You Could Come Live With Me!
When I started dating Helen, I was nineteen, she was seventeen, and her mother, Maureen, was thirty-five. She probably asked the neighbors about me before allowing me to date her eldest daughter. It was in the fifties, and as the youngest sibling of eight, in a rural county, everyone knew me. I had done a few foolish things, but they weren’t well-known, so I passed the test.
Helen’s sisters and I got along well, and soon the youngest was climbing all over me. We remain friends to this day. Helen says she had to marry me, or her sisters wouldn’t speak to her. She did.
Contrary to popular belief, some men get along well with their mother-in-law. I painted rooms for Maureen, attempted repairs on household items, and even accomplished a few successfully; she forgave the failed attempts. I became the favored son-in-law.
Maureen had osteomyelitis as a child and in her senior years walked with a slight limp. When she was in her seventies, she fell in her living room on Thanksgiving Day, suffering a spiral break to her right femur. My son, Geoffrey, was there. He called 911 and accompanied her to the hospital. We rushed to Maryland and were there on Friday morning when the doctor who was to install a metal rod required a medical power of attorney. The daughter who helped with Maureen’s finances declined. All of her three sisters looked to Helen, the eldest, but then one of them said, “Ted should do it; he gets along better with Mom than any of us.” I consented, and confronted with the papers, Maureen agreed
Some years later, against her daughters’ advice, Maureen moved to a condominium. When it became apparent that she was suffering from dementia, a live-in caretaker was arranged, but it didn’t work out. Maureen drove her away. Another was hired - same result. It created a real dilemma, so I drove up to Maryland, without Helen, to visit Maureen.
We shared a nice lunch I had purchased at a delicatessen, and we discussed her future plans. She finally admitted she should not live alone any more, but insisted that she didn’t want to go to assisted living. I explained to her that we were not asking her to do that. All she need do was accept someone to live in the other bedroom to ensure she was getting her meals and her medicines, and we would all continue taking turns for weekly visits.
She resisted that idea, but in the afternoon as I was leaving, she asked, “You’re retired, aren’t you?”
“Yes, last year. Remember we talked about it today.”
“Why don’t you come live with me? You know how to cook, and you could give me my medication. Mary says I don’t take it right.”
“Maureen, I couldn’t do that. Geoff and I are still raising cattle, and he’s seldom home,” I said, knowing Helen wouldn’t come live here.
“Oh, well, maybe you can work something out. That would be a good plan.”
I got home in time for dinner, and related the day’s events, ending with Maureen’s suggestion. Helen did not interrupt and when I was finished she asked, “Was my name mentioned?”
I laughed, “No, but I’m not leaving you for your mother.”