The Means Well, but is Excruciatingly Over-bearing, Mother-in-Law

As I mentioned earlier, my mom is a nurse in an outpatient surgical unit.  She lives an hour and a half away.  She came for my surgery, spent the night with me in the hospital so The Hubs could actually get a good night’s sleep, and stayed for a total of three nights and four days.  She did laundry – asked me how I wanted it sorted and didn’t chastise me or criticize when I went into our bedroom with her to help her sort.  She knows how independent I am and didn’t flinch at all when I insisted on helping.  I have said this numerous times in emails to friends that the worst part of my recovery is that I feel fantastic – no pain for the most part and no other kinds of issues like fatigue.  It is driving me crazy that I have to just sit here.  My mom was great at staying out of my way, but still accomplishing helping The Hubs and I out without being annoying and over-bearing.  The same cannot be said for my mother-in-law.  Even The Hubs has choice words when his mother is involved.

My mother-in-law (The MIL)…my absent friend Scarlet would say, “Bless her heart.”  She started calling almost immediately after I got into my room after surgery.  She was determined to come to the house to help the following weekend.  Well, let’s The MIL’s idea of helping is to overrun everything and everyone in her path.  I had to explain to her that we did not need (read want) her come on the weekend.  This was more The Hubs decision than mine.  I’d rather get the visit over with quickly, come Friday, leave Sunday.  He did not want to be trapped in the house for the weekend with his mother.  If she came during the week, then he could at least escape her presence while he was at work.  So, how was I going to get her to change her mind about coming on the weekend?

Thank God for snow – albeit only a few inches here.  See, there are 3 things you should know about the MIL:  1.  she doesn’t drive after dark, 2.  she doesn’t drive in any kind of inclement weather, and 3.  she is an alcoholic.  So, I called her and suggested that due to the oncoming snow, she wait until Monday to come up.  I also added in the part that The Hubs was home on the weekends, so we (I) didn’t really need help on the weekends.  She thought it was a marvelous idea, marvelous is her favorite word.

She arrived on Monday afternoon and proceeded to make ten or so trips from the car bringing in bags of who knows what.  Since I wasn’t supposed to get up from my chair, I didn’t make any effort to display my independent nature.  I know this may seem rude, but honestly, I don’t know anyone who likes The MIL.  I know people tolerate her, but I don’t know anyone who truly likes her.  So, I let her “move in” to our spare bedroom on her own.  At one point she quipped, jokingly, “Aren’t you going to get off your ass and help me with all this shit?”  Laughing all the way.  I know she was joking, but just a hint for your future reference:  let the person with cancer make the jokes.

So, she takes up residence.  She is omnipresent, hovering, and imposing.  She begins by doing the laundry.  Now, before I was unable to do it myself, I could get a week’s worth of laundry for The Hubs & I done in about 5 loads total.  She arrived Monday and did not leave until Thursday afternoon and was doing laundry almost continuously until she left.

I was happy that the day of her arrival, we only had to change the dressing on my donor site.  I am still coming to terms with the appearance of the excision site and I’m not ready to let anyone, other than The Hubs see it.  The Nurse, hasn’t even seen it.  I knew that The MIL would want to watch if not help.  Frankly, I didn’t want her to touch me.  She came in, watched The Hubs change the dressing and praised him profusely.  The MIL also proceeded to gush about how much her son loved me and blah, blah, blah…  I know The Hubs loves me.  Had I not know before this, which I did, he has shown me every day since diagnosis.  It is her not-so-endearing way of poking me by implying that I am so lucky that someone like her son chose someone like me and that I’m not really deserving of it.  Trust me, I’m not reading in to this.  She has told me in exactly those words several times over the last 17 years that I’ve known my husband that I am not what she would have chosen for him.

Day one wasn’t bad.  She moved in; she fixed dinner; we went to bed.  Day two, however was a disaster.  One of the boxes and bags she had moved in was a box of wine.  The MIL had been drinking all day.  She proceeded to also pull out a comforter set that she bought for our bedroom.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not what I would have picked.  Even RetDog had a hard time picturing it staying in our room and she is the most gracious person I have ever met.  In addition to drinking and redecorating my bedroom, she found time to criticize The Hubs and I for not yet fixing the painting mistakes of the previous owners (we both work full time and are on a pretty tight budget), and made several digs about my housekeeping skills.  I was exhausted by the time The Hubs got home from work and decided to roll my little mechanic’s chair into the bedroom to prepare for my dressing change.

We had planned to go to Olive Garden for dinner, so on my way to the bedroom I stopped by our spare bedroom to get my clothes for our outing.  I about killed myself tripping over all of The MIL’s stuff.  Even more frustrated and exhausted, I made my way into our bedroom and tossed my clothes on the end of the bed.  Then, I had to search for my prop pillows.  When she remade the bed, she hid the old pillows.  I found them, and tossed them on the bed.  About this time, she walks in the room.  “Oh God,” I thought, just go away!”  The MIL proceeds to confiscate my crutches and place them out of reach.  Then she throws the prop pillows on the floor after I had just put them on the bed.  I picked them up and put them back on the bed.  She threw them on the floor again!

