Burying the hatchet
Hopefully, this is the last post about dealing with the in-laws. The family feud is over. I still can't believe it.
Thursday night, Bill & I had a pretty big fight about this weekends impending visit. There is always tension & anxiety before any of his family's visits, but this was one that took the cake. After thinking about this visit all day & the events that happened (or really, did not happen) over Memorial Day weekend, I told Bill that I couldn't go on with the way his family deals with issues, pretending like nothing happened. I couldn't wrap my mind around being cut off from the family & with the attempted destruction of our family unit one minute, only to act like it never happened the next without so much as a conversation. It wasn't normal to me & I couldn't deal with it. It was eating me up inside.
I told Bill that I had to tell it like it is & let them know how I felt, or I wasn't going to join them for lunch the next day. That's where Bill acted like a jerk & forgot everything we've been learning & working on in counseling for the last 7 or so months. It ended with me calling Aunt Ju-Ju to leave a message for Grandma L. I only wanted to say one sentence & that would make me feel OK again: "pretending that there isn't a problem doesn't make it go away". That was it. I didn't get that chance because I didn't get a call back. So, I told Bill that I was going to say it at lunch on Friday.
Friday afternoon we met Grandma L, Aunt Ju-Ju, Uncle J & Baby B for lunch. It was just like the visit over Memorial Day, acting as if nothing was wrong & with me fuming on the inside. I didn't get a chance to say what I needed to say because there was some information that I wasn't privy to that came out in the conversation. After lunch as Bill, Logan & I were walking back to the car, I asked him. "Why are you meeting your mom at 9 tomorrow morning?" He slowly & quietly replied, "Because she's buying us new tires for the car".
This started another huge argument between us. I was angry for so many reasons. I was left out of communication, this wasn't a decision we made together & on top of it, gifts from Grandma L have strings attached. There was a time where we were given "gifts" that I didn't know about & she ended up throwing it in my face & rubbing it in. Small gifts, especially for Logan were fine with me, but not hundreds of dollars for our car. This was something that as independent adults & parents, we needed to take care of.
Bill dropped us off at home & drove back to work. I immediately called Grandma L. "I just found out that you are buying tires for our car. Thank you for your kindness & generosity, but we can't accept this gift". After explaining a little more & thanking her again, I sent a text message to Bill letting him know that I declined the offer. Not more than 5 minutes later, he sent a text back. When can we all meet to hash everything out.
A few hours later, Bill came home from work & we talked. He apologized for his actions & lack of communication in this situation. He told me some of the things that were said by his family (mainly Aunt Ju-Ju calling me names & Bill hanging up on her) after I declined the gift. We talked about what we were going to say in The Conversation with his mom. This was The Conversation that needed to be had for a long time coming. This was The Conversation that he (We) were supposed to have so many months ago. We were both on the same page & I had his full support. FINALLY.
An hour or so later, Grandma L came over. The three of us sat at the kitchen table. The same kitchen table where this whole feud began. I started, "I just wanted to get something off my chest. I'm holding up my end of the bargain, because in our conversation last Halloween, everyone wanted to know what my contribution to the issue was. I said that I don't let everyone know how I feel until I blow up & it turns into a huge mess". She nodded her head. "So, all I have to say is that pretending like there isn't a problem doesn't make it go away".
She agreed (which rubbed me the wrong way, because then why was she doing it!). Bill stated that his lack of communication with the whole family only made the conflict worse. There were things he should have told her & things he should have told me. He talked about how he's been working on this. He also said that he's not going to listen to anyone in the family who calls me names or says anything behind our backs. This was the support from him that I so desperately needed.
