It went up to about 24C/80F today, first time, and it was sunny. My mother-in-law’s in a nursing home two or three miles west of here. I haven’t seen her since Mother’s Day, and I had a thank you note in a card with a picture on the front by someone she really likes. So I put on a short denim skirt, a white top with a scoop neck and cap sleeves, and my good training running shoes, and no sunscreen, and walked out to see her.
My mother-in-law’s very special. Drives me nuts sometimes, but really – I was kibitzing with my husband at one point early in our marriage and threatened to go home to my mother. He laughed out loud and said, “Yeah. Right.” So I said, “Then I’ll go home to yours,” and he said, “She’d have you, too.”
She sews most of her own clothes, and she used to design and make costumes for the little theatre. She and my Mum were in little theatre together in the last ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. Mum took time off, and went back in the late ‘70’s, and both of them took their children along. My husband and I assumed we met when we were adolescents, but we don’t remember meeting til our early 20’s. We were both seeing other people then, but a year and a half later we were both going at speed through a completely dark hallway backstage – from different directions – and crashed into each other. I don’t remember the physical impact so much as the inner impact – “He’s MALE!” That was in 1979. Two people can hurt each other enough that a light goes out.
My mother-in-law made me maternity clothes, and when the baby was born she put zippers in the front of the jumpers so I could nurse discreetly. I have an eating disorder – I was back-diagnosed as “self-medicating a severe post-partum depression”. I didn’t like it the day I’d got on the scale and seen 285 pounds – so I stopped getting on the scale. When I weighed close to 300 pounds, my mother-in-law was still making me clothes, prettier ones than I could find in a store. I lost almost a hundred pounds 15 to 20 years ago, then stuck for a very long time, and lost the last of my overweight last year. My mother-in-law would still make me clothes, but she had a stroke a few years ago, and doesn’t much anymore.
She got sick last summer and went into hospital, and while she was there, there was a mistake in her medications and she became suicidally depressed. She wouldn’t get out of bed, and the original problem was food poisoning – she simply lost the physical strength to get up and walk. She went from an acute bed in a hospital to a nursing home last October. She got out to my sister-in-law’s for Christmas dinner, but she slipped and cut her leg. She’s 85 now and her circulation’s not good. Her leg’s only just healing. They’re going to send her home to her apartment very soon, when the cut’s sompletely healed.
I hadn’t seen her very much last fall. My Mum had died; my stepmother had died; I’d left my husband and we’d moved him and our son out of our old home; my aunt was in hospital, then hospice … I went to see her twice in hospital, and told my sister-in-law, “I just cant.” She understood. So, I hadn’t seen my mother-in-law in most of the weight-losing process. Until Christmas Day. I walked in the door and into her arms and hugged and kissed her, and she looked at me and said, “Oh! Oh! Your mother would be so proud!” And then we cried like little girls.
I dressed partly to catch some sun today, and partly, because I dress brightly when I go into nursing homes. We talked for an hour-and-a-half before I had to leave. I hugged her and kissed her, and she pushed me away a little after, but held on, so she could get a good look at me. Then she said, “There ought to be crowds of men following you everywhere.” The separation was my decision – I do know my husband would never have left me. There are things I’ve felt I need to be forgiven – I’m pretty certain I have been, some of them, today.
I stopped at the supermarket on the way home, and bought oatmeal and coconut so I could make my Dad’s favourite cookies to take when I go Wednesday to weed his garden and cook supper. I stood there in the bulk food section, trying to decide if it looked like three cups of oatmeal, and wishing they had the other kind that needs cooking longer … and I looked at the scoop of oatmeal in my hands and started to cry. Life just swirls around and around.