Don’t Tell Mama

Is it bad karma to ignore or alter the wishes of the dead?

The outrageous unfolding of my newly deceased mother in law’s estate, in which, you may recall, she stiffed her two sons, stumbles on. For all those outraged on behalf of the Lord & Master and his brother, the final insult remains intact. That is, there is zero coming to them from the annuities by which Old Ironsides provided for herself in style.

And now we have the debacle of her headstone. Just as she spent a mini-fortune on her funeral, the m.i.l. also prepaid for a headstone with the following outrageously untrue language: “Beloved Wife, Mother, and Grandmother. Loved By All.” My fingers can barely type out these words.

While struggling through a long decline, my father in law informed his caretaker, “I wanna get better so I can beat the shit out of my wife.” You don’t hear that every day. Old Ironsides, in turn, showed her affection by pouring the urine from his plastic bucket over him and leaving him soaked in it all weekend. Neighbors in their posh Upper East Side apartment building called social services after hearing bloodcurdling screams. We’re pretty sure she smothered him to death, but, then, how can we ever prove that? She did emerge from their bedroom to smugly say, “It’s all mine now.”

No one at the senior hotel at which she lived would sit at the same dining table with her, not even the Alzheimer’s sufferers. The administrators took the side of the wait staff and offered free in-room meals to spare them her insults. She, of course, took that as an insult and refused. Once, when Sassafrass and I were visiting, a woman whose mouth was severely twisted by a stroke still managed to croak “I hate her” as we passed. Even at the bitter end, Old Ironsides managed to get herself thrown out of at least three medical wards and a psych ward.

Not so beloved.

So, we debate whether to honor her wishes and inscribe an atrocious lie or just state the plain facts of her name, life, and death dates.

She was always, always, always about the “show,” the display of how things should look. So, of course, she went directly to the Hallmark Cards of headstone language. Appearance over substance was her creed.

My fierce, first response was to delete her ludicrous language. But the ever wise Sassafrass, she of the recent Tibetan advanced meditation epiphanies, gently taught me the true meaning of karma, which, to my surprise, is not a balancing of the books/getting even sorta thing. The true charade, said she, would be to change what her grandmother bought and paid for. And the brave little Lord & Master insists he won’t stoop to his mother’s level, but will honor her wishes and take the high road, as he always has done.

Without my daughter and husband, I’d be a complete savage. And that would make me too much like the late, unlamented Old Ironsides.

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2 responses to “Don’t Tell Mama

  1. It’s impossible for me to be sure. She had many blessings, but felt none of them inside. I always thought she was an imitation of a human being. But, truly, there are people who’ve survived genuine traumas who behave better than she did. There’s no excuse.

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