The Mother-In-Law

She lives.

I know this for a fact because a) I check the obituaries near daily and she hasn’t turned up and b) Dee received a birthday card from her in the mail today.

My late husband’s mother surfaces less than a half-dozen times a year due to the fact that Hallmark insists on making cards available for public consumption. Despite my gentle suggestion that she actually write something in the cards, the woman just signs her name and as the cards are devoid of currency, Dee opens, looks and puts them aside without comment.

My daughter refers to her late father’s mother as “Daddy Will’s mom” not Grandma or Oma or Nana. They don’t have that kind of relationship.

In fact, they have no relationship. Something I am not responsible for because I did try to include her early on, but she made it clear that her preference was that Will and I drop Dee off, go off and have dinner or something and then pick the baby up after. She wasn’t the least interested in either of us and found our annoying insistence about being present during visits a turn-off where the “grandmother” experience was concerned.

Since we didn’t allow her unsupervised visits, she decided not to have a relationship with Dee and discovered that being a marginalized grandparent had its own perks. People were outraged on her behalf. Offered her sympathy. Willingly bought into her fantasy about how I was the root of all evil.

Will’s illness, long decline and eventual death did nothing to improve relations between us, and likely fueled my impression that she was unbalanced and that Dee needed to be sheltered from her influence.

Fast forward, I remarried and emigrated to Canada with my daughter.

I did not tell my in-laws. Anything.

They didn’t know about Rob, the whole getting married thing and I definitely didn’t leave a forwarding address.

In my more perverse moments, it amused me to wonder just how long it would take for any of them to realize I’d sold my house and decamped the area.

It was Rob who prevailed upon me to send them word. We’d been married a couple of months and I sent a letter to Will’s uncle, telling him about our move and marriage. I enclosed a letter for him to give to MIL because I didn’t have her address. Or her phone number.

No, really, I didn’t.

She’d moved a few months before Will died. Sold the house her late husband had built for them and downsized to a trailer. I found out about it by accident. She was in the hospital recovering from a hip break and told her family not to tell me.

After I found out, she’d instructed them not to give me her new address or phone number. I was to contact her via her best friend and her best friend’s mother should I need to get information to her.

This was where our relationship stood.

The hospice months did nothing to improve relations though it did occur to her and her family and friends as the end inched closer that I was likely to cut off all contact after Will was gone. Sugar was applied liberally in the last few days.

But now it’s late August of 2007 and the in-laws are a bit taken aback by the fact that I remarried (so quickly) and left the country without them noticing or telling them.

Digression over. Birthday cards.

They arrive sometime in mid to late August. Dee’s birthday is in July. Early on MIL declared bankruptcy to get herself out of sending Dee a couple of dollars and Dee, being a mercenary, has little use for birthday greetings that bear no cash.

Yesterday the card arrived. Inside it was a small white envelope. No name. This is how she sends me messages. So I knew it was for me, but it’s Dee’s birthday card and she -rightly – assumes it is for her.

A ten-dollar bill tumbles out.

Dee is pleased though not pleased enough to refer to MIL as her “grandmother” when she goes to tell Rob about the money. My mother is her grandmother as far as she is concerned. She has no room for anyone else.

Along with the money was a single sheet of paper that read “for pictures”.

She has tried to send me cash to cover the expense of printing photos and mailing them to her. I send photos about twice a year but I am haphazard about it because I mainly share photos with family and friends on Facebook anymore.

“You could send her a note inviting her to be your Facebook friend,” Rob suggested.*

Which in all honestly would be an easier way to do this because printing pictures and sending them through the post is time and money consuming, but keeping ahead of Facebook’s complete disregard for my right to limit access to my information would be close to impossible. So as there is no way to “friend” the MIL without granting her access to my life at will, Facebook is out.

I also don’t think she has a computer anymore. She did once. Got it during her aborted attempt to go back to college. For the most part, she reveled in her poor widow me identity but every once in a while, she made a grab for normal life. But the computer would be older than Dee, if it still existed.

So sometime this month pictures need to be culled from various cameras and computers and sent off to Costco. Rob usually does that. I sort and mail. I was going to do this soon anyway because the new school year presents a formal photo op and now that Dee is eight, we simply don’t take pictures of her like we did when she was small.

I resent the note though. I lied to Dee. Told her the money was for her even though it wasn’t. The money was a rebuke. I’ve told her not to send money. We don’t need it. And she stopped so this was a reminder that I hadn’t sent photos since February and that she is an abandoned old woman living on a fixed income.

She’s lucky to get pictures at all and she knows it, but she can’t help herself. When opportunities arise to make herself look victimized by my stance on Dee – it being that Dee will not be allowed contact with her until she is old enough to understand what a manipulative, less than truthful person she is**.

*Rob is a tiny bit puzzled by my continued bad feelings toward MIL, but he has always had wonderful MILs who’ve adored him – that one incident where Shelley’s mother and older sister tried to talk her out of marrying him due to his outsider position in the community and his sketchy family aside.

** Like some of Will’s friends, MIL maintains that I was ultimately responsible for Will’s death because I refused to let him have a bone marrow transfer. The truth – which I got tired of repeating – was that Will was too old and his illness too advanced for BMT. It was an experimental thing at best and he didn’t qualify at any rate. All it would have done was kill him sooner. There really are no treatment options for what he had. BMT is actually one of those “cures” that works really well in children and teens but by the time a person is grown, the odds fall off a cliff.

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