my mother-in-law is a pillar of confidence and social grace. she swears that ortho heels and a chiropractor are all you need to resolve any health issues that might pester you in life. she quotes dr. phil as though stating bible verses, is the only person left who wears turtle necks, cleans her shoes with a toothbrush, loves to use canned and boxed food, like any baby boomer born in the late 1940’s who followed along with popular culture would. needless to say, she and i don’t have much in common. however, since i gave birth to her granddaughter, she has become my second-hand man. the nurse to my surgeon (“diaper!” “diaper.” “wipes!” “wipes.” “butt cream!” “butt cream.”). a sounding board for all of my frustrations to bounce off of, my therapist. “now, dr. phil says….” she and i are in it for the long haul. who would have guessed? below are just a few of the things that i’ve learned from her.
1) drink black coffee. without putting cream or sugar in your morning cup, there is so much more room in your bloodstream for sugar and saturated fat in other, some would argue, more important forms. this brings me to number 2.
2) i, personally don’t have a problem (i can quit anytime i want), but my mother-in-law has a baked goods dependency. she is always jonesing, and, just like any addict, consistently finds an excuse to buy a cookie, scone, muffin or other such sugar-injected item everywhere she goes. not only that but by drinking the strong black coffee mentioned in number 1, your metabolism is sped up, pushing the sugar through your pancreas faster, the fat through your liver, making room for more to be added. oral confection. you’ll be able to tell when you’ve reached saturation from the way your heart will no longer hit a concrete beat, but will just kind of flutter in your chest cavity, and the way that the world seems to take on a sort of glossy sheen (don’t worry. this is just the sugar flooding into your eye lubrication. you’ll get used to it). your blood will slow down, become thick and sluggish, but as long as you keep moving, it won’t really have a chance to clog in an artery. if you do feel a traffic jam of blood building up, just give a quick shake to the affected area and take a few swigs of coffee. this should work to dislodge a cumbersome clog before it takes hold.
3) french fries are good for you. loaded with vitamins and all-american to boot. so, not only am i modeling healthy dietary choices for my daughter, i’m also being patriotic. well, paint a flag on my ass, who knew?
4) you can and should be happy at all times. my mother-in-law is no phony. she really is that happy all the time. a pessimist by nature, i find myself the quintessential person being dragged by the arm down a hill, half-asleep, groggy, gaining speed, tripping over my own feet, as i try to follow her down the giddy rabbit hole. it’s useless, i know, to try and keep up with her enthusiasm, but it does my foggy brain good to try.
5) it seems that no one but us knows about the particular parental struggles we went/are going through. it turns out that ruth and greg have extremely similar personalities. my mother-in-law is one of the few people who believe me when i say that ruth won’t wear a hat, and no, i can’t make her. she knows what it’s like to be drifting off in a chair while ruth is alert and awake doing art at 12 midnight. “ruth, don’t do that,” i mumble. “c’mere, and read this bedtime story…” after she finally climbs into my lap and puts herself to sleep, it’s happened before that i glance down at her pajamas to see them covered in marker and wonder, when did that happen? “how did she sleep last night?” my mother-in-law will ask me. “don’t ask.” i say. “lemme guess. she was up at 8:30?” “you got it.” she is familiar with the looks people give you when your kid is the only one crying in story time circle, the only one who won’t get a stamp on her hand, the only one who won’t be put down in preschool (she’s a pistachio people, we’ve been over this!). “don’t worry,” she says, “it’ll pay off down the line when she is an adult.” i believe her. i have to. it’s the only way i can make it through.
6) gossip is good. it keeps your brain sharp, your heart strong. my in-laws live on a corner. with no window treatments. they know who everyone is that drives by, walks by. they know all of the neighborhood dogs by name. (they also love real estate and know the recent histories of most of the houses in their neighborhood). my mother-in-law invented the concept of facebook, snooping people’s pages. social networking in real life. who needs facebook when you’re out with my mother-in-law? she loves people. and people’s stories.
so, if you’re looking for us, we’ll be out at the museum, corralling ruth, or peeking in the window of a house for sale, drinking our black coffee, offering each other sweets as though they might be turned down, always accepting (“would you care for a cookie?” “oh, i just might have a little nip.”). you should join us sometime. we love company.