I’m middle-aged. My husband’s not, he’s a few years older than me. Ahead of her time his mother didn’t have him until she was in her early 30’s, something unheard of back in the 50’s. All this adds up to a mother-in-law that’s always been more like a grandmother to me so I can’t really relate to my girlfriends who have in-laws that rival Marie Romano on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.
My mother-in-law comes to visit for a few weeks each year at Christmas (hold your applause – I am that good of a daughter-in-law) but as she’s gotten older she’s no longer comfortable making the trip, which entails a connecting flight at O’Hare, alone. So for the past few years my husband has flown up to get her, only to fly right back the next day with her, and then do it all over again 3-4 weeks later when she returns home. Last year I felt bad for him so volunteered to take one of the legs. I’m not exactly sure where I went wrong but I ended up with the return which meant flying the week between Christmas and New Years, through Chicago, when half the world (and their over-tired, cranky kids) are returning home from a week of family (dys) fun (ction).
Amazingly, considering what we were up against, the outbound flights went off without a hitch. We arrived at mother’s “independent living” (NOT assisted living, that’s different, if you don’t believe me just ask her, she’ll tell you) facility at 5:27 PM which worked out well because they serve dinner at 5:30 and all day there was a concern that we’d miss it.
We took seats at a table for 10 and joined 8 other women already seated. I took a look around the dining hall and counted 3 other tables each with 8-10 people seated at them (headcount was low due to the holidays, lots of residents still visiting family). Out of +/- 40 people there was one man. One very brave, somewhat frightened looking, man.
Most of the regular staff was also on holiday so the girl who usually mans the front desk was waiting us on. Sweet girl, but multi-tasking and memory were not her strong suits. She proceeded to take our orders for appetizers and entrées, not writing anything down. The results were less than impressive and the residents let her know it. I wanted to sink into a hole in the floor. By the time dessert rolled around – an interesting choice of cornbread served with blueberries or ice cream – they were out for blood.
“Is it real ice cream? Or that non-fat yogurt stuff?”
“Are the blueberries real? Or canned?”
“Is the cornbread cut in squares? Or are they muffins?”
They made the poor girl run to the kitchen no less than 4 times to ask the “chef” these burning questions. I couldn’t wait for dinner to be over. I had seen a glimpse of my future and I didn’t like it.
When I got home the next day I recounted the story to my husband and put him on notice; I had no intention of spending my golden years with the “Golden Girls”. Due to our age difference, and if all goes according to God’s plan, it’s likely he’ll go before me. If that happens I plan on dropping 20 pounds, dying my hair, and finding myself a younger man to “take care” of me in my later years; it’s going to be the cougar-life for me.