Blending families


By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Lambda rep...

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Of late I have been more immersed in my family of origin than not. Number One Nephew’s situation resulted in a bit of “scheming” with my brother which resulted in N1, as of last evening, being safely in CB’s custody out in California. N1 sounded brighter and more hopeful than he has in a long time, and I know that my brother is tickled to have the boy out there.

We also have Mother for the week and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She’s preparing to semi-retire and wants to use up holiday time before she plunges into the lap of leisure. Since we visited over the summer, I suggested fall for her visit and she agreed.

The interesting thing about all this is that for the first time in a long while, I feel connected to my own roots. Most of the time, family is Rob and the girls. His family and his in-laws. Physical distance keeps my side of the relations a strictly virtual experience although sometimes that’s more than enough. But having Mom here plus the hours spent on the phone with my brother in the last couple of weeks has brought up opportunities to talk about myself and my history. That’s not something that happens much anymore.

Monday evening while Rob was out fetching Dee from Girl Guides for me (he noted that I was exhausted and offered to go in my stead), Mom and I sat on the sofa in the living (I cannot tell you how long it’s been in days since I had a sofa or a living room) and talked. The discussion meandered but it centered finally on Will. Nothing earth shattering, but when I thought about it later, I realized that I don’t really talk about him. Because I don’t really have anyone with whom to talk about him.

Dee is uninterested in her late father. I doubt she will ever care much about him at all aside from the passing curious inquiry, if that. That’s as it should be. He was never her dad in an active sense, and she doesn’t need to be burdened with obligation to a memory. Will’s own mother bludgeoned him with his late father’s memory, and he resented it, and her, all his adult life.

Rob listens here and there, as I do to his occasional references to his late wife, but they have nothing to do with our life, us or our future, and so have no place outside the incidental in our conversations.

No one ever brings Will up. Until this past summer, when my sister DNOS surprised me with an out of the blue reference to Will, my family ignores his existence and have readily transferred Dee’s “ownership” to Rob, which probably reflects heavily our backgrounds as adoptees because we don’t place the same odd premium on DNA that most people do.

But all of these things remind me that I am not moored to extended family that is “my own” or to history for that matter. I am like a transplanted tree.

Mick asked Rob recently what our plans for Christmas were this year. Her mother’s nephew and wife want to host the holiday at their home up in the Canadian Rockies. Last year, we moved Christmas Eve to the home of nephew’s auntie. A last-minute venue change to accommodate the older girls wanting to hang out with cousins on their mother’s side. It was a bit disruptive for Dee but she is used to rolling with it anymore. Christmas in a mountain hotel (shudder) would be a bit more than a “roll with it” thing, and add the unpredictable nature of nephew’s alcoholic mother* to the scenario, and a quiet Christmas in front of our own fireplace is infinitely preferable.

Rob just joked that maybe he, Dee and I would go to Arizona to spend Christmas with his mom and her husband then. Dee would like that, but she would be terribly lonely for her sisters either way. But their moving on to traditions of their own is inevitable and her being so much younger means she will have to put her ability to roll to more active use more frequently as time goes on.

This will be year five that I haven’t seen my family at Christmas. Not that it’s here or there. You grow up and away and begin traditions of your own as you date, mate and breed. It’s not the Disney theory of the “circle of life” but more accurate in terms of what life really is. My nearness to my family in the past coupled Will’s dislike of his own family lead us to spend the holidays with them more than anything. Had his mother’s family not been a drama infested Bedlam and his dad’s not an aloof bunch, it might have been different.

It’s proximity (which is totally relative) that dictates our current defaulting to Rob’s in-laws and his family recently. If we’d relocated to Texas or overseas as we’d thought once upon a time, everything would be different. But it’s not as if this happens all the time or that I am even aware of it often because most of the time, it’s just Rob, I and Dee. The older girls have their own lives and we have our routines as well.

Thanksgiving is at our house this weekend. A huge gathering with hopefully better weather than the wet gloom that plagues us right now. The new kitchen is operational minus the dishwasher thought that should be up and running by week’s end. The dining room will be rough, the living room isn’t painted and we’re still padding about on sub-floor, but the decor is the least of a feast.

And I am not complaining. Just observing. Awareness is just that and nothing more.

