It’s a Martyr Thing

It’s a bit past eight in the morning. Katy is still sleeping and I have the house to myself. If you have been following my in-law saga – now in it’s sixth day – you will remember that my sister-in-law and her teens are stranded here due to a car breakdown on New Year’s Eve day. Well, it’s a martyr thing. Last evening sis-in-law emerged from meek pity-seeking mode to reveal a more action oriented one. With it came a bit of snarkiness and the ridiculous idea that the best way for the car situation and her “imposing” issues to be solved would be to go into town with Rob this morning and have him drop her off. She and the teens (yes, she dragged them along) will spend the day on foot trying to find someone to fix their vehicle. And okay, it’s not a big town by any stretch of the imagination. You could probably walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes at a good clip. Crossing the highway to the shopping area isn’t too dangerous either. But the repair shops are not near each other and it would have been easier to have Rob drop of the keys at the OK Tire he originally towed the car to and had the owner call sis-in-law with a prognosis and estimate. Providing that he could get to it today. It’s the day after a holiday and Canadians are very serious about their holidays and time off in general. Add to that the rather severe worker shortage – skilled workers especially – and all I can envision is sis-in-law walking the length and breath of the Fort today with two recalcitrant children in tow and being basically told to come back tomorrow (or god forbid Friday). Did I mention that the sun is barely up here and it’s well below 0 celsius? With wind too.

The thing is that I have seen this. When sympathy doesn’t arrive and it becomes apparent that people expect you to do something more pro-active on your own behalf than simply bemoan your fate and play the widow card, half-baked plans like this are the result. Win. lose or draw, when they arrive back here later today they all will be cloaked heavily in the grievous air of martyr-hood, having been “forced” to spend the day tramping about on foot like poor relations because I didn’t want to spend my day playing taxi-cab. And this is what irritates me most of all. I will look like the bad person and in every re-telling of the tale, I will come out worse and worse.

I have been here before with Will’s mother. I was telling Rob last night, after I retreated to our bedroom to read and try to find Zen somewhere, that this whole affair was reminding me too much of the last month Will was in hospice two years ago. His mother had everyone tip-toeing around and letting her have her way in all things because of the sorry state of her life and overall appearance. Even I was expected to give precedence to her and it rankled. Still does. When I had eaten past my fill of being denied time alone with my husband, I asked that she not be around when I visited which only intensified the martyr act. Poor mother-in-law to have such a cruel and heartless woman for a daughter-in-law and she would being her litany of complaints against me never once hinting at the fact that our poor relationship might have been her doing. Rob reminded me that this is my house and I needn’t make myself scarce or stay out of his sister’s way to keep peace, but I reminded him that my being the wife of the dying man hadn’t made a difference two years ago either.

I have worked with kids in at-risk programs several times over the course of my teaching career. When you do this you end up doing a fair amount of counseling and my counselor friends were always telling me I should consider looking into the career full-time because I was good at it. I always shrugged the suggestions off because I am too problem-solving oriented and have only a limited amount of sympathy/empathy for those who refuse to see logic or help themselves even the tiniest bit. That, is what they told, is what made me good. Counseling is not consoling. It’s about helping people help themselves to the best of their ability. It’s not about aiding and abetting self-defeatism or feeding someone’s need to play the role of the cursed or downtrodden. I used to get in trouble on the widow board for doing the same thing. Offering solutions (and occasionally a kick in the pants) instead of tea and pity. I understand that someone fresh to a bad situation needs special consideration, but my mother-in-law was twenty some years into her widowed pity party and Rob’s sister is going on eight years herself. I don’t buy into the idea that grieving is the be-all end-all and should take as long as it takes. Both these women had/have children who they dragged/are dragging down with them. And they are not dumb. Or helpless -they just prefer that because playing the poor me thing will sucker enough people to keep them from having to do something themselves.

I might be pleasantly surprised by what walks in the door later today but the realist in me thinks I am closer to the mark with my original prediction. Let’s just hope in the meantime that the car is fixable and some mechanic has time for it today.

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