On being a mother-in-law

When this month’s AARP Bulletin arrived, inside was a story titled “Hi, Grandpa, I’m in jail!” It was only then, after reading the article, I realized the very same thing had happened to me, I should’ve called some authority and told them my story. Regrettably, I hadn’t.

To be honest, when this happened, I was numb and embarrassed at being so gullible; I probably made a damned fool of myself. My son Doug was gone for a doctor’s appointment, and I’d just gotten up from a much-needed nap. I was still half asleep. The phone rang and a young man said, “Hi, Grandma, this is Curt.” I said “Who?” “Curt,” He said, I’m your grandson, your only grandson.”

Of course this is true because he’s my only grandson and Doug’s only son. What continued was his telling me he was in legal trouble in Mexico and needed some money. I knew Curt used to go to Mexico when he was much younger, but now he was the father of a young son and raising him alone. Why would he be there? I still didn’t realize it was a scam.

Replying, I said his dad and I didn’t have the amount of money he was asking for and that he should call his mother. He said he would call back and hung up. I found her number and called, telling her what had happened. About 10 minutes later, I got a call from my granddaughter, Curt’s sister. They live together raising their children. “Why did you call my mother and get her all upset.”

She asked. “Curt’s fine, he’s at work.” Of course, it was then that it finally hit my stupid brain — it was a scam. I told her that gee, I was sorry I’d upset her mother. However, what if Curt had really been in trouble? Upset, I hung up. This needs some explanation.

Curt’s mom is the only one of five daughters-in-law that doesn’t like me.

Thankfully, she’s always been a wonderful mother and a real hard worker. I admire her a great deal. Why she doesn’t care for me, I don’t know. My other daughters-in-law and I get along just fine. I mind my own business, and they mind theirs. I consider one, Erlene, as my best friend. I once spent six months staying with her and her husband my son Don, Jr.

We still talk about how much fun we had Saturdays during that long stay she calls the time her mother-in-law came on Labor Day and stayed until Easter. All of this brought to mind why I have this attitude about staying out of my children’s private lives. Even when they ask for advice I’m reluctant to answer. But it wasn’t always that way.

When I first got married, I was this naïve little girl. wanting everyone to like me, especially my new husband’s family. Then there was his mother, the woman I called Addie. Her favorite word for anything I said or did, was advice always followed by a BUT! I lived with this for 25 years, never realizing that I should either never tell her anything she could add with advice, or tell her where to go.

Believe me, my not doing either of those things cost me a great deal of pain and had a good deal to do with why I divorced her son. Just after World War II, Don, Sr. and I — now with two young sons — had the usual money problems. Don had returned to his previous job and they hadn’t given him a decent raise considering the two years he had been in uniform.

My personal problem was that I badly needed clothes that fit. I had a couple of nice dresses for church but just needed some cotton dresses for every day. Back then, in the 1940s, women didn’t wear pants and there was nothing called jeans. I was desperate and took a whole two dollars with me to try and find something at a local store. Instead I passed a store selling yard goods.

Venturing inside, I bought enough material to make two cotton skirts. I got busy and made them, being very proud of what I’d accomplished. When I told my mother-in-law she replied — “But why didn’t you just buy enough material for one, instead of two?”

This woman just drove me crazy. Now you know why I try to keep my advice to myself and not be the mother-in-law from “you know where.”

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at news@lahontanvalleynews.com


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