 

*They are a hard-drinking lot when they gather. I stayed on the outermost bleeding edges at the few family things I’ve attended – and even factoring out that these were funeral oriented where people tend to drink a lot more (although getting hammered after a funeral is not a family tradition that I grew up with, I know that it exists) – I have distanced myself from some branches of my own family because of the tendency to equate copious amounts of libation with “fun”. Growing up with an alcoholic just makes me want to avoid anything that reminds me of it and shield Dee from the idea that drinking too much is ever a good idea for any reason. The main reason though is that people tend to dig deep into their past hurts/issues when the tipping point comes and though nothing has ever been directed toward me – I have heard things I wasn’t meant to hear. That wouldn’t be a Happy Christmas for me.

 


Pike's Peak in Colorado, USA.

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While on holiday, we off-roaded, following the forestry roads high up the peaks into logging country. Tourist types typically keep to the highways and attractions requiring little physical effort. You run into, across or past them on the well-worn trails of 3 km or less and at the venues close to the main roads. You will not find them up a mountain. Especially this time of year with the Canadian summer only officially beginning.

Our first off-road experience took us to Fenwick Falls, a sweet little waterfall up past Canal Flats. Gravel roads and not another person for over four hours as Rob rambled us up and up the mountain in search of Fenwick Lake, a mountain lake that feeds the creek and falls of the same name.

At times, riding shot-gun, I could literally look out my window at the thin air followed by a sheer drop to the river valley below. I have learned though not to do this too much because it’s quite terrifying.

The first time I ever rode  up a mountain, seemingly on the clouds, was back in 1999 on my honeymoon in Colorado. Will decided we should follow the rest of the lemmings to the top of Pike’s Peak. There is a monorail, but he had an issue with heights and refused. He had to be in control to contain his pesky (and in his opinion not at all manly) vertical aversion.

So up the mountain we went and nearing the top, the road is bald, narrow and framed with air. The first time I glanced out the window, I was keenly aware that inches separated our truck from taking flight. And I burst into tears.

I cried the last miles and Will, who couldn’t turn back and couldn’t take his hand off the wheel to take mine because the traffic was too heavy, tried to console me with reassurances about his superior driving skills. Not once did he chide me or try to talk me out of being afraid. He just allowed me to be a girl about the whole thing and when we got to the top, he walked us around until I felt brave enough to ride back down.

Riding down is also hugging the mountain, which isn’t nearly as bad.

I tell the story only because Edie and Silver were also on holiday in the Columbia River Valley this past week and the campground they stayed in could only be accessed through mountain roads. Edie, at shotgun, discovered what I did long ago – shotgun riding up a mountain really sucks.

“She looks down and bursts into tears every time,” Silver confided to Rob when we stopped for a picnic during another off-road adventure later in the week.

When Rob told me, I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The women of men who drive trucks up mountains eventually cultivate some measure of zen though I can’t personally say I enjoy heights or living a bit dangerously, as Rob thinks everyone should.

It’s funny because I can ride up a mountain now and only just phantom brake, but I hate climbing or standing close to edges. Twelve years ago I couldn’t ride but stood on the edge overlooking steep canyons while Will watched nervously from a distance. Change is reversal? Or just change?

We hiked the Hoodoos and due to the erosion, some of the trail is narrow and slippery with sand. I was all for going around but Rob coaxed Dee and I out. I was vocal about my fear. Some of it is actually bad knees. Climbing – down especially – hurts and I am keenly aware that it wouldn’t take much to strain or pop something. But worry about Dee is also a factor.

When we discussed Edie’s tear bursts, I reminded him that just because I don’t cry doesn’t mean I am not frightened. I simply tell him when I am scared and/or uncomfortable. Voicing terror works wonders. It’s an age thing and it’s also grounded in the fact that I don’t feel a need to “man up” for Rob. He is well aware of my weenie side and apparently is fine with it.

Interestingly Edie also has the same trepidation about driving trucks that I had back in the long ago days. Will had a Silverado and I avoided driving it like she declines to drive Silver’s truck.

I didn’t counsel her about the shot-gun position. I could tell she felt a bit foolish. Indeed, it is not something I expected because she is so like my sister DNOS, fearless and strong. But she will be fine. Eventually, she will concentrate on the horizon or on Silver or – perhaps one day – wee people in the backseat and the sheer drop to her side won’t hold much power because it won’t have her undivided attention. Change. Happens to all of us.


ancient roman marriage

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Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.