“The Hubs is coming in to change my dressing,” I said angrily.

“Well, I (big emphasis on I) want him to see the new bedding,” she insisted.

“He won’t care,” I said.

Sure enough, The Hubs came in, she said, “Look!”  and he said, “What?”  My point had been made.

I threw the pillows back on the bed and then testily demanded my crutches so I could get in the bed to have my dressings changed.  She pawed over me and I asked her to stop, while The Hubs went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands.   She said that she was excited to see the excision site.

I told her, “I’m sorry, I’m not ready for you to see it yet.”

“What do you mean???” she was incredulous.

“It’s hard enough for me to look at right now, I’m not ready for other people to see it yet.  It still has a lot of healing to do.”

“Well, honey, I’m your mother,” she drunkenly cooed.

“Not even The Nurse has seen it yet,” I replied icily, “I don’t want you to see it.”  Admittedly, I was a little harsher with her than I normally would have been, but she was drunk and that was the only way to get through to her.

Thank goodness The Hubs walked in, I was almost in tears.

“I can’t stay,” she whined, “SHE doesn’t want me here.” And then she walked out pouting.

As I mentioned in my previous posted Recovery, this dressing change ended up not happening at all.  I was grateful for that because it meant she didn’t miss out and couldn’t stay mad.  But was I wrong…

On the way to Olive Garden, she proceeds to give me a monologue – yes, a full blown monologue – on how she was diagnosed with detached retinas in college and how nothing could be done because the medical technology didn’t exist (a quick scan of the Internet proves this is a lie as she would be blind by now!)  and I (the cancer patient) can’t let this get me down, blah, blah, blah.

“I know how you feel, I went through this too, well, not cancer, but it was serious…” she babbled.

I sat in the backseat rolling my eyes as she went on and on.  Finally, she took a breath and The Hubs ever so wisely turned up the radio.

I thought we were done, I thought wrong.  She continued the monologue at our table at Olive Garden only this time bringing up things that were long past about the family.  It was excruciating, leading to my going to bed the minute we got home.

On Day 3, we had my second follow-up.  She wanted to go, but when The Hubs said he was going she backed off.  We went and got the good news and came home.  When we told her, you would have thought that we had told her she was cancer free.  I mean, I understand being excited and all, The Hubs and I were, but once again, she was tremendously melodramatic.  We went to breakfast to celebrate.

When we got home, The Hubs went off to work and she “suggested” I clean out the refrigerator.  The reason suggested is in quotation marks is because I knew it wasn’t a suggestion; it was an expectation.  So much for staying off my feet.  So, I cleaned out the fridge and freezer, and then feigned exhaustion so I could take a nap.  Which meant, I sat in my chair and whenever I heard her walking towards the living room, I pretended I was asleep.  When RetDog came to visit, I “awoke.”  She stayed for a while and The MIL went shopping because since Ret was there, I was supervised.  I vented to Ret, which caused her to laugh riotously.  I am much more dramatic in person than in writing.  I can confidently say my facial expressions and gestures are hilarious!  The MIL came back and proceeded to inject herself in our conversation.

“Did she tell you she gets to take a shower tomorrow?” The MIL asked.

“Yes,” Ret answered patiently, “she did.”

“Oh, I can’t wait, I’m staying to make sure I’m here for her so she doesn’t hurt herself taking a shower,” The MIL said, as if I were a child.

Later, I told The Hubs that if she did not go home I might have to kill her.  He laughed, knowing I would never kill her but that the fantasy had crossed his mind as well.

I ended up with a minor medical drama that night when I accidentally ripped the bandage off the donor site and replaced it without adding more ointment.  This caused the bandage to become stuck to the wound as it was drying.  It was extremely painful.  When we finally discovered what was causing the pain, we didn’t know what to do.  We called The Nurse at 10:30 pm.  I woke her up and I was crying – not a good combination.  She freaked out, The Hubs said something really funny that for the life of me I cannot remember, and I was laughing and crying hysterically at the same time.

Finally, The Nurse was finally awake enough to give us her professional opinion and I was calm enough to listen.  Two warm, wet washcloths later, the bandage peeled off gently and The Nurse had saved the day.  I took two pain pills that night.  One for pain, the other for nerves and to keep me asleep until hopefully The MIL moved out the next day.

I woke up several times the next morning, no pain, but I could hear The MIL packing up.  Hallelujah!  I stayed in bed, sleeping off and on until 12:30 pm.  When I finally got out of bed, I had a pain pill hangover.  I staggered on my crutches to my rolly chair and rolled out to the living room.  She said little, and left at about 1:30 pm.  The ordeal was over.  When The Hubs got home for work, he was visibly relieved as well.

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