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In-Laws Can Be Exhausting

, , , , , , , | Related | April 24, 2022

My mother-in-law can be a sweet person but honestly seems to believe the world revolves around her and what she wants. One Friday night, ten days or so before Christmas — the busiest time of the year at my job — she calls me. She wants me to take her to the grocery store tomorrow.

I’m not sure why; she can still drive, and she went to the grocery store this morning with her best friend. I tell her I am in a time crunch and that my daughter and I have plans to finish our Christmas shopping and get some other things done before the holiday.

She starts whining about how it won’t take long; she will be ready right at 10:00 tomorrow morning and get it all done right away.

I should know better by this time in my marriage, but I agree. I forgot that no good deed goes unpunished.

The next morning, my daughter and I show up at 10:00 am, hoping to get done and still salvage part of the day. We go in and [Mother-In-Law] is sitting in her living room in her bathrobe with her hair up in curlers, watching TV.

Me: “Did I get the time wrong? I thought you said you’d be ready by ten.”

Mother-In-Law: “Guess I lost track of time.”

She continues to sit there.

Me: “Well, why don’t we come back later when you’re ready? We have a lot we’d like to get done today.”

She sighs.

Mother-In-Law: “Well, I guess I can hurry up and get ready.”

She proceeds to spend the next hour getting ready, complaining the whole time that now she’ll have to redo her hair for church the next day.

Finally, she’s ready.

Mother-In-Law: “Oh, now we have to go eat. I haven’t had breakfast yet. Can’t shop on an empty stomach, can we?”

So, now we have to go to her favorite diner. It’s a nice enough place but slower than pulling taffy. An hour and a half later, we’re finally ready to leave the restaurant. For all it’s her favorite place, she sent everything back often enough.

We get in my car and she tells me she has to go to the ATM. There is an ATM for her bank right there in the parking lot of the shopping center we’re in. I start to pull up to it when she says she can’t use that machine. I ask why.

Mother-In-Law: “Oh, it’s too dangerous to use that one. Someone might try to get in the car. I have to use the one in [City].”

This one is a pull-through. And [City] is halfway across the county.

The bank with the ATM [Mother-In-Law] wants to use is closed on Saturday, and the ATM is in the now back empty parking lot that backs up to a wooded area. To use the ATM, I would have to park, and she would have to walk across the deserted lot and stand at the machine to use it.

Aside from the fact that I don’t want to add another forty-five minutes or so to an already too-long errand, I decline.

I pull into the little glass shelter of the ATM and open the window to use the machine. She is nearly hysterical, going on and on about how someone could easily get into the car and how I am putting my daughter in danger.

Me: “[Mother-In-Law], the doors are locked and the windows are up. There’s barely room for my arm to reach the ATM, let alone for a person to squeeze between the car and the machine. It’s a busy place and there’s a long line of cars behind us. Do you still want to use the ATM, or do you just want to go on to the grocery?”

Mother-In-Law: *Sulkily* “Oh, just the machine.”

She gives me her card and I ask her how much she wants. She wants $100. I put in her password.

Mother-In-Law: “How do you know my password?!”

Me: “Simple. You use your birthday for all your passwords.”

I give her back her card and her money.

Mother-In-Law: “Oh, it gave me two fifties! I wanted five twenties.”

Me: “Don’t worry; the grocery store can take care of that.”

We pull away from the shelter, safe and sound — imagine that! — and drive to the grocery store. We walk in. The first thing [Mother-In-Law] does is walk up to the nearest cashier, who is checking out a long line of customers. Remember that this is mid-December, on a busy Saturday just before Christmas. In a very loud voice — she is partially deaf in one ear — this person who’s so concerned with safety practically yells at this poor cashier.

Mother-In-Law: “I just came from the ATM and all I have are $50s! Can you break a $50?”

The cashier looks at her like she has two heads, looks at the long line of customers at every register, and replies, somehow without any sarcasm.

Cashier: “Yes, ma’am, I’m sure we can.”

As we walk away, I say to [Mother-In-Law], with more than a little snark:

Me: “You should have yelled a little louder; there are probably folks back by the deli who didn’t hear you announce that you had fifties.”

Mother-In-Law: “Oh, do you think that was a bad idea? I never thought about that.”

We got what she insisted she had to have right then, waited in a long line to pay, and left. I made her and my daughter wait in the store so I could get them in the car as fast as possible, since I had no idea who might have overheard her.

It was now after 3:00 pm, more than five hours after her promised “just a quick errand” to the store. And what was so important that she had to get it then and there? One frozen turkey breast, which she didn’t cook until her friend’s birthday… in February.

But I learned to grow a spine and say no once in a while. Lesson learned.

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