We have stayed in touch on and off over the years primarily because I am the mother of her only grandchild. When my daughter was younger I was a necessary liaison between the two of them. Now that Cammy is an adult I no longer fulfill that role. Still, her respect for me as Cammy’s mother has never wavered.
We do share a unique history of memories to reminisce about when we see each other or speak on the phone. We both suffered tremendous hurt over the years from my ex-husband, a drug addict who eventually succumbed to his illness. Though our relationship may have been strained and distant from time to time, I always nurtured and encouraged her relationship with my daughter.
Proximity contributed to long stretches of estrangement between us when I resided in Maryland and she lived in Florida. It is not as much of a factor since I relocated to Florida seven years ago and we live only forty-five minutes apart.
My ex-mother-in-law was the most flamboyant woman I have ever met. She wore diamonds and glitz from head to toe. If you met her once you would never forget her.
She was comical, loud, brazen, and candid. Her outbursts were unpredictable. No one could anticipate what she would say or when she would say it.
Through the years I have been embarrassed, insulted, and lambasted by her, but I have also laughed until I thought my sides would split open. And there were just as many times that she loved, doted on, respected, and praised me. With maturity I learned to overlook her guileless comments and look to the truly kind woman that lies beneath.
Now, at eighty-five, she is no longer the woman she used to be. She sits in her apartment day after day hoping death will come and release her from the life she no longer desires. Though she does have some age related physical issues, her debilitation is primarily psychological. As a result she has willfully imprisoned herself in her home for the last four years.
Depression has subdued her outrageous personality. The outside stimulation that used to give her fodder for her uncensored comments no longer exists. But her mind continues to work the way it always did. She still manages to blurt out a few zingers from time to time. I know because I was on the receiving end of one during a recent visit.
My daughter lives in New York City and pays her grandparents a visit whenever she comes to Florida. Sometimes I go along with her as I did on the visit I am referring to.
That afternoon Cammy knocked on the door of their apartment and we were welcomed in by her grandfather. We had barely entered into the apartment before Grandma, still sitting on the living room couch, looked up at us and blurted out the first thing that came to her mind. “Randi, you’ve gained weight!”
I have been experiencing some age related weight gain. I would not say that I am largely overweight, I just feel like I woke up in the wrong body and cannot seem to find my way back to the slim figure I thought I would always have. For those who have not seen me in a while, the more “mature” figure might be immediately apparent.
Anyone else would have been appalled by the blatant insult she hurled my way that afternoon. She was trying to be funny but her comment did not land quite the way I believe she intended it to. It did not offend me; I knew she meant no harm.
I just laughed. She wasn’t telling me something I did not know, though I was secretly hoping the change was not that noticeable. I offered a brief explanation and the focus quickly shifted to Cammy as I expected it would.
Despite the initial insulting greeting she was clearly happy to see me. She was interested in what I had to say and praised me many times. Our visit lasted a little over an hour.
When we were ready to leave we all hugged, kissed, and said our goodbyes. Then to our surprise, as Cammy and I were heading towards the door to leave, my ex-mother-in-law revisited her indelicate opening sentiment. She shouted, “Goodbye Fatso” to me. Once again I started laughing, considering the source. Then Cammy and I left.
I assured my daughter that my feelings were not hurt. “It was just Grandma being Grandma. You know her—she was just trying to be funny.” Cammy knew her grandmother’s unpredictable ways fully well. She understood exactly what I meant and let it go.
The following morning I received an unexpected telephone call from Cammy’s grandmother. She wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed our visit and how great it was to see both of us. She never made reference to the “Fatso” comment, but she did make a point of telling me how beautiful she thought I looked. It must have dawned on her that her words the day before had been insulting.
She obviously wanted to smooth things over—to apologize without actually apologizing. “You look perfect,” she said. “Don’t lose any weight—you know how much I hate skinny people!” It was an endearing comment that I knew was sincere—the art of lying is definitely not her forte.
Truthfully it would not have mattered to me if she had or had not called the next day. I know who I am and I also know what is in her heart.
I laugh every time I replay that entire scenario in my head and have added it to the list of outrageous antics I’ve witnessed from her over the years. I feel grateful to have those colorful, comical memories to recall. They will remain with me long after she is gone.
Humor may present itself in the oddest ways. We have to learn to laugh at ourselves, and we have to learn to laugh at life.
“Grandmother” by JoseLoya on flickr – some rights reserved
“happy mother and daughter” © Creatista | Dreamstime.com
To to do list © Islandleigh | Dreamstime.com
“Blond Zebra Head (Laugh At Life)” by Join Joyce on flickr – some rights reserved