I apologize to everyone in advance for how long this post is. I really just needed to get this off my chest. I've had a rough year with relatives and reading back on it now, I know full well that I set myself up for this whole thing by agreeing to go along with it in the first place. My in-laws are usually great to me and I hate that things got so tense this year, but I was left wondering when I get to take a holiday after this whole thing. Really, I'm kind of depressed about it, so please be kind in your replies. I was brought up to be a people-pleaser and to be patient with the elderly, but I have to ask at what point is it ok to draw a line.
OK, here's the backstory. My parents live in another state, so it's expensive/inconvenient to go and spend every holiday with them (which, after the Thanksgiving we had at their house, turns out not to be such a bad thing). My in-laws live about an hour south of us in the same state, so we usually spend holidays with them - not EVERY holiday, but most of the time, my MIL can convince my DH that we need to be down there with them. They are getting on in years, so I haven't made a fuss about wanting a holiday to ourselves. About three years ago, we headed down to their house for Thanksgiving, even though DH was suffering from a severe sinus infection, because "It would break Mom's heart if we cancel." We get there only to discover that Mom was sick as a dog and couldn't get off her armchair to finish cooking the huge elaborate dinner she started for the four of us (my FIL is completely useless, always has been, thinks everyone else is there to wait on him hand and foot). DH went straight to bed and ILs sat in front of the TV while I finished cooking everything because nobody else expressed any willingness to do it. I served dinner, I cleaned up everything afterwards, everyone thanked me profusely, and I said to everyone, "You are very welcome." I mentioned later before we left to come back home that, if anyone was sick next year, we all need to know ahead of time so that we could either A) scale back the dinner and save the back of the person who would end up finishing it, or B) postpone the dinner until everyone was feeling better so that we could ALL enjoy the occasion. From that day forward EVERY HOLIDAY we plan on spending at the ILs' house ends up with MIL getting deathly ill and not being able to cook. When we call ahead of time and ask how she's doing, she tells us she's feeling great, has everything ready, can't wait to see us, then suddenly she is too sick to handle it when we get down there. I don't know why I expected that this year would be any different.
So - I'm in touch with her four days before we are due to go down there, and she's telling me, "Oh, I feel alright. I'm a little weak, but I think it's just the weather (we live in Colorado and last week was when we got all that snow). I have a call in to my doctor to get an appointment and see what's going on." Every day thereafter, I'm calling her to check up on her. Is she feeling alright? I really think we should scale down what we planned to do for dinner because I don't want her making herself sicker. No, she insisted that a ham, yams, corn, peas, salad, new potatos, crescent rolls, cole slaw, and special stuffing was not too complicated for a FOUR-PERSON DINNER (I didn't mention the THREE WHOLE PIES she bought - like one pie wouldn't be enough for four people). I kept saying, "Well, we'll see." I have to say here that DH was out of town on business and got stuck in South Bend, Indiana, which is why he wasn't calling here regularly. He had a two-day drive back to Denver because of the airport problems.
So she calls my husband the morning we're supposed to go down there to tell him she's sicker than a dog AGAIN and she's been in touch with the doctor and he thinks she might be having kidney problems. Someone please tell me - WHY IN THE WORLD DID I AGREE TO GO DOWN THERE AFTER SHE TOLD US SHE WAS SICK?! I love my MIL. She is usually a dear, sweet woman, and I would have no problem at all cooking ALL of the holiday dinners if A) the menu was left up to me and B) SOMEBODY lifted a finger to help. I asked DH, "Do you think we should go at all if she's so sick? She'll want to entertain us and will probably end up hurting herself." Of course, the response was, "We should probably go down there just to give her a break and take care of her for a little while." We. Like he is going to help at all. He's already whining about the onset of another sinus infection.
But he won't hear of not going down there because his Mom is sick and she needs "our" help. So I silently rode in the car all the way down, knowing full well what I was in for and not saying a word about it. We got there and, sure enough, the house was FILTHY, MIL was laid out on her recliner, FIL was barking orders at her, and DH plopped himself down in front of the TV. I found a book and went upstairs to the guest bedroom to read. The first night goes alright, with me and MIL making Christmas Eve dinner together (it was lasagna, which is DH's favorite) and everybody getting along for the most part. We sent DH on a grocery run and he came back with almost everything on the list, so I was beginning to think that Christmas Day might not turn out so bad.
