in-law issues


Master Yoda - origami.

Origami Yoda via Wikipedia

Yoda was right. You do or you do not. It’s not a shady issue. Succeed and be rewarded. Fail and suffer the fall-out.

It reminds me a bit of that old saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, which stems perhaps from the idea that good deeds often depend on the favored to achieve success and it’s never a good idea to gamble too much on anything that’s so far outside your own sphere of influence.

DNOS is chuckling like Mrs. Santa tonight because N1 is heading back to Iowa this weekend. It’s been a costly gamble. And not just monetarily. But it’s time to admit defeat and send the troops home to regroup.

I’ve lost yet another day in damage control and I am mightily weary. I have a life and commitments of my own that need my attention and resources. Yet I find that I can’t work up any real emotion over it aside from a heavy sigh. I am not disappointed because I am beyond that where family is concerned. They are who they are. I am not surprised when events end up the same time and again.

But I am not inclined to be sorry either. True. It is do or do not, but you can’t “do” anything until you are willing to “try” something. In some cases, anything.

As I was walk/running at the track today, it occurred to me why I have never won the lottery. If I had that kind of obscene money, I would use it to help people avoid learning the lessons they were born to study and master. I couldn’t help but use my good fortune to give others the opportunity to realize success of their own. Being happy,and really without any serious needs or even wants, for the first time in my life these last few years, I just want everyone to know that same feeling.

Destiny, however, has seen fit to put me in a position that makes it impossible for me to do anything but spot people toward their goals thus forcing them to do the rest of the work themselves. And it’s for the best. You don’t learn anything when life just hands you things, or when people in your life hand you things without requiring anything from you by way of effort. A little help is okay but I think there is also some quaint old saying about the universe helping those more who are willing to also assist their progress with personal sacrifice and hard work. I might be paraphrasing a bit, but I am sure you understand.

Rob, and my mother, both think that I should pat myself on the back for at least doing something because there are those who do nothing and then sit back and nod sagely when precisely nothing else happens. CB, I think, has earned a pat or two himself even with his implosion taken into account. He has less than I do in terms of resources and yet he offered all he had and then some and gained little from it.

But still I think Yoda was on to something. There is no try when try is all you have to offer. If you aren’t willing or don’t believe that something meaningful can result, it’s better not to bother.


Anonymous Woman

Anonymous via Wikipedia

Now that many, many members of my family – immediate, extended and rarely interacted with – are reading my blog, writing about what is going on in my life boils down to a choice between discretion and kiss my ass, go write your own blog if you are feeling misunderstood.

Things in Cali are a mixed bag. After literally weeks of N1 not buying into the idea that he was there to explore new horizons and possibilities (key words that really mean “go to college and get a job”), he finally fell in love with The Bay Area and began making concrete plans. Naturally this was a good time for CB and xSIL to have one of their cyclical love/hate, emphasis on “hate”, fests.

Anyone who’s ever seen them together, even at the best of times, says the same thing about them.

“They just cannot be in the same room together.”

But most meant it in a way that implies that these two don’t have feelings for each other and shouldn’t have hooked up in the first place. What strikes me about them – always has – is how little they know of each other or want to know. They have their ideals and are locked in a struggle to cajole the potential out of each other rather than just except the other one for who he or she is.

They’ll never be happy.

What set off the latest row is a long time in the making and precedes N1’s arrival on the scene, but his moving in probably sped things up because it prompted CB to make a serious attempt and finally giving up drinking for good.

xSIL will have none of it and true to their volatile relationship, she decided the best way to punish him was to get him fired and evicted.

She can do that? It does sound a bit Machiavellian, but her brother-in-law owns the apartment complex CB works at and lives in. Her sister rules the BIL like he was her prison bitch. It’s no wonder they don’t have kids because that guy has no balls. Oh, and did I mention that she is the complex’s manager?

