The Quotable Babushka
Most of you only know my mother-in-law from reading this blog and therefore visualize her as an ancient, crazed Russian peasant woman in a headscarf, emerging periodically from an earthen cellar in my townhouse to proclaim impending doom, cuss me out, correct my parenting errors, order her son to change clothes, deliver laundry, and prepare nourishing dishes of meat, cereals, and potatoes. This does not do my mother-in-law justice. She is only 63, for one thing, and she favors a cream-colored knit beret when she needs to keep her head warm. Once you get past the irrational fears and borderline personality disorder, she’s generally lucid. Also, she does the laundry and cooks, which facts I should emphasize again since I know – God, I know – my life would be more complicated without this considerable help.
In any event, an aspect of my mother-in-law I rarely mention is her wit. My belle-mere is a good writer in her native tongue, and she pops out some delightful turns of phrase. This morning, on our monthly pilgrimage to the slots, she was commenting on abandoning her blog* and she said, “Eh, Katya, I guess I’m just autumnal. I’ve thrown off all my leaves.” Okay, it may not be time to start a whole Twitter account devoted to her sayings a la @shitmydadsays, but I thought that was pretty awesome.
* She is feeling like crap right now because she’s got a wonky gall bladder (I base this on a prior ultrasound showing stones that were asymptomatic at the time and my advanced maternopathic diagnostic skills) plus, well, she’s systemically cut herself off from interaction with anyone but her son, me, and three kids who only understand a fourth of what she’s actually saying. She sees the doctor again Monday and, hopefully, the doc will come up with some kind of treatment plan that will let her eat normally without mega pain. Maybe then the will to blog will surface in her again. Her online life is the only adult social interaction she has embraced in the last 11 years, so it’s pretty major indicator of her emotional health.
(I do not mean to sneer at my mother-in-law’s travails. Now that my estranged college roommate is on speaking terms with me again, I am reminded that one person’s “blowing off steam” is another person’s “betrayal.” I can calm my conscience by reminding myself of the ways in which I provide material and moral support to Babushka and all the ways in which I was douche-y about my roommate’s illness that I am not douche-y about my mother-in-law’s condition. But still? Yuck. As my dad once said to me when I was in my early twenties, with a look of recognition and sorrow – and a little vindication, perhaps, “You’re an asshole too, aren’t you, honey?”)