Monday, November 13, 2006

Love and ?hate?

I read a post this morning (here) that started me thinking. The post is about how the writer's parents behave towards each other and how she delt with it. In the comments someone mentioned their in-laws and the writer replied that in-law behaviour was up to the spouse to confront. That isn't always the case - or at least it wasn't in my case.

I can't say that my relationship with my parents has always been great. I started having problems with my dad early on - my parents had me start therapy when I was 11-12 and I wound up spending a year living with my grandparents. I know now, as a parent, how much that had to hurt them. My problems with depression stem from the relationship I had with my dad as I grew up. But - I digress. I have a great relationship with both of my parents now and this isn't about them. This is about my mother-in-law.

My wife has had a troubled relationship with her mom since.... well, all of her life. The stories I heard about MIL were bizarre - and troubling. They were such that when the kids were born and decisions were being made about where to live, we always decided it was better to be close to my parents rather than my wife's. Living apart made their relationship manageble but there were several instances where I had to step in and mediate - sometimes rather forcefully. I had resigned myself to this state of affairs and that it would remain so. But it didn't.

About 6 or 7 years ago MIL went through what we know now were a series of strokes. At the time, no one could figure out what was wrong with her. They were gradually physically debilitating and she wound up in a wheelchair. But the biggest change wasn't physical, it was emotional. All of the hatefulness was gone. She was loving and lovable. Although the past couldn't be forgotten, it could now be relegated to the past without fears of more of it in the future.

This past March she went through another series of strokes and heart problems. She was brought home under hospice care. No one could say how long she had, but no one gave her long. MIL could not move herself nor speak. She responded to yes or no questions with blinks. She's in there, hanging on, not ready to go. My wife took FMLA leave and spent 10 weeks caring for her mother 24 hours a day. Bathing her, turning her every 2 hours, changing her diapers, giving her her meds, reading to her. My wife made the hard decision to come home for mostly financial reasons, but knowing she was stable and needing to have a few weeks of FMLA left of leave for the end. That was in May. We went up in August, spending a week. This past weekend we heard that she's had a series of problems that makes everyone think that her time is coming. We expect the call at any time.

I look at my relationship with my parents and I see how I have been gifted. My wife didn't receive that gift until just a few years ago. When I think of it, it is my gift too. I've known MIL for almost 22 years. I had been seriously thinking for the last few years about trying to find a job closer so we could spend more time with her. What happened in March made it too late. And even though I've had since March, I'm not ready for the gift to be taken away yet. I guess it really can't be, the experience of the last 6 years cannot be un-experienced. The memory of the last 6 years will always be the clearest, even given the rose-tinted glasses of time. If nothing else, I have learned that despite how poorly we can be treated by those closest to us there can be love there. What was tolerance in the past is love now. I love you, MIL. I wish you peace.

3 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

meno said...

You are a brave man to mediate between your wife and her mother.
Thank you for the story and i wish peace for your MIL.

urban-urchin said...

That was beautiful Bob, I hope your MIL finds peace. It just goes to show you that sometimes relationships which seem unredeemable are in fact, redeemable.

Bob said...

Meno: I am not a confrontative person. But I HAVE to take up for my wife. I hate to see anyone squabble, much less someone in my family. I have always gotten along famously with MIL, she loves family and family history and I have a good-sized one back on my mother's side. So we could always sit down and talk. She is amazing, within a half hour of meeting someone she will have their family history out of them - and she remembers it all. And she wants pictures! She kept the church daycare for years and was wonderous with kids - as long as they weren't hers.

Urban-urchin: within families, at least, I truly believe you are right - relationships can be remade. That's where it matters the most, anyway.