The Hurricane

My relationship with my mother-in-law, otherwise known as Hurricane Helen, has been stormy, to say the least.  We have been at odds over everything from whether it’s appropriate for her to replace throw rugs and bed linens in my home as she sees fit (she said they were too dirty to clean) to the proper response to a toddler that bites a playmate (she unabashedly told me that biting him back would teach him a lesson he wouldn’t forget).  It may be that our life experiences have imbued us with radically different philosophical outlooks.  It may be because we are both fiercely independent, stubborn, and used to getting our own way.  Perhaps it’s merely a standard result of Scorpio – Leo interactions.  I don’t know.

She's coming when? And she's staying HOW LONG?

What I do know is that she has, usually with the best of intentions, driven me completely batshit crazy on innumerable occasions beginning with her attempt to hijack my wedding plans and, more recently, with her unshakable belief that she can cram 48 hours worth of “errands” into a 5 hour visit.  This belief does not include a plan.  I imagine that would take all the fun out of it for her.  As a meticulous planner who must have several backup plans in order to function on a daily basis, this Pollyanna attitude deeply disturbs me.

For years, the Hurricane has blown into town and run roughshod over my wishes while staying in my home without even the slightest bit of hesitation or remorse.  With the assistance of the hearing aid that she refuses to wear (her most common excuses: “it’s uncomfortable,” “the batteries are dead,” “it’s been misplaced,”  “it’s too loud’), she simply only hears what she wants to hear and therefore, will not acknowledge any opposition to her actions.  I have been bullied by this woman for so long that I was utterly astonished yesterday to find myself feeling sympathy for her.  It seems that while I wasn’t paying attention, the Hurricane faded into a zephyr.

While talking with her on the phone about her husband, whose health very recently took a turn for the worse, I realized that she is suddenly facing the possibility of her own obsolescence.  Her self worth is helplessly entwined in how much others need her.  That’s why almost every verbal altercation we’ve had stemmed from her usurping my place in my home because she doesn’t know of any other way to be assured that she is needed.  If no one needs her, then how can she exist?

This glimmer of insight into my mother-in-law’s personality allowed me to look back over our relationship in a new light and release a lot of the hurt, resentment and anger I’ve nursed in my heart toward her.  I will probably need a lot more introspection to absolve her for hiring “Those Funny Little People” as a gift for my wedding reception (I had my heart set on a classy and dignified affair), but the seeds of forgiveness have been sowed.  And I have high hopes for the harvest.

6 thoughts on “The Hurricane

  1. Bee says:

    My mother always said that getting along with her mother-in-law was the best thing she ever did for her marriage. Her mother-in-law (now 88 years old and still going strong) is near-terminally indecisive, cannot drive, likes to be taken across town to use a newspaper coupon at a grocery store in order to save eighteen cents on a can of beans she doesn’t even really want, talks incessantly, loves low-budget all-you-can-eat restaurants but actively resists being taken anywhere nice because it’s too expensive, and comes to visit for three to four weeks at a time. When I was a child they would come to visit in their fully-equipped motor home – they were coming “some time this week, we’re just not sure when” and when asked how many weeks they might be staying, they’d cheerfully reply, “Oh, we don’t know, we just can’t say, just don’t know, can’t say!”

    I try to take Mom’s advice, even when my own mother-in-law is driving me absolutely up a wall. It clearly served Mom well all these years, and I’m glad you’ve been able to get a perspective on your own MIL that helps you see her in a different light!

  2. pegoleg says:

    This is a true, grown-up moment. It’s not as satisfying (nor as funny, frankly) as nursing a well-deserved grudge, but peace within ourselves and our families has its own benefits. Enjoy your harvest!

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