I went to my former in-law's house this weekend. To say it wears me out to go there is an understatement. Driving home I have to will my hands to continue gripping the steering wheel. It's not their fault. It's not even his fault. It just is.
When I married into that family I thought they were good hearted simple people. Salt of the earth. My ex mother in law and ex father in law are both immigrants from Mexico. The came from different areas and met here in Denver, where they married and had four boys.
After a few years I was sure they were terrible people. Forget salt of the earth, think minions of hell.
But the truth is they are neither. They aren't simply any one thing. And holding the many truths about them in my head, that's what wears me out.
They love my boys. That's true. To the best of their ability they love them. Even if they do call Tre by his father's name. He's never gone by that name, even when he was a newborn and I was thrilled with the ridiculous name we had saddled him with. He's always been called Tre.
It's that "to the best of their ability" thing. They don't love children like I think they should be loved. There was a little boy there, a ten year old who has developmental delays. There had been candy passed around and he had eaten his and wanted more. He had more, in his goody bag in the kitchen, but his mom was too busy to go get it for him. He was mad. "F*** you!" he shouted, at no one in particular. Everyone ignored him. You just don't dance on the needs of any child, not even one whose mother was beaten so badly when she was pregnant that he was born with shaken baby syndrome.
But they do love their children, in their own way. And they love my children. Abby, my ex mother in law, was feeding Raphael cake at one point. I stood to the side, watching her poke bits of cake in his mouth and croon to him in Spanish. She refuses to speak English to him. She was the same way with Tre and Max. When they were babies she chattered to them in Spanish and scolded their dad for not speaking more Spanish at home. Now her son has nothing to do with this child, her latest hope for the future of her family. So she sings to Raphael and whispers to him and wipes her tears on the sleeve of his t-shirt when she thinks I'm not looking. She hopes her fervent burst of language lessons once every two or three months will help him grow up Mexican.
I guess that's the thing for me. I don't really have to go over there. But they have their wounds from this divorce too, and I can't bring myself to add to them. So I go and try to relate to them in all their complexity. It will never be an easy relationship. We'll never just agree on most things.
Have I ever mentioned the fact that divorce isn't freedom? Oh yeah. Well, it's not.