Sunday, 4 April 2010

Time passing rather too slowly

Dr P's second daughter, J1, aka SD2 or the Wicked Step Daughter, is now here, with her two children, and they are visiting us daily. Having previously stated they would never stay here again, she is staying elsewhere. Last February, after much agonising, and counselling, I wrote to her, in an attempt to improve our relationship. Her response to my letter was hostile, blamed me for all the problems, and did not address any of the issues I had raised.

Last year, when they made their annual visit from USA, it was awkward and unpleasant, but this year I wanted to be more in control and to do things on my terms.Dr P and I had briefly discussed her visit, and I said that they were welcome to come over for dinner, etcetera. I heard Dr P discuss all this with his eldest daughter SD1, who said 'Look, they just don't get on,' and Dr P told her that I 'was prepared to call it quits.' Not quite how I would describe it, but I think the message must have been passed on.

So we smiled, kissed and talked, and it was arranged that J1, SD1 and her son B2 would come for dinner. My second daughter also arrived, and took off to do her racing photography for the rest of the day, returning just in time for dinner and staying overnight. I prepared fish, potato, green, and tomato salads, followed by pavlova and berries, and had made baba ghanouj, and an orange and almond cake. I did my best to be friendly, interested and calm.

Dinner went quite well, ably assisted by my daughter, who chattered away about the mutually fascinating subjects of horses and riding. The next day J1 came over again with her two children, who had just flown in from Perth. They stayed a couple of hours. I'm afraid my tolerance level is being tested as they are such hard work. We have to make all the conversational running, and, as with SD1, there is never any reciprocity of conversation nor any interest in subjects unassociated with themselves. They returned in the afternoon to see old family friends, and stayed for dinner. This morning they came over again, but I cunningly went out to buy some more food, and did not exactly hurry home. They all need quality time together, unencumbered with the Wicked Step Mother. They came back for dinner, but this time they brought take-away for us all.

As my outlets for personal whinging are limited, I am letting off some steam here. I have smiled, been courteous and considerate, and have stayed calm, but it is SUCH hard work. It is unfair and imprudent to be critical of them to Dr P, who is doing his best, asking lots of questions about their lives, and then forgetting the answers, so he constantly repeats the questions. Every conversational gambit seems to reach an immediate dead end. He is trying to talk to the children, but they too are hard work, and probably are bored. They all mumble, so he has to keep repeating his questions to them! Now that I have heard several times a day about their lives, her job, their future plans, the children's education and achievements, I too am bored. Dr P has noted my efforts to be pleasant and hospitable.

J1 has taken absolutely no notice of any of the concerns I raised in my letter. Some of these things may sound quite trivial, but they concern my position in the home, my relationship with her father, and it is hard to see such actions as unintentional or accidental. At each meal she has taken my usual seat at the dinner table. Such seemingly petty actions are hard to counter. Either she is totally oblivious or, more likely, she is doing it to make it look as though I have no place in her father's home. I cannot like or respect her, or trust her, and I am very ready to be critical of her, but nonetheless try to temper my reactions with reason.

It is her total lack of empathy that I find quite incomprehensible, and indeed somewhat reprehensible. It must be very evident to her that her father's memory has deteriorated seriously, and that he is very feeble. Yet she never comments to me or asks anything about his condition, let alone express concern for me and whether I can cope. Because, if I can't cope, neither can Dr P. I just don't understand this.

They will be here in the morning, and probably in the afternoon as well - maybe for dinner again. Then they are going to the coast with her mother to join SD3, before coming back for another couple of days and celebrating B1's 21st birthday. One day at a time. They say all things pass.


Pam said...

Oh, you sound as if you're doing SO well. Even if also doing quite a lot of teeth-grinding. I can see that it must be very difficult if one's father remarries - not something I find it easy to imagine - but on the other hand, you'd think she'd be delighted to have him looked after. Poor you! I myself am all for civilised behaviour, no matter how one feels, and it sounds as if you're being exceedingly civilised, while she isn't. Won't you feel delighted, though, when they're gone and you know that you've behaved impeccably - or as near as any non-saint could be expected to!

Relatively Retiring said...

I echo Isabelle's comments.
How interesting to see your observations about territory and positioning - it speaks volumes, as does the refusal to ask questions and see anyone else's viewpoint. Once you start doing that you make yourself vulnerable, and she clearly has no intention of doing that!

molly said...

I so sympathize! When my m-i-l died last year, my f-i-l put out a book for guests to sign at her funeral. On the front page it said that she was deeply mourned by her loving husband, son[my husband],daughter, and grandchildren. It was a low blow and I was crushed, since I was there for her every day. Of course my husband made haste to write my name in, but the damage was done.

I read somewhere of a sign you can hang on your door. It says:

"Friends Welcome, Family by Appointment Only." Good, no?

riseoutofme said...

Families can be difficult can't they? Think of all the good karma you're storing up for your next life? Alternatively, you could get a picture of her and stick pins in it ... not so good for the karma though.

Meggie said...

I don't really know if I could be as nice as you. I have had some difficult relationships in the past with my MIL, and confess, I was glad when she finally overstepped all decency, and I forbade her in my house ever again.
As to your place at the table... why do our men let us down so badly?

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