In mid-October of 2010, some four plus months after we last spoke with NMIL, she called us. We screened the call. The message she left must have been hosted by Pity Party Central. She spoke with her most practiced timid-little-girl voice and said, "Hi [DH's name] and Jonsi. Um. It's been a while since we've heard from you. Um. We miss you guys. Uh. I'd love to hear from you. I hope everything is good there. Um. I love you (DH's childhood nickname]. Um, so call me sometime, okay? We haven't seen you guys in a while. Bye." By the time the phone clicked, her voice was barely above a whisper.
DH and I sat on that one for a couple days. I was in favor of ignoring the call and therefore ignoring NMIL. I felt NMIL had played her cards and she was not in a position that she deserved to see us, certainly not at that point, and maybe not ever. In over four months time, she had done nothing, absolutely nothing to show us that she would be willing or able to change her ways and I felt it would be a really bad decision for us to act in such a way that showed her that was acceptable to us. DH, not yet completely ready to break the cycle of abuse, caved in to his fluttering hopes and expressed, to me, a desire to see his NM and NSIS. At the end of the day, his needs won. I could not be the reason DH decided to go NC with his dysfunctional FOO. If our path lead us to NC, that was a choice DH had to make. Don't get me wrong, I expressed my feelings and concerns to him, and he listened. He just wasn't yet in a position to say that he was whole-heartedly on board with ex-communicating his NM.
Rather than argue about it, we came up with a game plan, complete with time-limits, code-words, and expectations if we were to plan a visit with NMIL. I decided that, if we were going to wade onto the battlefield, we'd at least be prepared.
DH called his mother back to plan a lunch date with her. She didn't know that he and I had already decided that she'd be getting two options, and two options only. She could choose to have weekend A, at a specified time, or weekend B, at a specified time. No other options would be made available to her, and if she chose not to pick one or the other, then she was choosing to forfeit her chance to see us. When DH gave her the options, she said, "Well, what about this weekend instead? Maybe we can go apple picking!"
I didn't get to voice my thoughts. But they went something like this: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Apple picking? With you? Not on your life.
DH stuck to his guns and said, "No, Mom. You can have weekend A or weekend B." He didn't say that she was not at liberty to have any other weekends, and that she should take what she could get because she was one god-damn lucky Narcy-Narc.
She said, "Oh. Why?"
To which he replied, "Because those are the weekends we have available."
I was keeping my fingers crossed that she would put up a fight and forfeit a visit. But she picked a weekend and the plans were made. Lunch. Her place. October 16, 2010. I put it on my personal calendar with a doodled perturbed face. Then, she asked, "Can Naunt come? I'm sure she'd love to see DD. [Naunt's two kids] haven't seen her in so long."
Again, DH was prepared for this. I had prepped him before-hand with the knowledge that she might attempt to invite other people to our shindig, and I was not at all comfortable with that. So, DH said calmly, "Let's have it be just us this time, Mom." When she again questioned his choice, hoping he would back down, he said, "Because we haven't seen you and NSIS in a while and I'd like it to be just us." She relented.
We had exerted about as much of our control over the scenario as we could. The event was taking place at a time and location of our choosing. We chose her place, rather than ours, because it tends to be a heck of a lot easier to walk away, then it is to kick out an unwelcome guest from one's own home. DH and I agreed that if anyone else was there when we arrived, or showed up, during our visit, we would leave immediately, regardless of whether we had been there for two minutes or two hours. Speaking of time, we had a maximum time limit for our stay: two hours. That was my threshold and nothing more than that would be tolerated. We had a code word just in case one of us felt too uncomfortable and needed to leave. We were about as ready as we could be.
The night before our visit, NMIL called again. She told DH that she sounded sick because she was getting over laryngitis and her doctor said it was not contagious. I only half believed her. This was the same woman who would have knowingly exposed our newborn daughter to the swine flu, if DH hadn't made an innocent phone call to wish his sister a Happy T-Day in 2009. I conferred with my mom on the subject of laryngitis being legitimately "not contagious."
In her phone call to DH, she also asked what DD liked to eat, because she didn't know anything about her. Four months is a really long time, Dear Reader, to miss out on an infant's life. The first year goes by incredibly quickly: missing even a few weeks that early in a baby's life can be a big deal. DD was nearing her first birthday, which means that NMIL had missed nearly half of her life. Again, fine by me, given the circumstances. Like I've said before, that cold-shoulder business was actually a blessing to me.
Next, NMIL asked DH what size clothing DD wore. When DH turned and asked me, I gave him a look that said, "Why the fuck is she asking that?" Aloud, I said, "It depends. She fits into some 6-9 month clothes, and some 12 month clothes." I gave DH a vague answer, because I wanted NMIL to have a vague answer. It dawned on me what she was up to: She was actually going to go out and buy things for DD just in time for our visit the next day. Heinous, I tell you, purely manipulative intentions.
