Today I spent most of the day with my friend Joanie in Northern Virginia. We went shopping. I'm in the middle of planning a home remodel and have started buying things I need to complete organizing it before we start remodeling. We will be shortly repainting the kitchen and dining room and I have some fun ideas I want to use in each place. Expect photos when I'm done.
I also bought boots, fancy leather boots, for next to nothing and a pile of Christmas craft supplies on final markdown. But the weather is rainy and crappy so between the weather, my thumb and the capacious butt load of medication and pain pills I'm on I was ready to end the trip and come home at least three hours earlier than I got home.
When I got home I was surprised to see a 'Thank You' card from my passive aggressive super-fake newish sister in law. I'm still not sure what she's thanking us for considering we didn't see her once on this last trip and she behaved in some rather nasty ways before it was all over.
I left off my recitation of 'Christmas From Hell' with me in bed waiting for Jim and the kids to get back from their kava bar adventure in Austin. Part one is here and there's also a Part two.
When Jim got back he said that the kids told him I'd received a pile of emails from the SIL that I'd not opened. I told him by looking at the subjects it looked like she'd merely forwarded all the reservation information to me after I complained I wasn't in the loop on any of this.
I get oodles of emails every day and while the thumb was at it's worst I wasn't even opening them, just letting them pile up. Now I've read most of them but not responded to more than a few.
He insisted I get up and open the emails right then and there. I did. Yes, they were forwarded reservation information on our Airbnb house. But at the start of each reservation was a nasty note, things like 'You don't like the house!?!?! GET OUT and let us get the Maw in Law a refund. You need to get a hotel room on your own!' and 'I did all this for you and you are sooooo ungrateful!!!!' (really all she did was spent five minutes online without consulting with us or anything and booked the first full house that came up in that town... nothing else) and 'yadda yadda yadda don't take your rage and hate out on me' hateful screeds about a variety of things.
I wasn't going to reply to any of it because it really sounded unhinged and was quite the overreaction to the initial email I sent her insisting on knowing the house wifi password three nights before. But Jim insisted I apologize just to keep the family peace. I did, I swallowed my irritation and sent her an apology email, even if apologizing was the last thing I wanted to do.
The Sister in Law sent an email back saying it was no big deal and that we should get together that day for coffee or beers. I emailed back and said that sounded great, call me anytime.....and we waited and waited and waited.... de nada. Finally Laura and I decided to go out and hit the area thrift stores. It's something we love to do together and we'd already looked up where the stores were and mapped it on our GPS. I decided to call the SIL to see if she wanted to go shopping with us, or just meet for coffee since they live about ten minutes from where we were staying.. total silence. I left a message, we wait... total silence. Finally Laura and I go out and hit a few stores.
As we're sitting in the parking lot of HEB preparing to go back to the house my cell phone pings that I have new Facebook notifications and I open it up just in time to see a photo from the SIL posted on FB of a large complex jigsaw puzzle with the words 'Lazy Christmas with no plans is the best! Nothing to do today or over the last week so I finished my annual Christmas puzzle.' Laura and I look at each other and I'm going into 'Oh bitch, please!' mode. On the ride home both Laura and I conclude that our first impressions of the SIL four years ago as a fake phony woman were right on the mark.
How absolutely passive aggressive can you get after I've tried to reach out to her. At this point we'd been in Texas about five days and only have one more day to be there.
I'm done with her at that point. I don't do passive aggressive. If I'm pissed off with someone I might rant and stew for a bit, but eventually I do talk to them about it and I don't try to somehow 'punish' them in an underhanded way while I'm thinking about whatever the thing is I'm upset over. I do what I did when I needed the wifi password, I spell out what's needed in a polite manner explaining why it's needed.
I come home and tell Jim about this. Neither of us know what to think. Over the week Jim has started to get more upset over the way his family was acting and watching him suffer from the snubbing from his brother was awful. The next day, our last full day in Texas as a group, we get up and decide to go see the Alamo and downtown San Antonio for the afternoon. Jim calls his brother to see if he wants to go with us. Silence. He doesn't respond to voice mail or text messages.
