!!(Long post alert)!!
I’m not sure if the word ‘Trap’ is appropriate for what I think, but then you decide at the end fo this post if there could be an alternative word that could best describe the circumstance.
For the last 3 months now, the GMIL is bed-ridden. A freak fracture, followed by two major operations and one minor has left her rather weak. The first operation was to place metal plates and screws around the fracture to support it. The stitches had healed admirably and she was back home after a 2-week stay at the hospital.The first month after that, she was bed-ridden. After that, the doctors suggested that she start walking, which she did. It had come to the stage where the granny could hobble to the bathroom using a walker and bathe herself. It was an achievement of sorts, given her age and weight (she is a little on the heavier side).
But the constant pain in her leg would not subside. One day, her leg started swelling up once again. A scheduled visit to the hospital and a couple of x-rays later, it was revealed that the screws were eating up into her bones which were heavily afflicted with osteoporosis. The doctors suggested removing the plates, cutting out the existing joint and replacing it with a steel ball-and-socket hip joint . Why this suggestion didn’t come up earlier, we will never find out. Anyway, the operation was a long one ( 6 hours) and by the end of it, it took a toll on granny’s stamina. It took her more than three days to come out of the after-affects of the anesthesia. For nearly 10 days after the operation, her condition was just the same as was post operation. This, obviously worried the family to bits. The third operation was to perform skin debridement, remove the staples which had become loose and stitch up the wound the conventional way. This was needed because granny’s wound continued to seep pus and blood and refused to fuse. But the worst part that disheartens us is that the normally upbeat granny is no longer her self. After the first operation, she was raring to get up and about. She ate as was ordered, had medicines on time and was essentially, an ideal patient. It would take her 15 minutes to get up from a chair. She would struggle for those 15 minutes, but not take help from anyone.
This time around, things are different. The GMIL is no longer peppy. She is exhausted, tired and just simply frustrated with her state. She refuses food and even protests when being medicated. The eager conversations of before have stopped. She barely talks to anyone and only replies if asked a question. Her eyes are dull and we can see that this time, the pain is beyond her comprehension. She just wants a way out, at her age (heck, at any age), this kind of pain is not worth going through. But it has to be this way. It doesn’t give us any pleasure to see her like this. Its hard on the family, specially the men, who’ve been pampered silly by the old lady. And sometimes, when the FIL stands besides her bed, stroking her hair, we can see him struggling to control his tears. Sometimes, when he thinks no one’s watching, a couple of them escape.
I know that the GMIL is a tough cookie. The MIL knows it too. We do because we haven’t been pampered silly. We know that she’s tough, because she’s been like that all her life. And maybe thats why, the MIL is so clinical about this situation. She has done all that she could for granny. Everything that was in her hands. I’ve seen MIL being very practical about granny’s situation. If she gets emotional, its only because she sees the FIL or her sons get upset. I see her performing the role of a daughter-in-law with devotion and dedication. Her actions speak more about a sense of obligation and duty, than love. Because after years of abuse, it is difficult to ‘love’ a person, however much ill they might be. Don’t get me wrong and assume that the MIL hates the GMIL. On the contrary, MIL is grateful to GMIL for looking after her kids in her absence when she was out working. I’m talking about the kind of love that comes from within. The kind we reserve for our mothers. The kind we hold dear for our kids, for people close to us. Slowly, but surely, I’ve come to realize that the MIL does not love the GMIL that way. At least not in a way that would make the MIL give up her job, her other responsibilities to look after the GMIL personally.
Unfortunately, the GMIL realizes this fact too. So though we were ready to keep a full-time nurse for the GMIL, she insisted that we call her daughter to stay with her. Thankfully, the aunt accepted our request. The last few months have been trying on everyone. Though the aunt tends to granny, there is the other matter of someone to look after the kids (other than the nanny). For the last two weeks, we have all been juggling our time to accommodate work, home, kids and hospital. The MIL is the biggest casualty because she had to take the maximum number of leaves from work. I couldn’t, given the stringent timelines set by the new Project Management people. The men had their own share of professional commitments, but still, we all bent the rules and made sure we were able to give time all around (this is one reason for the limited posts on this blog).
Last Friday, I went to the hospital after work and found all the other family members there. The third operation was unscheduled and the GMIL was just brought back to her room when I walked in. Seeing the grim faces of the men, I feared the worst. But it was the look on the BF’s face that broke my heart. I know he’s rather close to his granny. He was the one patiently waiting outside the operation theatre all the three times. He’s the one who’s pestering the doctors about granny. And each time, he looks a lot more despondent. This last time, he hugged his granny close and murmured into her ears. He wouldn’t confide what he told her.I’m okay with it, really. They do have a secret bond and I’m happy to stay out of that sacred circle. Thankfully, the GMIL is much better now (relatively) (Alhamdulillah). We hope to bring her back home by this weekend. After that, its going to be another couple of months before she can venture out independently again.