I didn't expect much on Christmas morning. With DH's marathon drive back home, he didn't have the time to shop for a present for me (even though he bought me several the week before and I said many times that it was enough and he shouldn't worry about it) to open on Christmas morning. Everyone seemed to enjoy their presents. Then it was time for breakfast. We ate the coffee cake MIL had purchased, and she asked my FIL if he would drink a glass of orange juice. Now, FIL is a spoiled child. He refuses to eat anything green. He refuses to follow the vet's orders and stop feeding their obese dog from the table. He outright refuses to do anything for anyone else, and expects MIL to do everything for him. So she's sitting there, supposedly sick as a dog, and asks him to have a glass of orange juice because it would be good for him. Without a word, he snaps his fingers and points at the refrigerator. She says, "OK. I'll get it for you." I turn around in my seat and say, "Sit." So then I get up and pour the infant some orange juice, only to to have my husband say, "Sweetheart, while you're up, could you warm up my coffee?" I whirl around, pour more coffee, then FIL tells MIL to get him a donut (the donut box is within his own reach and out of reach of my MIL). To which she replies, "Talk to Deb." I pretended I didn't hear, announced that I was going to take a shower, then walked out of the room.
I took my shower and went downstairs to read because I didn't want to watch ANOTHER football game, and pretty soon lunchtime rolled around. I didn't want to eat a full lunch because I wanted to have a bigger dinner, so I got some crackers for myself and settled down to nosh. DH is working on MIL's computer in the other room and says, "Hey, how about some of that leftover lasagna?" I didn't answer. "Hon?" he asked a minute later, "Yes?" I replied. "How about some of that leftover lasagna?" obviously, he wanted me to get him some. Stupid, idiot, people-pleaser me, I get up and walk upstairs to heat up his stupid lasagna. I have the thing unwrapped on the counter, and FIL comes into the kitchen and stands over the lasagna, staring at it until I ask him, "Dad, do you want some lasagna too?" He says yes, so I cut him a square. I then go back downstairs to ask Mom if she wants some too. Of course she does. So I serve everyone's lunch, then go upstairs to put away the blasted lasagna. I'm cleaning up and DH comes upstairs to the kitchen asking if I got any. I said, "I didn't want any, but thanks for asking." To which he finally recognizes what's going on and showers me with thanks for fixing everyone lasagna.
MIL came back upstairs to work on her coin collection and I sat with her, talking and eating my crackers while she worked. It was pleasant enough until FIL came upstairs to stuff another donut in his face. There were four crackers left in the package I had opened. He asked me if I liked them. I said, "Yeah, they fit the bill." He says, "Could you do me a favor and hand me those last four." I said, "No. I'm going to eat them." He said, "What's that?" I said, "No, those are mine and I plan to eat them. If you want some, there are several unopened packages on top of the fridge. You can open a new package. These are mine." So he pulls down a new package, holds it out to me, and says, "I don't want a whole package. I will trade you this package for those four crackers." I slammed my book shut, threw my four measly crackers in front of him, stuffed the unopened package back into the box, and said, "I don't want a whole package either." I turned my back to grab my book again and he said, "Chicken." I turned around, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "I'm not a chicken, Dean. I don't want a whole package either. That's why I wanted to only eat those four more crackers. They were mine, but you obviously want them more than I do. Here." And I left him standing, mouth agape, in the kitchen surprised that someone had stood up to him.
I shut myself up in the guest bedroom until my DH came up to inquire what was wrong. I told him it felt like I was waiting on everybody. He then started to justify, saying that his mom is sick and she really appreciates the help and I'm the only functioning one here right now because he's getting sick too, and so on and so forth. I asked him why that makes it fair that I do all the work every time we come down there, to which he started to throw a tantrum and defend his mom, and I said, "OK, let Dad cook Christmas dinner then." - which stopped DH in his tracks.
I told DH that he needed to help me cook dinner. I then marched downstairs and told MIL that we would be having ham, potatos, peas, and crescent rolls. That's it. DH and I cooked dinner. Everyone said they loved it except FIL, who fed half of his to obese dog and grumbled about not having yams, then stood up, dropped his napkin on his dirty plate, and walked downstairs to the TV room. MIL got up and followed him. DH got up to do the same and I said, "Uh-uh. You and me have dish duty." He helped me clean without complaint. That evening, MIL asked FIL if he wanted pie. FIL responded by saying, "At this time of night?" MIL said, "Well, I was going to ask everyone else too, but I didn't want to leave you out." to which he responded, "What did I just say?" like he was warning a child. MIL had gone on to another part of the conversation with DH by now and COMPLETELY forgot about the stupid pie, but FIL wouldn't let it rest. He kept saying, "Bren. Bren. Bren. Bren." until she finally turned her attention to him and he repeated, "What did I just say?" I stood up and said, "We all got it, Dad." Than said I was going to get some pie and went upstairs. I was a writhing ball of tension by the time we finally left the next morning. I was furious at MIL for sitting around expecting me to do the work, furious at FIL for talking to everyone like he's some kind of freaking king, furious at DH for turning a blind eye, and furious at myself for allowing them to take advantage of me that way.
So you want to hear the icing on the cake?
We called mom next day to find out what her doctor said and, Christmas miracle, there's not a thing wrong with her dumb old kidneys.
Why do I keep doing this to myself? I think I have some kind of martyr syndrome.