I am never certain that xSIL realizes how her periodically blowing CB out of the water is like cutting off her own nose to spite her face, but as of early this afternoon, CB had abandoned sobriety, refused to discuss his wagon tumble with me when I called, and caused N1 to flee to the public library.

All N1’s plans are upended. CB has no job. The BIL knows perfectly well what’s up but refused to discuss it with CB. He got a 30 day eviction notice, and so he and N1 are out on the streets in 25 days.

“CB says he’s not leaving,” N1 told me. “He says they can throw him out.”

And haul him off to jail too , I thought, because that’s the one thing xSIL hasn’t resorted to – yet. But if I know her at all, she will.  She works for the county at the court-house as an interpreter.  She’s sweet-talked this and that law enforcement officer into doing her dirty work for her before, and I warned N1 to not cross her because she’d gleefully toss him under the correctional facility bus too*.

I try to be nice to xSIL, which DNOS feels is a waste of one’s precious life force, but I don’t dislike her.  xSIL is who she is. Just as CB is who he is. The fact that I accept who they are, however, doesn’t mean that I approve of the stupid and destructive things they sometimes do. They have kids. Acting like extras on Teen Mom or Jersey Shore is a luxury that grown ups with responsibilities, and little lives dependent on them, can’t afford.

I have zero idea how this will play out. My main concern at the moment is N1. He is still seventeen. He has no driver’s license. He can’t sign a lease to rent a place of his own, but even if he could, he hasn’t got more than a $100 in the bank.

Even if I could talk him into leaving – he won’t by the way, he wants to go to school in January and he’s been offered a job at a car dealership when he turns 18 in February – there is the question of purchasing a ticket without computer access and getting him to the airport now that xSIL has banned CB from using her car.

I’m a little annoyed with both CB for deciding to have a breakdown right now instead of manning up a bit, sticking with AA, and with xSIL for putting these events in motion without thinking the consequences through for all parties involved. If I have to fly to San Francisco to straighten things out for N1, I will cross the “annoyed” line and land squarely in “hell hath no fury” territory, but I am hopeful it won’t come to that.

Why?

Because N1 sounded okay today when I spoke to him. We talked about the steps he needs to take and I think there is an outside chance he might be able to do what he needs to in order to get things lined up. Yeah, there is December to deal with and we’ll cross that bridge then, but perhaps CB will rally and xSIL will calm down. Nothing really is out of the realm of possibility.

It’s sad because I spent over an hour talking with CB yesterday morning and he was upset but seemed focused on taking steps to get himself employed and housed again. His daughters and N1 were his motivation. As I have said before, whatever else his faults, he loves his kids and his family.

DNOS will chortle. She thought the whole idea of N1 going out to stay with CB was a disaster movie in the making, and Mom is going to have a small fit when she discovers what has occurred.  She was making plans to go out there, but a bulldozer won’t push her in the direction of California now.

It’s 10:17 P.M. MT and there haven’t been any frantic Facebook messages or phone calls. Of course, if they are in jail, it will be a while before I hear about it. That’s not pessimism. I am a realist. I look and hope for the best but am always aware that just about anything can head to hell equipped with a sturdy hand-basket at any moment.

I’ll keep you posted.

*My family is trailer park in Arkansas effed up sometimes and I can’t even use the “maybe I’m adopted” excuse – because we all are. There is no excuse.


Knock on Wood (film)

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Remember not long ago when I casually mentioned that our renovation progress hinged a bit on the type and frequency of family emergencies? And that I said, we had not accounted for all those who could possibly implode and need assistance?

Okay, so we’ve dodged a bullet or three in the last week or so, but our luck did not hold.

My dear sweet mother-in-law phoned tonight to let us know that she is filing for divorce.

The details are sketchy but sad and a bit sordid. She’d sold her home. Invested in a new one in the States. All of her things are in storage and she is doing the senior citizen version of couch-surfing. Finances are bleak.

“But I will survive,” she said. “I am not going to spend my remaining days miserable.”

