Barring accidents and terminal illnesses occurring up to the moment of the marriage ceremony, or if your intended spouse was “begotten not created”, if you get married – you get a mother-in law as part of the package!
This means that I have had two of them in my lifetime!
The first was something that could only have been dreamed up by either the late Les Dawson or the artists concerned with the comic postcards of my youth!
She was a large woman (much larger than her husband, who was TINY, hence the similarities with the postcards) with forearms like Popeye’s and facial and leg hair that I could never hope to emulate! If ONLY I had remembered the old adage about girls turning out like their mothers I would have saved myself a LOT of aggravation!
She cleaned offices for a living (I often imagined her lifting filing cabinets with one hand to sweep the dust underneath) and her idea of a night out was to go to the village pub, no more than 50 yards down the road, where she would get behind the bar, whether or not she was out with people, and wash glasses all evening.
I only recall one occasion when she actually went there to drink and that was lunchtime on Christmas Day 1974. She had several pints of Brown & Mild at the pub followed by several glasses of wine with the Christmas dinner and a couple of large glasses of Brandy afterwards!
Now this combination of food and drink would have made MOST people I know very sleepy – but not her! She settled down in her armchair, with another Brandy, to watch Billy Smart’s Circus on TV without the slightest sign of dozing off while the men of the household (her son and I – hubby was a train driver, then on “nights”, and was asleep upstairs) got on with our main duty – washing the dishes!
After a while we were both ordered out into the garden by Mother-in-law who wanted us to help her up a step ladder! As we’d had a fair few measures of Beers and Spirits ourselves we didn’t find it particularly odd that the ladder was in the middle of the lawn. Turned out that she had been watching a tightrope walker on the telly and thought that she could do it on the washing line!
We never did find out if the line would have carried her as she overbalanced two steps up the ladder and staggered across the lawn to sit down hard in the goldfish pond, laughing hysterically!
Naturally, Wife #1 regarded the whole thing as MY fault (as if I was going to stop her mother– she was bigger than me!) and things went slowly downhill from there. Mother-in-law#1 was, of course, not entirely to blame for our separation in 1975 – the fact that Wife#1 was bonking my (then) best mate while I was working away for a month had, it must be said, much more to do with it – but she certainly didn’t help!!
Exactly three years after that jolly Christmas I was a guest in the house of Faith and her Mum and Dad (who in 1980 were to become Wife and In-Laws Mark 2).
Compared to 1974, the Christmas celebrations of 1977 were almost alcohol free – Faith’s Mum and Dad didn’t drink alcohol and Faith, her sister and I had a bottle of wine between us with our lunch. That was it. No-one got drunk or did anything stupid and that’s the way Christmases have been for the subsequent 31 years. And most of the time we all still get on fine.
With the passing of our fathers fifteen and three years ago respectively, Faith and I both have to contend with Mothers in their eighties and they both have hearing difficulties!
My mother is deaf but can hear with the assistance of digital hearing aids. She does not, however, consider it worthwhile putting them in each morning unless she is certain she is going to want to have a conversation with someone outside of the family! Most of my face to face and telephone conversations with her are, therefore, SHOUTED!
My mother-in-law, on the other hand, can hear perfectly well. She just doesn’t listen!
Probably because most of her conversations at home are with her dog (which is the equivalent of 112 human years old and is both deaf AND blind) she is accustomed to conducting both sides of the conversation, sometimes without realising when she is THINKING and when she is TALKING, and only hears part of what anybody else says to her because she isn’t expecting an external response!
This makes for some surreal conversations such as the following which took place when we were on holiday in Cumbria recently. To set the scene, Faith had gone to a nearby village to get Fish & Chips for us and was expected back imminently; Mother-in-law was trying to get Lucy the (deaf/blind) dog into her basket.
M-i-l: “Lucy, get in your basket, Faith’s coming!”
Alfie (in another room): “Did you say ‘Faith’s coming’?”
M-i-l (as usual – hearing but not listening): “Is she?”
Alfie (somewhat confused): “Didn’t YOU just SAY she was?”
M-i-l: “Oh, I always tell the dog that.”
It’s hard work dealing with these old people! I don’t think I want to become one. I’ll just emulate Messrs Townshend and Daltry of “The Who” and “d-die before I get old!”
What’s that? Pete and Roger are HOW old?! Born 1945 and 1944!
Now I’m confused.
I’d better just stay my current mental age of 26.