All I can really say is, “Huh?”

When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.

But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.

McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?

If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway.  DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.

Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.

FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*

Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.

The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.

Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.

But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.

The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.

One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.

I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.

Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.

Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.

We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.

*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.


In Simon Ushakov's icon of the The Last Supper...

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I haven’t commented on the wedding. It was a wedding. They are all the same on the surface, varying only slightly depending on the personalities involved and the tales told in the aftermath.

Dee loved being a flower girl but she has no use for Catholic ceremonies that involve/revolve around the mass. The last time she was in church was for my dad’s funeral in ’08. At that time, she and N2 entertained each other a bit and the ritual still fascinated her with its exotic qualities and mystery.

No more.

Cannibals At the Altar

At nearly nine, she listens. And her reactions ranged from frustrated – because she couldn’t participate in the rote recitation and response that is so drummed into me that I could follow a mass while in a coma – to horrified when she finally comprehended what the priest was saying at communion.

“Body of Christ,” he intoned as he placed a wafer on each tongue

Horror. That was her expression.

“He doesn’t mean that literally, ” I whispered.

Incredulous horror.

“Do you remember the Last Dinner painting?” I asked her.

She nodded. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is a favorite of hers. The Canadian public school system recognizes no separation between faiths and state though Christianity in its Catholic form gets the most play. Dee loves to talk about the “last dinner” and what happened.

“Do you remember that Jesus shared bread with his followers?”

Eyes begin to widen in growing comprehension.

“The priest is just doing what Jesus did,” I assure her. “It’s not really anyone’s body.”

“That would be gross,” she said.

Indeed. And yes, I know perfectly well that Catholics believe (or should at any rate – it’s so hard to know what Catholics actually understand about their own faith) about the host, but transubstantiation would sail over the heads of adults and I didn’t have time to get into that with Dee then.

Witnessing

Rob and I ended up being matron of honor and best man. It’s a better gig than reader though I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain the role reassignment and by the time I had to reassure Fr. Pat that all was well and truly figured out, I was thoroughly reminded of why patriarchal systems irritate me so completely.

Domestic Air Travel in Canada

The weather was wonderful. It warmed our spirits up considerably to be somewhere that snow wasn’t, and the air travel, aside from a few minutes of disaster movie like turbulence on the return trip, went smoothly.

Did you know that Canadians don’t remove footwear as they move through security for domestic flights? Nothing even slightly Gestapo-like in the screening area at all. Just quick, suspicionless inspection of bags and jackets.

However, I did find the security wonks at the Kelowna airport a bit lax in their reaction to an abandoned backpack. I noted it and, being an American I suppose, pointed it out to Security agent. When he radioed it in, he was told to simply “take it to the break room and I’ll look at it later.” As I haven’t seen any news reports about the Kelowna airport blowing up, I will assume that someone – who is clearly not an American nor has ever traveled by air in the U.S. – just forgot the whole “unattended bag thing”. Understandable because in the domestic travel areas of Canadian airports one doesn’t hear that automated voice droning on about responsibility and how “only you can prevent a terrorist incident”.

On A Break

This week, I officially asked for some time off at my paid blogging gig. Between reno, teaching and recurrent health issues, I need a real vacation.

For example, I didn’t take my netbook along last weekend. I didn’t check mail or blog or Facebook.

It was nice.

More than nice and has jumped-started my quest to balance virtual and actual reality toward the latter. Rob’s opinion is that until the Internet completes its inevitable split which will leave those without means trolling a UHF-inspired tier like bottom feeding fish, one should enjoy what is left of the web. It is a shadow of what it was even just a few years ago as the “entrepreneurs” continue to destroy its actual quality for the fastest bucks possible. But my eyes and interest are open to opportunities to free myself though probably not from my personal blog. I still enjoy my little corner of the blogosphere enough to resist attempts to make it bigger or shinier.

Family Matters

Rob picked out a movie for us at the bookmobile last evening. It’s never a good idea to watch a film on a weeknight and now with Dee’s bus driver on a mission to get us up as early as possible, it’s even less of a good idea, but we haven’t snuggled and viewed in a while (unless you count the “Hoarders” thing this last weekend and I don’t).

