As some of you may remember, I read the obituary section of my former home city’s newspaper with a fair degree of regularity. I remember my parents doing the same thing at around my age and found it – sad – and a bit scary because when you are old enough to be assured of running across people you know, you are well past the age of being able to deny your mortality.
But I don’t read the obits, or run the occasional Google search, because I am certain that my family, friends and other assorted peers from here and there in my life are dropping dead at inordinate rates. I read looking for my late husband’s mother. One of these days, she is sure to show up and when she does, my obligation – slight as it may be – ends.
So today, I ran across news that one of Will’s immediate family has died. No, not his mother. Her mother.
I didn’t really know Grandma Elsie. By the time Will and I began dating seriously, she was on the edge of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – something that ironically improved her personality immensely – so the first time I met her, she was medicated, docile, sweet and fairly addle-minded. Which I was all too happy with as her pre-Alzheimer reaction to Will dating a women ten years his senior was that I could only be using him.
“Using him?” DNOS snorted when I told her. “For what? You have the career, the house, the money and he is damn lucky you are willing to overlook what a nightmare his family is.”
Harsh, but so like my sister to nail the truth to the door like Luther’s 96 Theses.
Regardless, I rarely saw her and when I did, she was just old and grandmotherly.
The reason I didn’t have much contact with her was that Will detested the old lady. I can’t recall a single pleasant memory out of the many he shared about her. Apparently for quite an extended period during his pre and early teens, she was convinced he was gay and shared her theory with everyone she knew. Her reasoning? He was fatherless and being raised without any male figures in his life. Though the fatherless part was correct as his Dad had fallen asleep and driven himself off an embankment and into a creek, where he died – being too drunk to extract himself before drowning – Will had plenty of male influence. Indeed, he went out of his way for nearly the length of his life to acquire brothers and father figures.
Grandma Elsie was also a bully who tormented her older children and shamelessly spoiled her younger ones. Judging from the stories, she parented by way of the “divide, pit them against each other, and conquer” theory, which I am pretty sure Dr. Spock didn’t endorse.
Her most heinous crime was stealing the life insurance payout that MIL received when Will’s dad died. Absconded with nearly all of it and used it to buy property and open a business for herself. As far as I know, she was still paying MIL back when she died. MIL had to actually get a lawyer involved to force this and to fend off her greedy younger siblings who didn’t want any of “mom’s money” going to MIL and thus depleting their future inheritance.
Her illness caused a lot of internal conflict for Will. His mother, knowing full well how awfully Grandma Elsie had treated Will, insisted that he forgive her and let the past lie. But he wasn’t really ready and I (something I did a lot of that didn’t endear me to MIL or her family at all) told Will that he didn’t have to forgive the old woman simply because she’d become ill. I did think though that he could at least be polite when their paths crossed because she wasn’t the same person and didn’t deserve to be reviled about things she couldn’t remember or change if she could.
She died back in February and Dee hasn’t received any cards from MIL since before that which now makes sense. MIL tends to power down into complete self-interest mode when she feels victimized by the universe and I would imagine that wrangling with her siblings – and her nieces, who are a self-interested bunch of chips off their respective blocks – would have made interesting reality television. I do hope though that she was finally reimbursed what she lost all those decades ago in terms of finances. She’s lived a bottom-feeder life as a result of her mother’s greed and hopefully that’s over for her now*
It’s kind of sad when the only stories you know about a deceased person are better left untold, and Will told me plenty of those. I don’t know that his family ever realized the extent to which he didn’t care for them or how eager he was to become a part of my family, which was directly proportional to how unloved and mistreated he felt. Many, if not most if we are honest, grow up and get past painful beginnings and letdowns where family are concerned. I don’t know if Will would have. Perhaps. I like to think I was a good influence in any case. He really loved my parents though and that went a long way towards helping him, I think.
So, one down.
*Though I honestly wouldn’t count on it. A greedier bunch I have never encountered. Will’s uncle had his mother caged in her apartment for over a year after the dementia got really bad despite her doctors wanting her in a nursing home. He didn’t want her finances being depleted too much, which would translate into less for him and his kids. Which, I guess, brings up the point of “Was Will named as a beneficiary in Grandma’s will?” And honestly, I don’t know. I do know that they weren’t able to rewrite her will because of her dementia and Will had been told he was a beneficiary, the same as his three cousins, but my guess is that if there was an inheritance, Dee will never see a dime of it, which is fine by me. I have endeavored to keep any of that stringy family web from sticking to her and she is better off without them.