Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What do you say, dear?

My MIL called, somewhat out of the blue, to invite my daughter and me to lunch. Actually, I think she was expecting me to be sick, and was going to offer to take my daughter out for a bit to give me a break.

Very nice.

Obviously, we don't see the in-laws much (read, at all) since my husband's death. I can count our interactions on the fingers of one hand...and that's in 18 months (how can it have been so long? That seems unreal). So this was a nice gesture, and following my basic principle, which is "if they make an effort to see us or include us, accept if it is humanly possible," I accepted. So what if the papers didn't get graded for an extra day? My daughter needs to know these people, who can presumably tell her about her father (that is, assuming they will).

We had a very nice visit. Daughter was cheerful and loving and chose a special picture for Grandma. Grandma brought some books that were Papa's when he was a boy. We went to my favorite lunch spot.

Where my mother-in-law said, apropos of nothing, "You need to get married again."

In principle, I can't disagree. I loved being married, although I strongly suspect that had an awful lot to do with the fact that I adored my husband and pretty much enjoyed being around him every moment--which is not, given my cranky, crabby self, my typical reaction to lots of togetherness.

But I can't get past this eagerness on the part of my husband's family to set him aside and move on. It feels as though he has been erased; not only as if he is gone—okay, there's a certain reality in that—but as if he never was, and as if the momentum has to be all forward, all the time, with no space for nostalgia or remembering.

My plan is to do what I can to bring him with me, as my daughter and I move forward. It will never be enough, to be sure, but it's better than the alternative. I can't do it their way.

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At 7:54 AM , Blogger Julia said...

Why is it that really great men sometimes come with really crappy families? My MIL thinks we should put the death and stillbirth of our son behind us and "move on." Having my husband here with me certainly makes her more bearable.
I am so sorry about your loss and about the crappy in law situation. You and your daughter deserve a lot better.

At 11:34 AM , Anonymous Scott said...

I'm sorry there's such a disconnect between you and your in-laws... and even more sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the burden you shoulder every day, but I wish you well. Thank you for sharing your struggle with us out here in cyberspace; I hope we can offer you some solace as listening ears connected to caring hearts.

At 1:42 PM , Blogger Yankee T said...

You hold her, I'll hit her.

I know you'll lead your life in the way that's best for you, whatever that means today, and tomorrow, and down the road. I'm sorry about it all.

At 6:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know them, obviously we don't. But is there perchance a kind way of interpreting her remark?

Many families never accept if a loved one remarries -- maybe it was her clumsy, awkward, wounded way of saying that if/when you happen to fall in love again (and you might, if only because you had such a wonderful love the first time around) -- that she and her family would accept it? That they have come to that place emotionally might not necessarily be bad, right?

At 10:33 PM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

Anon, I appreciate your looking for kind interpretations. And to be honest, her remark was not in any way meant to be unkind. She was a single mom for a while (by divorce), and I know that she was wishing I would find a support system, knowing as she does how lonely and hard this is. She and my FIL (also a second-marriage) have *always* taken the position that I will probably marry again...in fact, they urged me not to purchase the double-wide space at the "memorial park" since I would presumably want to rest in peace with husband #2.

They are kind people, regardless of my grievances with them--all of which stem from our completely different expectations of how to be a "caring family."

But I still have trouble processing their "life goes on" mentality. Of course I respect their need to deal in their own way, but I am pretty sure that they see my frequent mentions of my husband as somehow pathetic and unhealthy. They have a "what's done is done" approach that extends to not mentioning him, lest it make someone feel bad, even for a moment. That's their right, of course, but I HATE it. I want them to remember him with me, help me learn new things about him, and to share him with his daughter. Clearly, this is not going to happen. It's just taking me a long while to come to terms with that reality, and for now, I'm still whining.

At 6:38 AM , Blogger Visiting Prof said...

It's unfortunate that your MIL is not more in tune with the way in which you want to remember your husband. And even though she may have meant it to be a show of support, it's still a tactless remark.

You know her, and we don't, so this is just speculation, but I wonder if there isn't a little projection going on here? I wonder, to be more specific, if, in her mind, you can "get" another husband, whereas she thinks, on some level, that she cannot "get" another son. Which makes her constant and urgent reminders to you of remarriage a little, well, loaded. That is, she must think she's helping you by showing you the way to find what she imagines as happiness: the ability to get back a relationship that she has lost. Which is another way of saying that her desire for YOU to "move on" may be a symptom of her own unconscious (or maybe even conscious, who knows?) thoughts that she is unable to move on.

Ok, so maybe "projection" isn't the right word, but perhaps there are some neo-Freudians out there who can tell me what the word is that I'm trying to find. But I'm not even into the psychoanalytic thing, so here's what I'd say without all the mumbo jumbo above: her proposal that you remarry is probably not coming from an insensitive place but instead a place where she is having to work out what it means to lose a child. As you note, it's too bad that she has chosen to "deal" with this in ways that are counterproductive to how you would like to keep the memory of your husband alive.

At 5:42 PM , Blogger OTRgirl said...

How bizarre! I would think his family would be the ones who want to preserve his memory the most. The one place where no one gets bored if you start walking down memory lane. (Not that any of us get bored by that, just the concept...). How disappointing.

At 10:41 AM , Anonymous Kristin said...

Delurking to say that I'm sorry for your loss. I also read her comment the way that "anonymous" took it: a poorly-timed and poorly-phrased but well-intentioned attempt to...give you permission? To indicate that her family will understand that you may want, at some point, to do this.

It is fascinating, though, that people (without realizing it, and without meaning to be hurtful) want the world to grieve on their schedule. My sister lost her best friend to cystic fibrosis when they were 16. Sister's boyfriend's mother - in the parking lot after the funeral Mass - kept talking about how the classmates should not all gather together afterward: she thought they should "try to get back to their normal lives." My mother put her foot down: "This is not a normal day. Their lives are NOT normal right now, and we need to give them space for that."

I wish you space, and comfort, and peace -

At 12:59 PM , Blogger Snickollet said...

My jaw just hit the floor.

My in-laws have no idea how to understand my grieving process, and I have no idea how to understand theirs. Just as we were when John was alive, we are always seemingly at cross-purposes. I wish we could be more on the same page about it, and I wish the same for you.

Thinking of you often and fondly.

At 5:52 PM , Blogger susan said...

I don't have anything else to say, but I'm really just amazed that your in-laws can't treasure you and your love for their son more clearly.


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