Jim reaches his breaking point with his brother, calling up and telling his brother that he must call back immediately, that it is imperative. Eventually the brother calls and they have a very ranty and unfriendly conversation where his brother tells Jim that they've never had a relationship, that Jim is hideously selfish and demanding, yet when asked for examples cannot come up with any. It's the same old bullshit about when they were kids in elementary school and mom liked you best... ridiculous things to still be angry about in your 60s.
Jim told his brother that they owed the kids and myself an apology and the conversation gets nastier. Turns out that it is the Sister In Law that is the most upset. Why? Because according to her we've never thanked her properly for taking care of the Maw In Law. She wants monthly 'Thank you' cards, gift cards and lavish acknowledgement. I was aghast to hear this because we're both thanked her many times. Hell, I made and bought nice jewelry and sent it to her a number of times with a thank you note. We've always made a point of thanking her, but it's not enough apparently.
Which sort of blows my mind because I know many people who routinely do the right thing in life and do not expect others to fawn over them and make a big deal of their doing the right thing.
I'd already sensed three years ago that there was already some tension between the Maw In Law and the SIL but figured since I had heard nothing further about it from the SIL that they must have resolved it.
Life experience note here: You cannot dictate the terms of a 'thank you' when you give someone a gift or do something for them. I routinely send out thank you cards because that's how I was raised. It's how I was taught to react to someone doing a kindness for you or giving you a gift. Years ago I realized that if someone wants to thank you that they will, but on their own terms. I'm okay with that, I find life is much easier when you don't have those types of expectations. But expecting lavish praise all the time like the SIL seems to need isn't an indication of an emotionally healthy person. I have noticed in the few years I've known her that she seems very insecure and constantly needs to be told how wonderful she is or she pouts.
Okay, so I admit I made a mistake in blowing off her emails thinking that they were just copies of the reservation. I should have opened and dealt with the emails right away. Live and learn. Will not make that mistake again.
But I've also learned that usually my first impression of folks is right on the money. Three years ago when we'd been out in Texas for Christmas I'd thought that perhaps I'd misjudged the new SIL because she was behaving so nicely. I was happy and encouraged that Jim and his brother seemed much closer than ever and were getting along. The rule through the years has been that when the brother is married he doesn't get along with Jim, but the minute he's free and single he's all palsy-walsy again with his big brother. It's just weird.
We have a family meeting, Jim, the kids and I and decide 'Fuck Them!' we're having an awesome last day in Texas and we go out to the Alamo, get tipsy on German beer on the Riverwalk and enjoy the weak December sunshine as we walk around Riverwalk. We go home the next day.
One of the most disturbing things I got to hear from my kids was when my son said that from the time he was a little kid he always knew that his daddy's brother thought he and his family were better than us. I got to hear from my son how impacted and hurt he'd been by his uncle. Once I hear that I am so damn done with my BIL and SIL. I don't care if you try to hurt me, but once you try to hurt my kids and my husband I am just so done. I'll be polite to this duo if I have to be around them, but I'm over trying to be 'nice'. There's no more hospitality. When this marriage falls apart or some tragedy happens I will not be opening my door to welcome either of them. I. Am. Done.
We hear nothing from Jim's brother and his wife up until I share with Jim how his mother was calling me last year and complaining about his brother and the SIL. Jim starts making plans to move his mother up here with us. Which is what she initially wanted to do years ago but his brother stopped from happening. We hear from the brother saying that we can move her if we want but he's not going to lift one finger to help.
Today when I was in Wegman's grocery store with Joanie I saw a thank you card with a middle aged guy with super short shorts on, his pasty flabby dimpled butt cheeks were hanging out of the shorts, right on the front of the card. When you opened the card it read 'Thanks a Butt Load!' I laughed and thought that this was the perfect card to send to the brother in law but decided to keep taking the high road with these two. Coming home to find that silly insincere thank you card from the SIL was too much. What the heck was she thanking us for? We never once saw her.
I feel like sending her a note asking if she is either on drugs or did she fall down and smack her head because a thank you note was not really appropriate after this visit. But, le sigh, I'm going to take the high road, at least until we get the Maw In Law moved closer to us.