Grandma L asked me why I didn't say anything in the beginning. "Because I was making excuses about how you were just an excited first time Grandma. After our vacation together & your very rude comments to me, I realized that wasn't the case", I stated. She then asked what she said (she knows darn well what she said). There were many comments & I started with, "When I stepped on to the scale & said that I was at my pre-pregnancy weight, you muttered under your breath 'Are you sure the scale isn't broken'. That was very rude & very mean". She then said she never remembered saying something like that. "It's not in my nature to say these things", she said trying to insinuate that I was making all of this up. "It's not in your nature?! It's in your nature to call me vile names at my kitchen table. It's in your nature to cut me out of my family & attempt to divide our home. It's in your nature to tell me I'm not smart enough to be a Doctor!" I called her out on all of her antics & she knew she had been busted. "What you have done to our family was very hurtful & destructive. We're not going to live in denial & pretend that you never did this to us".
Then the conversation turned towards the resolution. She asked what it was going to take. "You know, at this point, all I need to do is let you know how I feel", I said. "I would like an apology for what you've done. I know I'm not going to get it & that's fine. But it would really move things along if you recognized that your actions were wrong & apologized". She then gave the lamest, most insincere apology. It was just quick blurt that was incredibly forced. It caught me off guard, because even though I wanted a (sincere) apology, I didn't think I would get one. And I never thought it would be as pathetic as the one she gave. In my head I told myself to just accept it & move on because I'm not going to get anything better from her. So I did.
I felt good knowing that I let her know exactly how I felt with Bill there by my side. It was a huge relief & a weight unlike any other that had been lifted from my shoulders. She knows she can't pull anymore stunts like this because I won't take it & Bill will support our family in that. I told her that it would take a very long time to rebuild trust & that things like babysitting Logan won't happen until that trust is restored, but I would make a concerted effort in letting go of my anger & fully involve myself & our family in restoring a relationship with her & the rest of the in-laws.
Bill then proceeded to make the suggestion that we start talking again, either on three-way with him or by email, reminding us that we used to do that during the pregnancy. This made me cringe, but I agreed that email & three-way were slow enough starts for me to being talking again. The Conversation was over. We said our peace & we were able to move forward from that point on.
The next day it was like the last 2 years never happened & I was OK with it. There wasn't any leftover hatred or anger towards her. There really was a truce. She wanted to take us shopping for Logan & she went on the biggest spending spree, making up for all of the Grandma spoiling that she missed out on, I'm sure. He seriously has a completely new wardrobe & a new basketball hoop (that he totally loves). We met up for a barbecue at Aunt Ju-Ju's (while on the drive there, Bill informed me that she & Grandma L had their own conversation & there's a truce on her end as well) & for the first time in ages, we were just a family again.
Sunday, Bill had to work, so Logan & I stayed home. Later in the afternoon, Grandma L called me saying that she had the sewing machine out & wondered if we had anything that we wanted her to sew. Again, I was caught off guard & thanked her, but we didn't have anything. A few hours later she & Aunt Ju-Ju came over. They had been shopping & picked up a bunch of shirts for me. I was surprised. Things were the same way this morning when we all went out for breakfast. Everyone was making an effort, a real sincere effort, to get back to normal again.
After many months of stress, anxiety, pain, the very heavy feelings...it's over. It feels strange to have had those feelings for so long & then not feel anything else but relief. It's freeing. I've also really learned what forgiveness means to me. It's not dismissing the past for other people, but figuring out what it takes to get myself to move forward. Forgiveness is having the strength to say what I need to say & as long as I'm doing that, it doesn't matter what anyone else has done or will do.
I've thought about how this whole situation was so similar to a physical wound. It was like I had been stabbed or shot & had a gaping hole that needed major surgery to heal. I never had the surgery & was left with an open sore. Each visit that went by without a resolution or even a conversation, it was like handfuls of salt were being rubbed into that open sore. After counseling & this final conversation, the surgery has been done & the stitches are in. It's going to take some time to completely heal & I'll be careful for a while, making sure I won't get hurt again. Eventually, I will have recovered & I'll be left with an impressive scar. I will never be able to fully forget what has happened, but it won't consume my life & energy.