Life is tricky sometimes. Relationships are complicated and not always easy. We recently laid Dave’s mom to rest and to say we had a complicated relationship would be an understatement. Dave and I were friends for many years before we got together in a romantic relationship, but it wasn’t until we were together that I started to get to know his family and as far as I knew, we were all getting along just fine. Dave and I married, we had Mason and Dave’s mom came to stay for a week or 10 days after Mason was born. It was awkward for me and I tried to talk with her about it. One morning I was making coffee and I said, “This is kind of awkward, us not really knowing each other and now related?” She replied, “Oh? Do you think so?” I went on to say, “Well, yes. Even though Dave and I have known each other for six years, you and I don’t really know each other at all, and here we are with a new family. I hope we can all be really happy together.” She didn’t say anything. I thought things were good. Dave deployed just a few weeks later and I made it a point to travel with our baby and dog to San Jose so Dave’s family could see him and spend time together. I did this at least once a month, in addition to sending cards and photos for the full 18 month deployment.
Things went along pretty happy-go-lucky as far as I was concerned until Dave was home and we were celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. All of Dave’s family was there and we were going around the table sharing what we were grateful for and when I shared my gratitude, Mary rolled her eyes and looked away from the table. I couldn't believe what I just saw, and felt! I stopped in my tracks and in an instant, I had the experience that people talk about when they say, “my life passed before my eyes!” I was flooded with moments when I had offered a gift and she rejected it, or things she had done for Dave and Mason and purposefully left me out, in that instant I realized she didn’t like me. I let here know right then that I didn’t appreciate her being disrespectful to me at my Thanksgiving table. She laughed and told me not to be so sensitive, that was her go to answer if anyone called her on being mean, “You take things so personally.” Or, “Don’t be so sensitive, it was just a joke.” Or my favorite, at Easter and Christmas she would shop at See’s Candies. It was tradition to her kids a chocolate bunny or Santa and when grandkids came, they got one, too. She never got me one, not one. One year Dave asked her as she gave him and Mason the Santa’s, “Do you have one for Kathy?” She opened her eyes really wide and looked at me, shocked, “Oh, did you want one?” How does one respond to that? The next Easter we were sitting down to dinner, she always made a rack of lamb, one of Dave’s favorites! As we all began to eat dinner, Dave spoke up that the lamb was tough and overcooked. I tapped him on the leg and said, “Dave! Your mom made that especially for you, say thank you.” She about came out of her chair and scolded me, “He can say whatever he wants, don’t you tell him what to say to me.” Wow, I was surprised that he being critical and when I defended her, I was the one that was not practicing good manners. It was at this point that I had to make a decision, this was not going to get any better, and after thinking about things I decided that I was going to simply remove myself from the situation. I didn’t put Dave in the uncomfortable situation of having to fight for me or “choose,” I simply let him know that I would not be going to celebrate holidays, I absolutely wanted him and Mason to go, but I would not be going with them. This was the way it went for the next 12+ years and you know what, to this day I still do not know why she didn’t like me. Dave tried to talk to her, and she simply would not acknowledge that there was an issue. I think she simply liked the arrangement with me not attending her holidays and life went on.
I share all of this for a number of reasons, first and foremost this situation has made me acutely aware that I do not want a situation like this when Mason gets married. I will do the best I can to be supportive of his relationship even if I have to perform an academy award winning performance. The other reason I share is to hopefully create some self reflection in others about how they live, and here is the question I’m posing, “If you knew your life was being documented, either via the written word or video, would you behave differently?” Most people I ask this question say no, but I bet the real answer is yes. It’s similar to knowing something is wrong, but contemplating getting away with it if you are 100% sure you will not be caught. Finally, The Monday Motivator is my story, it’s a weekly post about my life and the way I see it. My experiences with Mary are mine, viewed through my lenses and felt with my heart. In any case, this for me was a life lesson for sure. I’m proud of the way I handled it, but it was also sad that hers was the only funeral I’ve ever attended that didn’t make me cry.