To say my father-in-law and I do not get along would be putting it mildly. In fact, to say he turns my stomach might still be putting it mildly. When I first met him he seemed ornery and crotchety. An old man set in his ways and prone to saying exactly what he felt when he felt it. Tact is not a virtue he was born with. But I chalked it up to the fact that he is honestly older. (One fact of life is that with Romeo being 15 years my "senior," his parents are a decade or two older than mine.) In fact, he is only about 10 years younger than my equally ornery and crotchety late grandmother. You know the type of senior citizen, I'm sure, who grew up using terms like "colored," and other non-politically correct things, and still says them, and way too loud. Yes? Anyway, like I said, I gave him the benefit of the doubt when while I was dating Romeo, his father would say somewhat rude things about not needing more when I would take seconds at family dinner.
Then Romeo and I announced our engagement. And the $#!% hit the fan. No sooner were the words out of Romeo's mouth than his father opened the back patio door and walked out into the night without a word. He ceased speaking to me for Romeo and my 8 month engagement. We didn't even know until "crunch time" whether he would attend the wedding. Rumors flew as to what his problem might be. What was the one that stuck? My weight. Suddenly his hairy eyeball and upending comments at dinner didn't seem so innocent.
Now, it should be said that he finally spoke to me to apologize for his behavior the following Thanksgiving. A month after my wedding. His reasoning was the age difference between his son and I. And suddenly I felt silly. Felt bad about believing for so long what family members had muttered. "Of course!" I exclaimed to myself, "No one could be so mean about weight! Of course! He just thought I was too young. Not that I think that's much of a reason to dislike me anyway, but at least it isn't my weight! Phew!"
Well, the "niceties" lasted approximately a whopping 2 months, until Romeo and I announced that we were pregnant. Slowly, the avoidance tactics and snide remarks on his part crept back in. And I couldn't put my finger on it, but...yeah, age was definitely not the issue. Nor did I believe it ever really had been. You guessed it, as I got pregnant, I got even larger...
Zoom ahead about a year, for the sake of length of this blog post. I have had Tybalt. Been hospitalized 3 months with heart trouble, and actually LOST 100 pounds from being tube fed. What does he say to me? He is "concerned" about my weight and believes I will die shortly. And he wants me to know that he will consider attending my funeral, because I am the mother of his grandson.
EXCUSE ME, BUT 1)WHO THE HELL DOES HE THINK HE IS? 2) WHO THE HELL SAYS SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO A PERSON WHO HAS JUST STARED DEATH IN THE FACE AND SURVIVED?
Needless to say, that was the last straw. I was the one who now resorted to avoidance tactics. I was shocked and I had had it. I discussed it with my husband (he had not witnessed the situation), and we decided that we would try to retain minimal contact with him for the sake of the grandfather/grandson relationship, but that I got a "pass" and if I never wanted to see him again I didn't have to.
*I should mention that avoiding him is not exactly easy, but not terribly difficult either. He only lives in the same town as us half of the year. He travels between Las Vegas, and his other son's home in the Pacific Northwest. He lives 3 months here, 3 months there, 3 months, 3 months, etc. So while I do have to "survive" 3 months near him at a time, I also get 3 months "off" immediately following it.*
Well the FUNERAL COMMENT to me occurred at the beginning of his last 3 month stay. So I avoided family dinners and functions for 3 months after that hurtful day. And when he left was able to have a happy 3 more months of family time with Romeo, Tybalt, and my sincerely loving mother-in-law.
But the time has come and my father-in-law returned about 2 weeks ago. What hurts even beyond his vengeful comments and lack of tact, is as I just mentioned I adore my mother-in-law, and when he comes to town if I avoid him I don't get to see her. I also don't appreciate spending evenings alone at home while my husband takes Tybalt to his parents' home. Remember, I may be pissed, but we agreed to foster Tybalt's relationship with his Grandfather. After all, the baby has done nothing wrong.
Okay, so after that long background story, we come to today: I gave in. We were invited by my mother-in-law to bbq for Labor Day. At first, Romeo and I decided he would just take Tybalt. So he headed over. But my stomach gnawed and gnawed. I just couldn't rationalize hiding in fear and pain. I wanted to spend time with family on the holiday, not home alone. And damn it, I missed my mother-in-law as well. So, I loaded myself into my car. I must say my stomach flip-flopped the entire drive over. My husband turned white as a sheet when I arrived. Nervous about how this would go, the two cats in one bag.
How did it go? I wish I could say well. I wish I could say the clouds parted, sun shone, and a double rainbow appeared. Instead, I report from the front that apparently my father-in-law still has a problem with me and my weight (or whatever issue he wants to claim he has...bottom line, he still has a problem with me). He left the house and stayed out in the garage for approximately 2 hours once I arrived. After that he came in the house, asked for Romeo, and they proceeded to work on a complicated toy Tybalt had received for his birthday that had yet to be constructed. This meant another 1.5-2 hours in the garage. After they were done, Romeo and he grilled up dinner and he proceeded to stand in the kitchen cleaning rather than sit at the same dining room table as me.
What does all this mean? Where does this put us? Honestly, I have no stinkin' idea. I do know that all that angst and guilt I felt about ignoring him, not speaking to him, and not being able to find the strength to be the bigger person? Apparently that was all unnecessary. Because even when I bowed my head and went over to the house today, he was the one that apparently still has a problem, and apparently finds the silent treatment and ignoring another human being as a perfectly acceptable option, as he displayed to me today.