven". Sounds like she likes to preach about kindness but not practice it; instead engaging in blatant hypocrisy and self-righteous behavior.

I'm so glad that my mil likes me and I'm proud to have you as my friend because you "don't" have a mean bone inside you and treated her good.

You do what's good for you! ;-)

your story reminds me of my grandmother in some ways, this is the generation that they came from, this is depression baby behavior and it was so bad that it became ingrained into their minds for the rest of their lives. My grandmother saved every bread wrapper she ever layed her hands on. She would flatten out used foil to be reused, but she had a very good heart and made the best pancakes. Thanks for sharing.

Another one of your great stories. I guess that I was one of the fortunate ones. I have been married 3 times, and each time I got along with the outlaws, better than my spouse did.

I don't understand why majority of MILs are like that and when this tradition will change. Feel sorry for your pain. You write very well. :)) stay blessed.

Life's mentors were never meant to stay just inside the four walls of our classrooms but more on the outside. She was one great yet "painful" teacher..I can tell, but now; you having the strength to face life in a wiser perspective was indeed a lesson well learned.

Because my Mother in Law was rude and catty to the end...she basically missed the life of her only grand daughter who passed away at age 22, this precious child never wanted to be with her Grandmother because she knew how she felt about me. I learned a BIG lesson from this, to be kind to my daughter in law, for she will be the mother of my grandchildren and I want to know them and love them. I don't want them to dread me or think that I am mean to their Mother. <br />
Thank you for this story.

I simply pulled away, closed off, shut down...over time she has improved, but she hates animals SO....She's never been in this house, we've lived here 22 years.
I wish for wonderful future in laws for your children sweetie! Sorry for your pain~ Great post~