Sunday 17 October 2010

My mother-in-law the basket case

I don't often blog about my mother-in-law. These days I don't often blog full stop.

But I think I'll blog today, specifically about my mother-in-law (the basket case). I am such a lucky girl, I actually have two mothers-in-law. One of them is my step mother-in-law. She is a very sweet woman for whom I have a lot of affection. She makes up for my other mother-in-law, who is a wicked old cow.

Hubby, poor, put-upon Hubby, has never had an easy relationship with his mother. When he was a child, if he didn't finish his scrummy lunch of veal cheek or pig's trotters, his mother would shut him in the kitchen cupboard where he would remain in the dark for up to two hours. When she let him out, he would be presented with the now-cold veal cheek to finish. These days, social services would be sniffing around for much less I feel.

Later in life she continued this kind and loving style of mothering. For example when we first moved to the north of France, our new landlord wanted a guarantor for the rent, because at the time I didn't have a job. Fair enough. She refused to sign the guarantor papers because 1/ she actually genuinely thought we'd default on the rent (which was, incidentally, more than manageable on just Hubby's income), 2/ she didn't want to be liable for that. So she would have rather seen her son (her only child) homeless. Nice!

The coup de grâce came late in 2007, just a few days before Christmas. We'd been visiting in November and had used her wifi connection to go online. As you'll know, if you have a wireless broadband router, this requires use of a WEP key (security number), which gives you access to the internet connection of the router. It doesn't give you access to anything else. Such as the email account of the line subscriber. I mean, it might do, but I certainly wouldn't have the first clue on how to go about getting that.

However, mother-in-law decided that we had "hacked" into her emails (like either of us is sufficiently interested in her boring life to want to read her emails! Just cos she'd *love* to be able to see ours). So she went to the Orange shop and asked them to change her email address. And she told the man in the Orange shop that we had used her wireless broadband connection. And this was, apparently, hacking! "And so I went and porté plainte" (she said this, word for word, to Hubby). Porter plainte means to make a complaint, but not just to anyone. You make a plainte to the police.

So here we have mother-in-law telling Hubby that she had reported him to the police for hacking her wifi and email account. I'll let you imagine for a moment just how you would feel if your dear mother were to say to you that she'd reported you to the police for computer hacking. In the scenario, I'd ask you also to imagine that you're going through a very rocky patch with your employer (any excuse to dismiss you and they'd jump on it), and that your whole career to this point has been in data networks (and, specifically, network security). Are you building up a scene of utter disbelief/shock/massive panic? You're getting somewhere near how Hubby was feeling.

Turns out of course that no report was ever filed, she had made it up. But just exactly what sort of a person thinks it's OK to say that sort of thing to their child? Or anyone, for that matter. Somebody who doesn't ever think about the effect their words and actions have on others. Or somebody very spiteful indeed.

Which ever one it is, Hubby was pretty hurt and pretty cross. Who can blame him. So he more or less cut her off. This, coming after a lifetime of snide remarks, cruel comments, unkind actions... it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Hubby decided he'd rather not have a mother than have one who had the potential to make him feel shitty every time he spoke to her.

So for the last 2 and a half years, he has had near zero contact with her. I'd say "c'mon, you only have one mum, even if she is a nasty piece of work." But he'd reply "I'm waiting for an apology." (Hubby can be quite stubborn!) Yerrrssss, I can understand that. But to get to the point of an apology, the "wronger" has to first be aware that they have wronged the "wrongee". Most people can grasp that concept, but in mother-in-law's skewed reality, she cannot possibly the be cause of any one single negative emotion Hubby has ever experienced in his life.

[Thanks for sticking with me, I'm getting there]

Anyway, after all this time she has finally found a way to lure him to her witch's lair. She sent an email saying she was having a big chuck out and what did he want to do with his college notes/old toys/blah blah. I could see he was swithering because there are some items in his mother's flat that he would quite like to get back. So he plucked up all his courage and headed off to the West (hahah, not really, she lives south of us, but it makes us laugh).

The big event was yesterday morning. She asked him why we never came to visit any more. He pointed out to her that the things she had said in December 2007 had been just a wee bit unkind and hurtful, and that he had been just a wee bit upset about it all. And, much to everyone's surprise, she actually said "oh, sorry". I mean!!!! Hubby suspects it was more a diplomatic, tactical "ok, sorry then, can we be friends again now" than a genuine "gosh, I didn't mean to be unkind, I *am* sorry". This was possibly borne out by the ensuing change in tack: "ok we're friends again now, when are you next coming to visit?" Hubby delicately (or not) pointed out that "if I have a choice between putting up with the cruel things you say to me [and consequently feeling shit], or not having any contact with you, well, the not having any contact is working for me." Ouch.

