We are born without bond, but as we grow we accumulate baggage, and often that baggage is thrust forward and lands squarely in the lap of those around you. In my complaints of my mother in law I forgot that. I forgot that she has a whole history that pre-dates me that even her children aren’t privy too. The other day however the apple cart was over turned, and underneath there was more to see.
When I first met Jacob I found it odd that there were no discussions of seeing Grandma O. Grandma L was often the focal point of visits by my father in law, and was there at the first Thanksgiving that I shared with the L family. She was the one that my MIL called Mom with a soft expression. It was for her whom she weeped when we attended her funeral many years later. When I questioned this I came to find out that my now MIL had at that time not been in contact with her mother in 4 years. Of course given her loathing of me, I felt sure I knew the reasons why. She was a less than forgiving person, and was less than amiable to be around despite my best efforts to change that. So my assumption was that it simply had to be her fault. Years later after I married Jacob and he took me to meet Grandma O for the first and only time I was even more convinced of this. She seemed “normal” enough to me, and after all her son still spoke to her.
By the time I become the next Mrs. L it seemed that my mother in law loathed me even more. No matter what I tried it wasn’t right. So why bother? In turn gave up on getting the Walton’s and instead resigned myself to a life that more closely resembled Everyone Love’s Raymond. Like Marie and Debra they were nice to each others faces, but the true gist of the relationship more closely resembled gold plating over silver. Eventually the gold rubs away and the silver happens to dull under it. This is how it was until my most recent loss when MIL reached out, and I took it as her being “her” rather than it being her turning point.
She brought this up again in an email the other day. I was sharing with her my latest blood work. At the end I thanked her for being interested. After all my own mother and I are becoming close acquaintances, but even when she plays the roll of mother she isn’t all that interested. She responded by saying that she has wanted for a long time to be privy to our lives, and to be part of them but that Jacob and I made it difficult. I made it difficult with my wall, and he made it difficult with his standoffishness. Of course it wasn’t all wine and roses because she felt that she needed to add “What ever happened between you and I has WELL been forgotten” My initial response was “what happened is that you hated me, that’s what happened. I wanted another mother and instead got Mommy Dearest, but I didn’t. Instead I pondered this revelation and looked in on how Jacob and I dealt with and continue to deal with both sets of parents.
We have been just as wrong as them. Because of my mother in laws baggage from her own mother she is incapable of showing physical love. Instead it is bestowed through food, money, shelter, and gifts. Jacob however needs to be shown physical love, and the fact that his parent’s didn’t give that to him is just one of the bags that he carries. He also has a great need to please, and since in his mind our early marriage was such a disappointment not only to me, but to them because they had to bail us out several financial situations. The second bag he carries is guilt…
For my part, I told her that I wanted to love her, wanted her to like me early on but when she didn’t I gave up. I have a bad relationship with my own mother, and when I didn’t get a new one with her I decided to let her girls be “her girls” and I simply played the roll of Jacob’s wife. Yet once she started to reach out, I still didn’t trust it and instead of reaching back I pulled away. After this is when she told me the story of her mother.
My grandmother in law had 2 children, my MIL and Jacob’s uncle. Uncle P was apparently the golden boy. He grew up became an engineer and married well. MIL on the other hand didn’t go to school, and worked different secretarial positions and in retail because she was TOLD she couldn’t do any better. When she met my father in law, and they decided to marry my grandmother in law told them to their faces “You have a new job as a whore master, and my daughter is the whore” Further, despite my Grandfather in law having a job they were also expected to send them a monthly stipend which the did until Jacob arrived and my in laws cut off the support. She then said “Susan in my heart I know she hated me”
She ended the conversation with “And yes, I can’t wait to be a grandmother”
We all come with baggage, but it is up to us to unpack it. It took my MIL 14 years to unzip hers, but now that she has there is no way to close it. Sure there will be times when I will want to banish her to the island, and even more certain that there will be times when Jacob does…I just hope that I remember we can lug the duffle bags alone, or we can share their contents with another…and hopefully it will help them better understand that what is gold on the outside may have platinum underneath…