So we visited Husband’s side of the family for Christmas a few years back. His aunt lives by herself in the Ohio Valley; every time we’ve gone there, we’re usually the only visitors — his cousins might drop by for a bit, but that’s it. That year, though, his sister (my sister in law, aka SIL) decided to grace Aunt with her presence. Chain-smoking Marlboros and sucking down cheap beer, SIL spent most of her Christmas Eve visit bitching about her teenaged daughter, who was dating a guy that SIL absolutely loathed. Said daughter (Husband’s niece) had evidently run away the month prior to marry the guy without getting SIL’s “permission”, and SIL called the cops. Cops found some things by the river, stuff they thought belonged to the girl; SIL heard the call on the police scanner and went out to the location, even though the cops had not asked her to join them.
SIL starts telling us — in detail — how she recognized her daughter’s poop on the river bank, that the cops didn’t believe her, and she started telling them off: “It’s my daughter, I know my daughter’s poop anywhere, I know what her poop looks like and smells like –“
I sat there, trying not to react, wondering if I’d really just heard that; Husband just stared at her. And SIL keeps ranting on about her daughter’s poop — not a baby or child, mind; the girl was 17 at the time and healthy– and how the cops didn’t listen to her & how dare they think she wouldn’t know her own daughter’s poop etc etc etc. Seriously, this woman ranted for a good 15 minutes on her teenaged daughter’s poop habits.
The cops found the girl a couple days later, safe & sound. That was another huge rant from SIL. Me & Husband weren’t around to hear that, thank gods, though we did hear about it from his mother.
Why am I telling this now?
Yesterday, Husband’s mom (my mother-in-law, aka MIL) called us. I’ve dropped the rope as far as his relatives are concerned; he deals with his relatives, & I don’t. My 70-ish-year-old MIL acts way too childish; she thinks that talking in baby-talk & acting like a two-year-old is somehow “fun” (spoiler: it’s not). She’s always acted like that. She’s tossed full-on temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way, too. So she called, Husband happened to be out, so I let the answering machine continue to pick it up.
She left a long, rambling message about how Husband’s niece has “gone off the deep end” and we needed to “watch out.”.
The girl hasn’t seen me or Husband since she was about 8; I remember her as an energetic, imaginative kid who loved horsing around with me and Husband. She & most of Husband’s relatives live in the Ohio Valley. Some of them pay a lot of lip service to so-called “traditional values”, as long as those values involve hard-drinking, bigotry, and bad-mouthing anything that doesn’t meet whatever standards are being touted by the latest Fox News broadcast. Some of them are great people, who I enjoy listening to.
Husband’s sister falls somewhere in the middle.
Bit of backstory: Husband and I met in college. Husband (then Boyfriend) was forced to drop out due to financial aid failure, though he stayed in the town & worked at a local restaurant. He was independent: poor, but still managing to stay on his own. I was a far-too-sheltered naive girl who was rapidly getting exposed to everything that I’d never been told about. Since I was still in college & on the university meal plan, I tried to help Husband out when I had a bit of spare cash, but it wasn’t often.
Into this stepped my Husband’s sister (my Sister In Law, aka SIL), who decided to “visit” him and ended up staying for months. Husband lived in a run-down slum apartment that he shared with two other tenants. SIL — as far as I know — never paid any rent or helped with the bills, but was always out drinking, had beer or harder stuff on hand, went through guys like popcorn (this was in the ’80s, before AIDS hit the radar), and in general, was hard-partying, loud, & obnoxious. She wasn’t a student, didn’t work, didn’t bring in any money, and expected Husband and his roommates to finance her partying.
Except for finally being forced to get a job & moving back to the Ohio Valley, she hasn’t changed.
With that picture painted…back to the present.
Husband gets home, hears the message, and calls his mom back. I ignore the chat; I’m in the back room keeping one of our fighting kitties company (things have settled down a bit, but we’re still keeping the squallers separated). I come out to get water, Husband’s off the phone.
“Okay, so what was all that about Niece going off the deep end?”
Husband launches into MIL’s story. Supposedly Niece (who’s now in her 30s) has been diagnosed “bi-polar” (oookay…?), is addicted to unspecified drugs & has burglarized a liquor store to support said addiction, and has texted her mom — SIL — “several hundred times” with threats and insults and other nastiness.
At this point, I’m eyeballing Husband. His family lives in the poorest area of the state; the Ohio Valley isn’t exactly noted for rich inhabitants. As far as I know, SIL has only been employed with low-level retail jobs, which aren’t exactly noted for their benefits (and her particular employer doesn’t do health insurance, period) and Niece hasn’t had any opportunities for better, either: no advanced schooling, no vocational, nothing. On top of that, MIL gets over-excited and dramatic about the least little things: she once called us 20 times in one day over a check she had sent us, warning us not to cash it, that she’d canceled it, detailing all the steps we had to take at the bank over this check we weren’t supposed to cash anyway — yeah, let’s just say that at this point, I don’t really care about her various crises.
Husband finishes telling me what his mom said, and notices I’m eyeballing him — he starts to defend the story, and I’m going, “You remember what your sis told us about knowing Niece’s poop back when, right?” (weird thing for me to remember, I know, but it’s the kind of thing that really sticks in your memory.)
“You know how weird that was, right? I mean, normal folks do not know what their teenaged kids’ poop looks like. You know that, right? And you know your mom gets really weird about stupid shit.”
He’s just looking at me.
“So…take everything with a huge grain of salt. That’s what I’m saying. Niece might have a huge-ass reason to be sending all those texts to someone who knows what her freakin’ poop looks like. We don’t know her side of it.”
That’s where things sit right now. We live well over two hours away from the Ohio Valley; none of his family have ever visited since we got married. I’m still wondering why MIL thought it necessary to warn us in massive dramatic detail about the Niece.
Though I’m betting on “excuse to gossip & stir up drama.”