Sunday, February 21, 2010

Story #32 The Mother-In-Law

For the past week I have been digging through our storage room. We are very lucky to have a very large storage room...but that also means that anytime someone finds something they don't know what to do with - it ends up in the storage room. Basically the upcoming remodel has turned into the world's largest spring clean. I need to move everything from the living room, bathrooms and man cave (soon to be master bedroom) into the storage room...in order for that to happen I have to clean out the storage room...at this point it seems endless!

Our storage room is filled with boxes and boxes of things from Bob's Mom's house. She passed away 8 1/2 years ago and most of the boxes have never been sorted through. Do you need paper flannel board figures from the early 60s? I've got them! Cleaning supplies from the 70s? They're here, too. How about boxes full of Kindergarten worksheets? Come on over! Bob's mom saved everything. Bob was an only child so when it came to cleaning out his Mom's house there wasn't a lot of help. Fortunately, several ladies from church helped me out - but I still ended up with a lot of things that have just gone to the recycling bin - or the dump.

I remember going through her kitchen. One drawer was filled with twist ties and yogurt cups, another had re-used aluminum foil, and another had rinsed out plastic produce bags. She couldn't stand to throw anything away. She would clean out her fridge and then give us a "bag of groceries" that I would take home and throw away. She was incredibly frugal and saved every last dime that she could - but there was one thing she was willing to spend money on and that was her son. She didn't think she would ever have kids and didn't even realize she was pregnant until she was over 6 months along! Just think, nowadays she would be on reality TV for that one!

Having a miracle child is tough in one respect....no woman is ever going to be good enough for him. To say that she was thrilled when Bob and I got engaged would be...well, an outright lie. She was very unhappy and she had no problem sharing her feelings with me. Of course the way she found out we were engaged was not ideal. Bob had come to visit me in Oregon after Christmas and had ended up proposing - not exactly planned - but once he met my parents, he fell in love with them and realized the only way to have them was to marry me. So he had talked to my parents - but had yet to inform his Mom. He said once he had the ring and it was "official" he would tell her. (I think he sensed the impending doom.) So you can imagine her surprise when my Mom called, looking for me, and said how happy she was that we were engaged. Analu did not share her sentiments. She felt that the only reason we were getting married was because I was.....well...how do I put it nicely? Because Bob wanted to sleep with me....she felt I was a bit trampy. You can imagine how that warmed the cockles of my heart.

Unbeknownst to me I was just beginning to feel the pangs of food poisoning. Not just any food poisoning - Salmonella poisoning. I ended up deathly ill and was grateful that my landlady at the time found me passed out on the bathroom floor. She took me to the hospital where they hooked me up to 3 I.V.s - one in each arm and one in my foot - to try and rehydrate me. Bob had gone out of town for work and had no idea that I was so ill. I spent a few days with my grandparents before I was strong enough to go back to my basement apartment. When I returned home I had a call from Analu. She wanted to know how I was feeling and wondered if she could come over. I mistakenly thought she had wanted to come and apologize. Instead she came to bring me a list she had compiled of all of the reasons I would make a poor wife and mother. She had written it down so that I could refer to as often as needed. She went over the list with me and left. I was stunned. I shared the list with Bob who was embarrassed and mortified - but still out of town.

After giving it a great deal of thought I created my own list full of scriptures on the importance of not judging, of loving one another and on the beauty of marriage. When I presented this to her she was surprised. She had felt so much better after sharing her list with me - she couldn't understand why I was sharing this with her. I told her that she had never given me the opportunity to respond to her list. This concept was also surprising to her - she had never thought I would have the need or desire to respond.

To say the first several years were challenging would be an understatement. But as time went on I learned more about her and the difficult past she had. Bob's father had been brutally emotionally abusive to her - which led her to divorce him and raise Bob on her own. She never felt good enough about herself to date again and simply became focused on raising her son in the best way she knew how. For years she took care of her Aunt, who lived in their home, in addition to being a full-time kindergarten teacher. Learning these things did not excuse the way she treated me - but helped me gain a better understanding of her. Years of depression and self-neglect took their toll and her diabetes took a turn for the worse. There were several occasions where I would be out running errands with the kids and suddenly feel like I needed to go to her house and check on her. I would find her in a diabetic stupor and quickly give her some juice or a candy. As the diabetes worsened I would sometimes find her completely disoriented having been unable to make it to the bathroom and confused about the time of day.

I did my best to help her in any way I could. When she entered a rest home Bob visited her every single day. I would go with him most of the time - and of course the girls - her new pride and joy - would come along as well. In spite of all of our difficulties, I hated seeing her go down hill so quickly. She was a doting grandmother and I often think how great it would be for the girls to have her here, cheering for them.

Her diabetes progressed to the point that amputation of her legs would be necessary for her to live. She was going to dialysis 3 times a week and her dementia had grown worse. When she learned of the possibility of amputation she decided she wanted to stop the dialysis - which would mean she would die within a week or so. Bob did not like this decision and spent a great deal of time trying to talk her out of it. One day she called me and asked me to come and see her alone. I went to the nursing home and found her in the "sun room" waiting for me. For the first time in a year her mind was sharp and crystal clear. She told me that she was sorry for how she had treated me. She knew I was a good wife for Bob and a good mother to the girls. She told me that she had thought and prayed and was ready to return to Heavenly Father- it was her time. She wanted me to help Bob understand that this was the best thing for her...that she was ready.

That was the last day she was able to communicate. I sat by her bedside holding her hand for 2 days as she lay in a coma. At 10:00pm on the second day she passed away. I had already come home when we got the call. I was so sad that when she passed we weren't there. She had spent so much of her life feeling alone that I hated the idea that she would die without someone with her. When Bob and I went to see her I was surprised at how peaceful she looked and hoped and prayed that her spirit felt peace. I like to believe that she is in heaven watching over us all. I hope she can see the wonderful people her grandchildren are and the good man that her son has become. I'd like to think that someday she and I can have the friendship we missed out on here on earth.

3 comments:

michelle said...

The way you handled your relationship with Analu made me realize with absolute certainty what a strong, kind, genuinely good woman you are. So very impressive. No one could fail to respond to such generosity.

michelle said...

p.s. I'd like to help you with your storage room! An overwhelming project like that is always easier with a buddy.

Jill said...

I don't know how I missed this post, it's a head-shaker, loud gasper kind of post for me. I can't imagine dealing with a mother-in-law like that, Bob should worship you!