To be honest, I find myself rather detached from this scene. I know I care for the old lady, but my eyes refuse to stream tears looking at her plight. I’m serious, grim, but not morose. I know that the people related to her are fawning over her. She has showered so much love on her people that they all want to be besides her when she is unwell. But as daughters in law, me and my mother in law share a mutual camaraderie in our distance. Surprisingly, I’m as clinical and practical as she is. Which again brings me to the question, what holds the granny back when it comes to us two. Why couldn’t she give us the same love and affection which she showered on her relatives. Clearly, we are outsiders…..and at a crucial time like this, we are still treated the same. The reason granny wanted her daughter by her side is that she always vehemently claimed that she would never be dependent on the MIL. So though the MIL is doing everything she can for the granny, the old lady continues to claim that it is her daughter because of whom she was able to get up and about the first time. I don’t want to dis-credit the aunt. She has also invested a lot of time and effort for her mother, but it hurts to see the MILs efforts shunned so easily. I know that the MIL could have easily given up on her MIL and let the men and aunt handle everything. But she doesn’t. Even though its a thankless job, she does everything she can to make life easier for the granny.
Which brings me to the situation between me and the MIL. Till date, God Bless, we haven’t had any arguments. Being treated her whole life the way she was, MIL made it a point to NOT repeat any of granny’s mistakes. So for anything and everything, she treads cautiously, making sure that I’m not hurt by any of her actions/words,the way she had been hurt. I’m grateful to her that in case of any disagreement, the channel to discuss it with her is open. I don’t need the BF to take my complaint to her. She is approachable and affable. And it also hurts me to see the amount of effort she puts in to make sure I never experience how being in her shoes feels like. Why does she do it? Why does she work so hard on maintaining relationships when no one else cares. The FIL, being an only son, has always kept his mother above his wife or kids. Obviously, this did not bode well with the MIL , yet, she put up with it. She put up with all of granny’s tantrums, abuse and humiliation. GMIL, on her part, belongs to the era when it was fashionable to dominate the DIL, lest she turn around dominate them! I’m surprised the MIL didn’t run miles away by now, the wayI felt like doing the same after staying for one month with the GMIL after my marriage. I swear I accepted the offer from my company only because it arrived at a time when I was ready to call off my marriage to the BF . Obviously, better sense prevailed and I now live in a state of peaceful acceptance, if not harmony. Here, I must thank the BF profusely, for standing by me and at times, when needed, deflecting GMIL’s ire towards me. It is because of him (and also the MIL) that life at home became tolerable.
But I still wonder…….Why do we do it? Why do we hang on and put up with situations we dont like? Why do people like the GMIL despise us just because we are daughters in law? Why do the men in the family refuse to hear a word against their beloved granny/mother? Why, in spite of doing the best we can for them, we are made to feel lacking? Why do we love our men to the extent that we bear it all?
I guess I’m not making the best arguments in favour of joint families. I know it has its benefits, like the way there are people around to look after my kids while I’m away at work. People who love and care for the kids as much as I do. The FIL gave up on many a job offers because he wanted to stay with and look after his parents. The BF is doing likewise (He is all for staying together , believing in the sanctity of unified families) . I don’t grudge him. If I was in his place, I would possibly do the same for my parents. The problem being, maybe he isn’t all that aware about the kind of effort it takes to keep the family together. When too many temperaments collide, there is bound to be discord. I’ve seen the MIL struggling valiantly to fight it off and even succeed. It just scares me because I don’t have what it takes to do the same. Alas, I’m not as strong-willed as her. I don’t look forward to having the onus of keeping family together on me. I know I’ll try my best and I also know I’ll fail miserably. And that thought scares the hell out of me!!
Anyway, I guess it all boils down to the blood-and-water theory. At the end of the day, they are all related.
Me and the MIL aren’t. We are just caught up in their relationship web
( I’m not even sure if this the right anomaly, but at this point, I can’t think of anything closer.)
PS : This is one of the most depressing posts I’ve done and though it looks very dark, do forgive me if I bring out my family in a bad light. That isn’t the intention. They are good people, all of them. Its just that certain social conditioning is tough to break and though I think I’m working on it, fact is that I’m more or less going with the flow. Also, I guess the stress of the last few weeks, coupled with extra work (at home and office) and little sleep is making me miserable and dejected. I might just get up tomorrow, look at what I posted and scream in mortification!!
So help me lord
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