Piss and vinegar…

Ever heard that expression? It goes something like this. “Wow, that bitch is full of piss and vinegar today!”

Lately, that’s kind of been me. I’ve been very cranky lately. I have less patience than I used to have, and I get irritated by small things. I have always been easily perturbed by certain stuff, but lately it’s been more of an acute problem. I suspect it has to do with aging and hormones. Or maybe I’m just unusually bitchy lately.

I don’t know how it is for other people, but for me it seems crazy that I’m as old as I am. It seems like I wanted to be older forever. As a child, I couldn’t wait to be sixteen. Then I couldn’t wait to be eighteen. Then, it was twenty-one that was the magic age. I didn’t mind the years that came after twenty-one. I wasn’t even upset when I turned 30 or 40… And now I’m edging closer to my “late forties”, and it feels like I’m on the edge of a mid-life crisis, even though I’m probably already past mid-life. I’ll never be a mother or a grandmother, and I always thought I would. I probably won’t ever be a “career woman”, either, though I always thought I would. Now I’m looking forward to the hormonal storm that I know is just around the corner… I haven’t experienced any hot flashes yet, but I know they’re coming. I watched my mom and sisters have them, and now some of my friends are experiencing them. Some of them are younger than I am.

Things certainly haven’t turned out the way I thought they would. Having Bill’s mom around for the last week is a reminder of how much craziness we have both endured, mainly owing to Bill’s ex wife. I don’t feel the need to write about her so much anymore, mainly because one of Bill’s daughters reconnected and I’ve learned that it wasn’t all my imagination. Ex really is as batshit nuts as she’s seemed all these years… and my complaints about her weren’t unfounded. Moreover, as much as I despise her for the awful, incredibly damaging things she’s said and done, she now seems like a truly pathetic and sick person. I almost pity her now. I certainly don’t fear her. So, since I’m full of piss and vinegar today, here’s a story about Ex. It might be a repeat, but if it is, chalk it up to my aging memory.

My mother-in-law, Parker, told me a tale about something Ex did when she and Bill were still married. At the time, their children were very young, and Ex, apparently feeling spiteful and nasty, took Parker aside and said, “You know, Bill and I don’t think you’re a suitable grandmother for the children.”

As Parker’s face probably registered shock and horror, she continued, “You wear short skirts and high heels, and you dye your hair… and you don’t wear a shawl or sit on the porch in a rocking chair. You’re just not an appropriate grandmother figure for the kids.”

The funny thing is, I don’t think Ex had a grandmother that fit this description, either. In fact, from what I’ve heard, Ex’s grandmother and her mother behaved much like Ex always has, only worse… and since Ex was adopted, this behavior was almost certainly learned, and not caused by organic mental illness. She learned to use her children as weapons to keep other people doing her bidding. And as the children have become adults, she uses her younger children to keep the older ones “in line”. She also has a habit of co-opting the innocent into her accusations. Bill would never ever say that his mom isn’t an “appropriate grandmother figure” to his daughters. He loves his mother dearly, which is probably why Ex hates her so much. MIL, like me, has Bill’s best interests at heart and, because of that, he listens to what she says, which helps him resist Ex’s craziness.

I had heard this story several times before and it’s always outraged me, but this time, Parker put a hilarious spin on it. I told her about how, back in Virginia, on the one occasion I met Bill’s daughters in person in June 2003, Bill said he was going to call his mom in Texas. Younger daughter, then about nine years old, said “You mean, GrandmaMAH?”

I remember thinking that was kind of a pretentious moniker for Parker, although since I’d only known her for about a year, I wasn’t sure what the reasoning behind that was. And the truth was, back then, she had seemed kind of flashy and sexy to me. In those days, she was a competitive ballroom dancer. I figured maybe she was just kind of eccentric and never really questioned it until just a couple of days ago.