A 2010 flick called Mother and Child, which takes all the worst aspects of adoption from every possible angle and mushes them into one film. I am used to the misrepresentation of adoption – good and bad – but there was one thing in the film that made me incredibly sad. Sad enough that I cried when the movie was over.

There is the notion that it’s difficult for adopted children or birth parents to find each other. If the agency is known, most allow adoptee’s and birth parents to place contact info/letters in the file that both parties can easily access. Agencies will sometimes contact one party on the other’s behalf.

Both the mother and the daughter in the film write letters for their file, but due to miscommunication the mother doesn’t learn about her daughter until after the young woman dies.

Which was sad, but not what upset me.

The upsetting thing was being reminded that neither of my birth parents have ever contacted me. My information has been on file with the agency for 25 years. I haven’t thought about that for sometime now. Not looking for sympathy, mind you. Just an observation.

Last But Most

Both Rob and I are tired. In the last 6 weeks obligations have been plentiful and while we took care of them, the reno sat by idly a lot and we have gotten run down, over-tired and illness/injury prone. That’s being the grown-ups, I know. Suck it up, Buttercup.

But we now have a bit over a month to move a few mountains around before the obligatory family holiday to see folk down south and it’s just him doing all the work and just me trying to make the trains run around it.

This last weekend was a two nighter of bad mattress that has stove up both of us for much of this week, and a week or better at my mom’s (not to mention hotels there and back) promise more back and shoulder issues on top of exhaustion. Tripping to the States is about family. Not fun. Not relaxation. However, Christmas was exhausting and I don’t foresee resting up in advance of the trip. A dilemma that I am rolling around with now and for which I have no solution. Having pulled the holiday rug out from under Dee in November, I can’t see doing that again, but a hotel is a pricey option given the expensive Christmas followed by an unplanned for in the budget wedding and other miscellaneous.

“I am content never to leave home,” Rob pointed out as we discussed this today. I’d called him from the truck with the latest dental update (I’m not ready to discuss that).

“I suppose we could just start telling everyone that if they want to see us, they will have to come here.”

“No one would come then.”

A sad but true point. He and I are the wheel hubs in our families. If we don’t make it so, it just won’t be.

Just a good night’s sleep. That’s all I need. Oh, and to avoid further illness. At Christmas the new father-in-law left Rob and I the cold from hell as a parting gift. Today Rob got an email from his mother describing some virulent stomach/intestinal flu that they came down with last evening.  Nice.


Sibling Rivalry (Family Guy)

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One of the longest and wide-ranging studies ever conducted on the relationship of personal satisfaction and siblings has concluded that you aren’t imagining it when you believe that had your parents practiced safer sex, you might be happier today.

Apparently, the quality of childhood (and some would argue this extends into adulthood as well) is greatly influenced by the number of siblings you have.

For each sibling added to a family mix, the level of satisfaction for the others diminishes. I would venture to add that the quality of the new sibling’s personality is also a factor and that your parents child-rearing/interacting interest and skill set probably is key as well.

Speaking only from the perspective of an oldest child, I can attest unequivocally to the fact that a mess of younger siblings did nothing to improve my life on the whole. Aside from my next in command sister, DNOS, I could have easily been an extremely happy only child. I have all the requisite qualities. I was low maintenance (which admittedly made it easier for my parents to foist their fantasies of a large family on me), able to entertain myself and not disturbed at all by solitude and silence.

My singular qualities, in fact, made the additions of siblings difficult for someone who preferred a more Garbo like existence.

I know people who adore their large families. Count their siblings as best friends and couldn’t imagine being an onlie.

Dee is less than enamoured with “onlie-ness”. She laments that her older sisters aren’t closer than a decade and more to her in age. Though, I would venture a guess that they have both pondered the implications of being singletons with a bit of longing.

DNOS and I frequently have conversations that center around the lament of the younger two existing.

Oh, stop. It’s not that gruesome. We are all adopted and had they not been our siblings they’d be some other unfortunate family’s burden to bear.

But fond as I am of DNOS now that we are well into adulthood, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have thrown her under a bus to be an only child when I was a child … even a teenager.

She would protest, but the truth is that she benefited as much from following me as the younger two did in terms of my parents aiming all their strictness at me. I was practically a shield for the rest of them in terms of unrealistic expectations and experiments in parenthood.

