my husband the lord & master became an orphan yesterday. old ironsides was one tough bird; the doctors gave her two years three years ago. but her time has come and she is gone.
i remember the very first time i met her. the l&m and i had barely begun dating when she blew into town. he dumped her on me and ran off to work. her main objective was to buy deodorant from clinique. i didn’t even know clinique sold deodorant, but off we went to the nearest macy’s, where she spend a mind numbing couple of hours dithering between solid or roll-on, large size or small. her decision making process was painful to behold. by the time we caught up with her son, my heartthrob, i was exhausted. “you’re mother’s a bit of a pill,” i informed him, in the understatement of the newly in love.
the second time we crossed paths was my first audience with my beloved’s entire family, or, more accurately, the whole catastrophe. the time: new year’s eve. the place: a fancy pants upper east side eatery. the scene: old ironsides screaming at the top of her lungs, “FUCK HIM. HE’S OUT OF MY LIFE!” to her daughter in law and ten year old grandson as her other son, the “him” under attack, nonchalantly sauntered off to the restroom. she had become incensed by the tone of his voice, or some such. i clutched the l&m’s hand under the table. in hindsight, i should have been running from this pack of wild animals!
indeed, i remain awed at my husband’s ability to create himself entirely on his own, apart from the insanity of this bunch. mommy dearest was the most unmaternal woman imaginable. she sent my brother in law off to eight weeks of sleep away camp when he was four years old, by special arrangement. yeah, really special. he was terrified, had no kids his own age to play with, and still hasn’t recovered from the trauma. her behavior was like an alien who studied human beings and attempted to mimic their actions and “pass.” if she had read that the average family consisted of 2.5 children, she would have had the .5 child to conform to the norm. no minutiae was neglected in her systematic approximation of reality.
old ironsides life was ruled by biases and suspicions. she hated me for years because i’m 1/4 polish. then, when she realized i was around for the duration, adored her son, and was raising a magnificent granddaughter, she upped and decided she loved, loved, loved me, little old 1/4 polish me. and i’d done absolutely nothing different. i always kept a smile on my face, even when she presented a then seven year old sassafrass with a five carat diamond ring and kept telling me over and over, “it’s not for you, you can’t wear it.” even when she proudly told me she was going to wear a dress she already had to our wedding, “why waste money?” even when we took her shoe shopping and she spent two hours tormenting the salesman by having him put in, take out, stretch, tighten and otherwise rebuild a pair of simple flats, then announced, “oh, i don’t know if i like them.” even when my father in law’s doctor said he could fly, even though he couldn’t walk, and they came out west and spent the longest two weeks of my life at our home. anything finite, i can endure, was my motto.
she famously accused the indomitable and loyal woman who spent a good nine years home nursing my father in law of stealing bay leaves. what kind of woman keeps tabs on her bay leaves? or even cares?
my words are harsh, i know. especially because it was my mother in law who lived in a constant state of paranoia and insecurity. this, despite her great beauty, good fortune, excellent health until the very end of her days. she was a master of knitting, needlepoint, sewing, and painting. she had exquisite taste in jewelry, clothing, and home decor. she made a mean pot roast.
i truly hope that she is at peace now. and that wherever her spirit rests, the bay leaves are plentiful. r.i.p.