Finally, she inquired about DD's upcoming birthday. "Is DD having a birthday party?" She asked.
"Yes, of course" said DH.
"Well, am I going to be invited?"
"Um, well, yeah. We didn't mail your invitation. We're bringing it tomorrow." It wasn't a great, self-assured answer, and he didn't sound confident when he said it. But I couldn't blame him. DH didn't know what to say because he and I had not yet actually decided if we were going to invite her. He didn't want to say yes, though she put him on the spot to do so, because it could have been a lie. He didn't want to say no either, because he just wasn't entirely convinced that he didn't want her there. What she didn't know was that her invitation to the party was really contingent upon how our visit with her went.
What she also might not have known was that I was watching her very, very closely.
And I was so not impressed.
I already didn't like that DH's letter had been completely ignored, and that her idea of "solving" things was forgetting about them. I didn't like that she was trying to manipulate my Dear Husband. I didn't like that she was trying to out-maneuver us every step of the way, or that she had the gall to go out and buy our daughter gifts in an effort to exploit my husband's love. No one was asking her for gifts, that's not what we wanted from her. I didn't like that she felt entitled to an invitation to our daughter's birthday, or that she put DH on the spot for an answer about it. It felt wrong to me, to be giving in to her request to see us, after all the cruel and manipulative things she had done, and all the kind and respectful things she had not.
The next day, we packed up our DD and headed out to NMIL's new house. We rolled up to her mini-mansion...you know, the one she had just randomly bought and not told us about until months after she'd moved...and the moment the car stopped moving, I was ready to go home. Out came her two dogs, running in circles around us and barking happily. I'm pretty sure they were the only ones who were genuinely happy to see us, as they were the only occupants of that house capable of real love. We exchanged greetings. We entered the mini-mansion. Our voices echoed in the cavernous foyer. I looked to my right and saw a foggy mirror with a talking head in it. Just kidding about that last.
Some "low-lights" of the visit:
1. NMIL did, indeed, buy DD a whole bag of crap including clothes, books, and stuffed animals. I was not impressed. I said thank you and put the bag next to the door immediately, making it clear that I couldn't care less that she had spent money in an effort to impress us.
2. SIL was there. That girl never looks anyone in the eye. Or speaks to anyone except her mother.
3. While flitting around the kitchen, preparing her food, she said that she was "hoping to have lots of little babies around for Thanksgiving this year!" I am pretty sure that "babies" meant our DD, because I don't know that she knows of any other very small children, or that any of them would be attending T-Day at Naunt's house. I ignored this statement.
4. When DH went for a quick ride with SIL because she wanted to show him her new car, NMIL spoke mostly to her dogs, which was pretty funny. At one point she said, "Shush dogs. You're hogging DD. I never get to see her." Again, I ignored her. I knew the comment was aimed at me, since I'm "so mean" and "never let her see DD." But hey, if her thinking that way means I get to see her having conversations with her pets because she's too afraid of me, then she can have at it. It was funny.
5. NMIL asked if she could hold DD. We were eating lunch. I said, "When we are finished eating, you may." Had she asked again, I would have allowed it. But she didn't. So I didn't.
6. Never once did either she, or SIL inquire about my pregnancy. They didn't ask how I was feeling or how the pregnancy was going. I'm not saying this because it hurt my feelings. Actually, had they asked, my answers would have been so short and vague that they would have known that it was not a topic up for discussion. The point though, is not how I would have responded had they asked, but how obviously disinterested they were because they didn't.
7. NMIL asked if she could take out her camera to take some pictures of DD. I reluctantly agreed. DH and I were under contract with each other: NMIL could take photos of our child UNTIL we caught her doing something she wasn't supposed to be doing with the photos. It was an unfortunate agreement for me, because I knew that NMIL was only as good as her word, and her word ain't worth shit. The best I could do, given my agreement with DH, was say, "You may take photos. As long as they don't wind up on the internet." I spent the entire twenty minutes she had the camera out making sure to use my body to block her from getting any shots. She might have managed to get a couple, but I sure as hell tried my best to ensure she didn't get any viable ones. I don't even care that she may now have 500 photos of my rear end. Better that, than my DD. Before we left, I made sure to tell her again, "Do not post the photos you took on the internet." She didn't look me in the eyes when she said "Yes. Of course."
Leaving that place was awesome. Driving away from it was even better. In my book, the visit was a huge, flopping failure of epic proportions. It was clear to me that NMIL was never going to create an opportunity to discuss DH's letter, nor was she going to change any of her unhealthy, manipulative, and exploitative behaviors. The visit was evidence that the very best we could ever hope for was superficiality. And for me, that just isn't good enough. It's not good enough for my family, it's not good enough for my DH, and it's not good enough for my children. I've never been able to stomach that which is superficial for very long. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I marked our October visit down in my book as a huge, whopping failure on NMIL's part.