What this means in terms of assistance isn’t clear yet.

“You mean Dad is her only option?” Mick typed to me on Facebook in reply to a heads up message I sent to her and Edie.

“Umm, yeah,” I replied.

“I am?” Rob asked.

“What? Do you think your sister is any shape to help?”

He smiled grimly, “She’s on the verge of homeless herself. Maybe Mom can move in with her and help with the mortgage? It’d be like old times.”

I have heard about “old times” and it makes me shudder a bit. Besides, his mother has already lived a version of this with the other sister and it didn’t turn out well at all.

“You know what the worst thing about this is?” Rob said “We’ve lost a place to stay in Arizona for Christmas.”

Like we’d have ever flown to the States at Christmas. Unless someone had died. Which I am knocking wood to ward off those evil spirits even as I type.

* Thanks to furious voting in the past couple of days, I have retaken the 5th spot. I need to hang onto it until the end of the day on Thursday, so I need more votes. I know. I know. I keep saying I need more but I do. For purposes of blog exposure, making the Top Five is important. The site only shows the first five and you have to click through to the others, which is less exposure because who clicks through? I am up by about twenty votes and that’s nothing for someone to gap. I need to be up by 40 or 50. So, if you could click over and vote. Just three more days. Please? Thanks.


The only "protective custody" availa...

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At least for a few more weeks according to my older nephew N1, who at my behest called his mother, Baby, last night to tell her  – from me – that ignoring my calls would not make the situation go away. Fortunately, DNOS had already managed to get my rock star sister to take a call and proceeded to royally ream her backward ass, setting her straight on the new world order.

Baby cried persecuted to her son though he informed me that he didn’t believe a word of it, and when I spoke to Mom late Sunday afternoon, the harassing phone calls had stopped.

This was not before she received at least two more after her trip to the police station and was a nervous wreck.

As I chatted with Mom, I called her the traces of anxiety and exhaustion in her voice. This latest incident with Baby being a baby strained her, but unlike times past, she didn’t cave. She’s determined that the Bank of Mom is closed, and she hinted at “other changes”, which can’t be good for Baby. Whereas my dad didn’t believe in punishing us from the grave, Mom is perfectly capable of playing behavior accountant from beyond. Dad was a hammer in the moment, but Mom had the longer memory and could wait patiently for the right opportunity to throw youthful indiscretion squarely back at you when the moment presented itself.

LawnMower Man is on work release, so apparently he was tormenting Mom before or after milking and field work at the farm where he is one of several hired men. My late husband, Will, used to refer to such a set up as “baby jail”. An old high school friend of his wound up in a similar program early in our marriage, and he was mercilessly teased about it.

Between Baby’s broken back and LawnMower Man’s incarceration, they are a hurting financial unit. In days of yore, he would simply phone Mom and inform her that if she didn’t help them out, he would pack Baby up and dump her on Mom’s doorstep. Since the beginning of the year, however, DNOS and I have made it clear that there is no way on any level of hell that we’d allow her to take Baby back. Normally, Mom listens to us not even the littlest bit, but we’ve made surprising headway in the influence department and Baby’s going to have a difficult time getting out of the corner DNOS and I have left her to manuver this time.

“She has the numbers of all the women’s shelters,” Mom told me. “It’s time she got herself out of her own messes.”

Forty-three at the end of the month, she looks a decade older and telegraphs “poor white trash” with her every word and action. No one in the family has an ounce of patience left. If she had  real emergency right now, she had to rely on the kindness of strangers quite literally because anyone who knows her is done with her. She’s played too many people and the chickens are roosting for real in the yard of the possibly condemned trailer she lives in.


Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

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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.


Making an SVG to replace - Image:Certain Eleph...

Image via Wikipedia

Found a great quote on Twitter today:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

It doesn’t get more true than that.

Specifics fade or morph. They take on lives of their own. But in the end, what drives the things you say or do into another person’s soul like nails into the proverbial coffin are the feelings that resulted.