I will admit, however, to appreciating my younger siblings as we all hit our pre-teen and teenage years. Being an “easy” child to raise meant that when they began acting up as teens, I was pretty much ignored. A small boon but one well deserved given how much of their care was foisted upon me when we were all small.

My folks were farm-bred Depression babies. Old schoolers who still totally believe that you have more kids so the older ones will learn to be responsible. And that’s actually an interesting stance given that the fact that they were the youngest in their families.

Dad actually wanted a very large family. In excess even of his own experience being one of six children. I have no idea at all why Mom married him given that expectation because there is no one less suited to being the mother of a horde than she.

My most vivid childhood recollections of my mother was of a very angry woman who clearly did not enjoy housework, cooking or minding more than one child at a time.

By the age of five, I was the oldest of four. Wherever we went it was Mom and four wee children, consequently, we did not get out much unless Dad was along. Even then, I can’t recall a single outing that didn’t end with someone being yelled at, hauled off the ground to dangle by a tiny little elbow or smacked on the bottom.

Being the oldest, I quickly learned to lay low and deflect when necessary, but I often wished that I had no siblings at all (when I wasn’t wishing for different parents or a stint as an orphan living with my much more tolerant of me Auntie and Grandmother).

It’s not that we fought much. Aside from my brother, CB, I rarely fought with any of my siblings, but this stems from the fact that at very early ages, we all went our own ways and sought out more like-minded compatriots. We could, and did, clan up in times of trouble, but we mostly had little to do with each other – something that really still defines us today.

I don’t know a lot of people personally for whom family is all, or most even, in terms of close relationships/friendships. Even if friendship preference evolved it tends to be with only one or a couple of siblings within families.

Most people I know have sibling relationships that range all over the “it’s complicated” scale, and even relatively cordial interactions came with middle-age and were possibly even forged by crisis situations.

At my age, I deal with the whole sibling thing only when it rises like Dracula from the tomb, which mercifully isn’t often. We have our own lives filled with significant others, children and chosen companions. Our need for each other – not much to begin with – is reduced to base-touching and keeping an eye on our mother as she dodders into advancing age.

It’s enough. And it’s okay.

But, I still think I would have made an excellent only child.


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.


Recent traffic surges and an uptick in subscribers has left me feeling oddly pressured and blogging with the feeling of “daily chore” about it.

I’m also feeling less comfortable with personal revelation now that some of my readership dwells in my real world as opposed to the – as my daughter puts – “internet people” I’ve become accustomed to in my bloggy version of the reality show confessional.

And there is the fact that I am slowly inching back into the world of working … at a real job … for money. Not much money. You’d either chuckle at my audacity of referring to it as “work for pay” or fear for my survival if I were suddenly called upon to be the breadwinner again. Very little bread could be purchased with the bread I am making.

Pool all this and the end result is me not blogging much … again.

Regardless, there’s little news in the neighborhood to blog about at any rate.

Summer finds me in full-blown stay at home mom mode much more so than at any other time of year. Swim lessons. Camps. Weekends off in the wooded or mountain areas.

Last weekend we got away for a quickie to Garner Lake and this coming weekend, we’re off to a family reunion weekend a way up north near Grande Prairie.

Shelley’s family gathers every fourth year at one of the area’s community halls to pitch tents, horseshoes and bocce balls. There’s a big dinner followed by a dance on Saturday night and judging from the tales I’ve heard, I will be even more completely out of my elemental self than I normally am around Rob’s late wife’s family.

Trepidation is running at high enough levels that I’ve even tread back into nightmare territory – a sure sign that my exterior zen is squaring off with my internal misgivings and fears.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Shelley’s family has been nothing but polite and graciously so to me and Dee, but feelings have flared out of sight.

Rob thinks I am being overly pessimistic and that everything will be fine, but every time I have been around that side of the family, heavy drinking occurs*. And I already know that most of the extended family are keenly aware of what my presence symbolizes which puts both me and them on sharp edges.

This is the first family reunion since Shelley died. Her mother, step-father, father and both her mother’s brothers have died in the interim. I can’t help but think that this is something that will not hit people until everyone has gathered … and had too much to drink.

Of course, it could all just turn out peachy.

I am crossing fingers for peachy. And taking my yoga mat.

*One of the sisters-in-law is an alcoholic who appears to only deal with her issues when she is completely shit-faced, which is clever because no one in the family can call her on behavior she has conveniently blacked out.