We were watching my mother-in-law make her way through the small airport wearing bright pink pants and a wild shirt. She was hard to miss as she bee-lined for the counter. Two seconds later we heard the loudspeaker: “Will Mr. and Mrs. Giroux come to the front counter, your party is waiting.”
I couldn’t believe she didn’t even look around. Gordon shot me a look that I chose to ignore and we headed for the front desk.
“You’re looking well, Mother”, she should be flattered; that was the most he had spoken all morning. Instead, she was miffed when he sidestepped her hug.
“Hi, Mom, how was the flight?” I knew that would lead her into a full tirade and let Gordon off the hook for conversation.
“First of all, I wouldn’t call it flight it’s more like a butter churn and those waitresses are so rude . . .” I wasn’t going to interrupt and correct her. Gordon gave me another eyes-rolled-into-his-head look as he picked up her bags.
We waited at the front of the terminal for my husband to pull the Buick around.
“ . . . and you’ll never believe what she said to me”, my mother-in-law never waited for a response. “She said, what do you expect when you’re as old as we are? Can you believe that? Referring to me as old. Sixty-nine isn’t old.”
“Oh, there’s Gordon.”
While I threw her carry-on into the trunk, the old bag settled her fat little butt in the front seat next to Gordon. My eye began to twitch and I’d been in the vicinity of my mother-in-law for twelve minutes.
I couldn’t see my husband’s face from my vantage in the back seat, but I was sure he was driving with his eyes rolled into his head. Every time my mother-in-law came to visit, my husband turned into the most sarcastic man I have ever met. Usually so amiable, his mother begins to annoy him the moment they are in contact.
“ . . . I mean who really cares anymore, right?”
“Hey, look Mom, there’s a really nice retirement home. And the sign says they give free tours.” I love my husband; he had assured us of at least five minutes of angry silence. I lay my head back and closed my eyes.
“This is where I’m sleeping?”
“Yes, Opal, it’s the best we could do with less than two weeks’ notice.”
“Where do the boys sleep when they come to visit?”
“In here, or on the couch.”
“You make your children sleep on the couch?” She made it sound like I made them sleep outside.
I watched her unpack her belongings, talking incessantly the entire time. The roots of her hair were gray and the rest a flat black and teased to an inch of its fuzzy life. She told me once that big hair made your butt look smaller, but looking from this angle I could have told her it didn’t work. She had always been small, about 5 feet 1 and thin until her golden years. She was shocked when her son brought home a ‘big girl’. That’s what she calls me— 5’7” is taller than most women, but not gigantic.
“How much do you think that would cost?” She was facing me now, her things very neatly put away.
“I’m sorry. How much would what cost?”
“You haven’t been listening to me again.” She had her hands on her hips now. “I think we should look into converting the basement into an apartment for me. That way, I could have a little kitchen and my own bathroom.”
Oh, my God, she thought she was going to live here. Forever. Or until she died, and with her genetic makeup that could almost be forever.
“Well, ummm, I’m not sure.”
“Gordon can call about it first thing in the morning.”
He was going to kill me, or his mother, or both. Double homicide, I could see the headlines now.
“What about Charlie?”
“What about him?”
“Well, he has a bigger house and makes more money. Maybe you’d be happier living with him?”
“Living here I can see my grandsons when they come to visit and you know I can’t stand Sarah. There’s no house big enough for the two of us, and Charlie kisses her butt so much. . .” And she was off. I could never understand why Opal hates her other daughter-in-law so much. Sure, her eldest cow tows to his wife but they both seem happy. Like my father-in-law didn’t kiss this woman’s butt, maybe they were too much alike to get along.
I decided I should pay more attention to what she was saying from now on.
“You were too young when you had Alex. I can’t believe a medical student didn’t know how to use birth control . . .” Maybe I would stick with what had worked for so long.
As the door was opened, my mother-in-law wrinkled her nose.
“What’s that smell?”
I took a deep breath, “Curry.”
“Oh, my God, he’s trying to kill me. He knows I can’t eat spicy foods. . .”
She kept muttering to herself as she descended the stairs. I took another deep breath because I love curry. I especially love my husband’s chicken with curry sauce. I love this house too, and the cooking smells add to the homey ambiance. It had been built around 1940 with two big bedrooms upstairs and one down. Alex and Sean had shared this bedroom while they were growing up and the other had been turned into an office long ago. Only one bathroom to share with that woman was going to be a problem. I love this house, but we’re going to have to move. I chuckled to myself; maybe we should just leave my mother-in-law here.