Anyway, Bill called his mom. Younger daughter was the only one of the three– we also had Bill’s then teenaged former stepson visiting– who would speak to Parker on the phone. Sixteen years later, I told Parker about how younger daughter had referred to her as “GrandmaMAH,” and Parker laughed heartily and said she was surprised that younger daughter had remembered that name. Then, she told me what had prompted it.

After Ex had told Parker how “inappropriate” she was as a grandmother to the children, Ex then asked Parker what she wanted her kids to call her. I’m actually surprised that Ex bothered to ask, since she usually just does whatever she wants without regard for anyone else’s input. Parker was so pissed off and offended by Ex’s declaration of how she wasn’t a suitable role model or grandmother for the kids, that she snapped “Just tell them to call me GrandmaMAH!”

And, in a rare show of compliance, Ex did just that. Six years later, younger daughter was still calling Bill’s mom “GrandmaMAH!” Of course, it didn’t really matter, since Ex cut MIL off from the kids and, for many years, they basically considered Bill’s stepmom their grandmother. They call her Meemee, and Bill’s dad is Pawpaw.

After talking with Bill’s stepmother, we learned that Ex had pretty much done the same thing to her. She’d imply that Bill’s mom was a “better grandmother”. Since SMIL and MIL have never gotten along and don’t speak to each other, this triangulation effort brought about by Ex was highly effective in further alienating them from each other and hugely successful in keeping SMIL “competing” with MIL to “win” the role of the Ex approved “grandma”.

SMIL needn’t have bothered, though, because Ex has always hated Bill’s mom and did her best to ruin their mother-son relationship. In fact, though Bill’s mom tried hard not to interfere in Bill’s relationship with Ex, MIL finally told him he should get a divorce. Why? Because months before the divorce, Ex had set it up so that Bill and his mother would spend Christmas together, then she called Parker before Bill got to her house and told her she shouldn’t let Bill stay with her over the Christmas holidays, after all. She said he was an abusive pervert who hates women and that he would probably try to kill her.

Ex said similar things to Bill’s stepmom, who actually believed her for a time, and she no doubt also told her friends, church members, and most importantly, the children, these egregious lies. When Ex did finally drop the divorce bomb on Bill, and much to her surprise, he readily accepted, she blamed MIL! She said Bill was only agreeing to the divorce because his mom had told him to! Sure, Ex… it had nothing to do with your setting up a Christmas visit between Bill and his mom, and then telling Bill’s mother ahead of the visit that he was an abusive pervert who wanted to murder her! You know what? I suspect that Ex’s comment to MIL was actually projection, but that’s just me…

For years, I have been full of piss and vinegar about Ex to the point of obsession. But now, since there’s been more talking and the truth is coming out, I have less… at least when it comes to Ex. Now, I just think she’s a ridiculous fool and I feel sorry for everyone who is forced to be in her sphere. She’s truly a sick woman.

Parker is no longer known as “GrandmaMAH”. Since younger daughter is back in contact with Bill and his mom, she asked Parker how she’d prefer to be addressed. Parker told her to call her whatever made her comfortable. She says younger daughter finally settled on “Nana”. They have had a few Skype chats and traded emails. Younger daughter is now getting to know her long lost grandmother and her father after way too many lost years.

Parker and I shared a good laugh about that story. I admire her for having a little piss and vinegar inside, too… a little spunk. Sometimes, people need a spritz of it when they step over the line.

Lately, I fear I’m full of more piss and vinegar than usual, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m getting older, which means I have less time for stupidity and bullshit. When people give me a hard time, I’m inclined to give it right back to them. Why not? I don’t usually go looking for it. They almost always come to me. And if it means people think I’m a sour old bitch, so be it. As long as I’ve got Bill and a steady influx of canine company, I’m doing alright. I don’t like to be bitter and nasty, but being nice doesn’t always yield good results. And sometimes tossing off a little nasty spunk yields hilarious results… like telling your narcissistic ex daughter-in-law that the children need to call their grandmother “GrandmaMAH”!