Good, bad and freak show ugly, what matters at the end of the day is how people feel.

Last evening a friend of Will’s mother contacted me on Facebook.  I haven’t heard from her in five years.  In fact, the last conversation we had concerned her calling on MIL’s behalf to inquire about Will’s burial.

Which I had not invited anyone to attend given the fact that his mother and friends hijacked his visitation and made it all about them and their loss.  Dee and I weren’t even afterthoughts.

At the time, this woman had been acting as a go-between for about six months.  MIL moved shortly before Will went into hospice and refused to allow anyone to tell me her new address or phone number.

And no, there wasn’t any trauma-rama incident that led up to my being persona non-grata.  She just hated me and preferred to let others talk to me and relay information to her.

In our last conversation, I told MIL’s friend that in the future MIL was to contact me herself if she needed information.  I wasn’t catering to her Queen of England fetish anymore.

Okay, I didn’t make the “Queen” comment but I was clear enough.

I didn’t hear from MIL for 8 months and last evening was the first I’d heard from her friend.

“I was searching for friends and thought I would try to find you. I am curious to see pictures of Will’s daughter to see how she is growing up.”

And yes, she referred to Dee as “Will’s daughter”.  I don’t imagine any of his friends remember that Dee is a separate entity with a name of her own.  She’s simply a legacy.

Some Facebook buddies responded to my slightly ranty status update bemoaning having been tracked down. They’d been there and advised using the various privacy tools to limit access to my personal page while still relaying information to interested parties about Dee.

But my sister, DNOS, was more to the point in her reply,

I wouldn’t Annie, you owe them nothing!!!! or completely block em!! It is time to end it!!! All they will do is bring you and everyone else misery!! I know that is mean but I had watch them and that is all I can say!!!!!Well I could say more but can not here.

DNOS is still a bit indignant on my behalf and she is a fierce mama tiger. It was all I could do to keep her from ripping his family and friends to shreds during the funeral.  She did lay waste to one of Will’s pool league buddies who wandered outside for a smoke and ran into her.  He, according to her account, “blubbered like a baby and boo-hoo’d about how he should have been there for Will. And I just gave him a look of disgust and told him he should have before I walked away.”*

My sister is a strong person.  She has no use for the weak, indecisive or those who look back on their poor behavior expecting sympathy. “Fuck ’em” is her motto. You have ample opportunity in life to stand up and be worthy in her opinion.  Regrets are for the useless.

MIL asked me once to forgive her for the slights, dishonesty, malicious attempts to undermine me with the staff at the nursing home and again at hospice.

But I can’t forget what the Social Worker at hospice told me after one such attack,

“She hates you. Be careful.”

I am not at all sure what prompted the friend’s request for photos. I messaged back that she should inquire with MIL for photo access as I have sent her pictures recently.  She replied with a “thank you” and not much more.  I suspect that MIL sent her looking for me on FB with the intent of gaining access to real-time information via my page.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the hunt has even led them to this blog or the others for which I have written.

I have enjoyed five years of pretty much total anonymity from Will’s family and friends on the Internet.  Longer than I should have expected but given their mercurial temperaments and historic lack of interest in how Dee or I was faring, perhaps it’s more of a surprise to be found at all.

I haven’t forgotten the feelings associated with dealing with a single one of them. I was the Cinderella of care-taking and then of widowhood, and I broke all manner of polite society (which is funnier if you know the people I am taking about) rules by moving on and eventually remarrying.

Gut instinct says this is first contact.

*On a side note, DNOS informed friend and MIL’s sister that no way in hell would they ever see Dee again after the funeral. I knew nothing about this exchange at the time. In fact, DNOS was under orders from me not to start anything with the in-laws, whom she held in great contempt for their failure to be much help. She especially disliked MIL for her antics while Will was in hospice and when we arrived at the funeral home to find that MIL and friends had set up camp and taken over, it was all I could do to hold DNOS back. I wasn’t in the mood for a Finnegan sort of wake.


