Sunday, February 25, 2007

Missing my MIL

The little people and I drove up to Cleveland yesterday for a birthday party. It was fun. Always nice to see friends and enjoy a great milestone all at once. Another plus was it was decent weather and the traffic was bearable.

The big downer is that I am missing my MIL. I never thought I would miss her as much as I do. The reality is we were not that close. At least not in the traditional way. She lived to make my life difficult. If I said the grass was green she would insist it was blue. She also made H's life an uphill battle most of the time and for that I would often quietly stew. Never have I met someone so difficult. Never.

But all that aside - I am kinda missing it a bit. I guess I got used to it. I am not perverse enough to say I enjoyed it, but I guess it had become a normalcy that is now missing. I miss the phone messages in her heavy accent declaring - Susan, It is meeeeeeeee. (She made "me" sound like a really long word.) Or her litany of complaints about the neighbor, the cost of produce, the weather, the priest at church, the news, doctors & medication. I miss our Germisch discussions. The conversation flowing in and out of German and English, effortlessly. Not knowing the language flow was happening unless an outside party gave us a funny look.

The true sadness of it all and I have concluded this recently, but kicked it around for years, is that we could have been close. We both liked alot of the same things: cooking, reading, flowers, gardening and H. (I mean that is what brought us together.) It was handy that I studied German in both high school and college. I mean it made arguing all that much easier and in the last 18 months, it was helpful as her English failed her more and more. We were both strong willed, determined women. I admired her in many ways. She came to the US in the 70s at almost 40 years old. She self taught herself English for the most part. She left the only home she had ever had in a small village (I have been there and I mean it is small. I can walk from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes. Today it is roughly twice the size as when she left.) and moved to one of the larger Metropolitan areas in the US (Cleveland.) Not a path for the faint of heart.

Many times over the last 12 years, I have wished that we could have been closer, that we could have had more common ground. That I would have suited just a bit more. I am on the fence as to whether she liked me or merely tolerated me. I go back and forth. I mean we have spent a fair amount of time together. Be it trips to Cleveland to visit or once she relocated closer to H & I, dinners and the like. In the last 2 years, I had become a regular at her house. Helping with the grocery and checking in on things when H could not. I am who she called the day she had the heart-attack.

Towards the end, she seemed to be at peace with my visiting. That last night we spent together reading and talking, seemed like the truce I had always wanted. I wanted to make her feel comfortable that evening. I knew in my heart it was closer to the end, little did I know how close. I had wanted her to be at our house, but she would not hear of it. I had wanted her close to those who cared about her. I am still not sure if she understand that even though she made me nutts, I still did care. I kept facing the "firing squad" year after year, because I did care. As a human being and as the DIL I did care. On a certain level I really did like her - even when it felt a bit like a head ache that never went away- you just managed along with it. It was what it was and in the end - I ached for her, for H and for L & E. It was such a tough situation. One of her own creation - in many ways - but painful for us all.

We had argued about a month before she passed. She just could not accept the fact that her dogged determination to stay home until the bitter end was slowly killing H and I . It was a hard pill to swallow all around. Little ones to care for, a career that takes H away for days at a time, watching someone slowly slip away and trying to hold it together on so many levels, knowing that she was not following all the guidelines as outlined by those trying to help her achieve her goal. Watching the end was hard - so hard I cannot put it into words. While I was living it, little things escaped my notice - but now they creep into my conscience in a slow ebb and flow.

It is not that I regret anything. I just miss her. There is a place in the family that will never again be filled in the same way. I guess perhaps this is part of the grieving process, normal.

I would have gone to the cemetery while in Cleveland this weekend, but it was still snow covered. So that made it bitter-sweet. Not that I think you need to go to see, to remember - but there is something about being there and being near.

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