He is quite pleased, because he got his grandfather's hunting rifle (left to him in the grandfather's will). Mother-in-law did raise some concerns that I might get my hands on it and drive down to her dragon's den and shoot her. Ha! Hmm, let me mull that one over.... Nah. I don't give enough of a shit. I suspect she watches too much telly and thinks she lives in a naff American soap opera (lots of them on French daytime TV) where these kinds of things happen. I know I've got a temper, but hey.

Last night the gang and I had a shot a some champagne-fuelled psychoanalysis. We couldn't decide whether she is a schizophrenic with persecutory delusions, or a sociopath (is it sociopaths who can have "apparently" functional relationships but don't feel empathy?). But then we ordered pizza and watched a DVD because it was more fun.

(Have just asked the all-knowing and cast-iron reliable Wikipedia: looks like it's the pyscopaths who can form "apparently" normal relationships. Must be a pyscopath then.)

I wonder where things go from here. When I have my magnanimous hat on, I think "well, he's thrown her a rope." In saying he'd rather have no contact with her than listen to her nastiness, she can deduct that, if she wants to see more of him, she needs to bite her forked tongue. But maybe he's only given her enough rope to hang herself with. Which, when I have my self-serving hat on, I quite relish. After all, let us not forget the row that was had in our house just after we moved in. She insisted she wanted to be here for the move (to stick her beak in). Not the best idea, with hindsight. I was irritable and short-tempered, she was itching for a fight. She shouted at me (in my own home). I shouted back. Later in the evening I decided I was partly to blame and went to apologise and make the peace. She said "get out of my sight, I don't want to look at you or hear your voice and I certainly don't want to listen to your apology." Riiiiight. Her visit ended there.

I would say I'm justified in saying if she's all alone and her son won't have anything to do with her, it's nobody's fault but her own. I can fully see Hubby's point of view when he says that even if he did let her back into his life, he could never trust her not to revert to type and come out with something cruel and spiteful at the first opportunity. But the tiny little bit of me that is kind and forgiving still thinks he should give her a go. On strict probationary terms, of course.

So there it ends, my story/rant about my mother-in-law (the wicked old cow one). It's been quite cathartic to write it all down in fact. Even if I could easily write twice as much again about all the ups and downs! I haven't ever really blogged about this stuff before, because one never knows exactly who reads one's blog. But I don't care!


Anonymous said...

Does it not feel great, when we let it all out ;-) Shame we can't choose our family!!

Anonymous said...

That kind of suck :-( For you obviously, although you are lucky to have a nice step-mother in law. But for your husband too, his childhood probably wasn't much fun...

She can porter plainte all she wants, I doubt the police will ever listen!

Z said...

I find all that so sad. The relationships that have brought me greatest joy are those I have with my grown-up children and their partners. `if it were something that had come on with age, it could be due to the first signs of Alzheimer's or alcoholism (my paternal grandmother was alcoholic and cruel with it, I'm told) or the bitterness of a disappointing life, but she seems to have been like it always. I'm sorry for your husband, it's hard to accept from a mother. But if it were I, I think I'd cut her out of my life.

Brennig said...

Bloody hell on a bike! I thought my mother was crazy! Actually, she is. Madder than a box of snakes. But your MIL sounds like she's from the same place. I haven't spoken to my mother in 20 years. I like it like that.

Lis of the North said...

@sugar007 Ranting is good for the soul (in moderation)! Hope all well with you?

@Zhu It is tough for my husband indeed. I wish I had a magic wand!
I'm enjoying your photo series ;)

@Z My mum feels the same way, she thinks it is such a shame on a basic human relationships level. It is a bit of a waste of life, I wish she could open her eyes and see that things don't need to be a fight all the time. I think the roots are part in her upbringing, part in her feeling life has done wrong by her. But there's no need to take that out on your only child. Ach well!
Sorry to read about Milly, I shed a wee tear. You know you made the right choice for her. x

@Brennig My MIL is as mad Maddie Hatter, the mad, bad, mental madwoman. I tell ya!
I'm sorry about your mother. But some relationships can be so damaging, you're best off without them.