Kissing the bride

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Rob’s mother marries this coming weekend. Though originally set to be a June bride, which would have made it possible for more family and friends to attend, the groom’s border crossings were increasingly contentious as Canada is not keen on the whole “marrying outside your nationality” thing, although they are less snarky about it than the U.S., whose crossing guards are even ruder than usual to a potential non-citizen spouse.

We had planned to mini-celebrate the nuptials after the fact at Christmas because the bride and groom to be were to be wed two weeks prior, but the plans were squelched by a Nazi parish priest, who insisted on pushing it back to January.

Traveling through the Canadian Rockies at the height of winter is no one’s idea of a good time. Least of all Rob’s. He’s slogged more than his fair share of white knuckle high mountain snowy road driving and his whole being visibly sagged at the prospect of attending a January wedding in the Okanogan Valley.

“We’re flying,” he said.

Not that this is a much better solution. His mother and fiance took about seven hours between delays and sitting on the tarmac to complete the flight here to Edmonton that normally takes less than an hour.

“Maybe the trip will be a respite.” Rob told me as he eyed the Weather Network for temps and precipitation estimates for the weekend. A balmy plus 4C and rain.

He will give the bride away. His mother didn’t have the full on Catholic wedding the first time and is determined to right that past injustice.

Dee was asked to be a flower girl and she is, naturally, giddy with joy at the prospect of donning  a white dress and having her own bouquet. She was quite put out that I didn’t get her a bouquet of her own when Rob and I married. An injustice to check off another list.

My mother-in-law then asked me to read. I couldn’t say no even though it’s probably very inappropriate for a non-believer to get up on the altar and recite scripture.

Especially a verse that she refused to have read at her own Catholic wedding going on twelve years ago.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

A total load of drivel that has no basis in a non-Disney princess reality.

Love has, as far as I know, not a single magical property to make anyone less human. Everything Corinthians talks about is perfectly human and very much a part of just about any relationship a body could have from the one with your significant other to the most superficial interactions with the strangers we run across daily.

I understand it’s appeal and why it’s a wedding favorite. The day one marries is full of promise but also wildly unrealistic expectations of absolute bliss forever that shouldn’t be encouraged.

What did I choose back in the day?

Something from Revelations – which in retrospect is an odd place to go hunting for scripture readings – and the Psalms. One of those semi-porn things that David or Solomon supposedly wrote.

Rob and I had only the vows that the province of Alberta insists everyone use and are, frankly, the best vows I have ever read, spoken or heard.

People should have the weddings they want. It’s one of those things you don’t get to do over and not getting it “right” the first time can be like a grain of sand in an oyster shell for some. Not much of an irritant at first and not destined to be a pearl at any point down the line.

It would likely be argued that Corinthians is extolling the virtues of the Creator, but I think that’s crap. The God I’ve read and been taught about is a tyrant where love is concerned and expects way more than he gives back.

Aside from my reservations about the scripture, I am uncomfortable participating in Catholic ceremonies simply because they are sacraments. It’s not exactly blasphemous on my part but it is tinged with a certain amount of disrespect. But how does one say “no” to a request from someone ones cares about on such an important day in his/her life?

You don’t. You can’t. So you compromise yourself a bit because in its essence it’s not an act that affects my immortal self as much as the bad karma of refusing would.

In yoga, we strive to cause no injury. One of the examples my teacher gave was the story of a monk who accepted the hospitality of a family while he was on a journey through the mountains of Tibet. The monk was a strict vegetarian, but the mountain folk of Tibet are not and they offered him a meat stew. The monk was faced with a dilemma. Eat the stew and violate his own beliefs or refuse and hurt the family, who had no idea that their meal was an affront.

The monk ate the stew and considered it the very best choice. Between eating a bit of meat and doing harm to the good intentions of well-meaning people – the feelings of people win. As they should.