The Original Bobble Head
The mother-in-law. Now there’s a title that invokes a little trepidation in most men, I am sure. It’s not fear that most men feel toward their mothers-in-law but, perhaps, angst is a better word. My mother-in-law is different. Well, not really. I just wanted to say something nice about her but lost my train of thought. ,br>
Several years ago she gave birth to my wife, soul mate, and mother of the best three children in the world. And for that, she will get free medical advice for the rest of her life. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t use her as an example or make fun of her, as I often feel free to do.
She was born in the depression. She must have been for she doesn’t spend more than a dime on anything that might make her life a little more comfortable. Society always blames this behavior on the depression even if the person wasn’t even alive at that time. She was born in 1929 and, I suppose, that does qualify her here. She is not a miserable person really. She just makes life more miserable than it has to be. And unfortunately, you usually get caught up in her misery too. Maybe she’s this way because her parents died young and she was left to be raised by wolves. Not literal wolves, of course, but I’ve met a few of her relatives and the resemblance is scary.
Have a fever? “Suffer through it. That’s what we did in the depression.” Have a cough that keeps you (and everyone else) up all night? “Suffer through it. That’s what we did in the depression.” Have a headache? “Suffer through it. That’s what we did in the depression.” All the while, she walked uphill, backwards, and in the snow, both ways. You get the picture. Why spend three bucks for cold and cough relief in the 21st century when you can still just suffer through it. In 2006 I gave her an antibiotic for lobar pneumonia which probably saved her life, my mistake not hers. She complained about its high cost. “It should have helped for all the money I paid for it” she would say. The entire treatment cost was only $12. I could have given her an antibiotic that was twice that much, per pill. I guess I should have included the medicine costs with the free medical advice I was providing.
The most difficult part of providing care for her is that it is like practicing veterinary medicine. My mother-in-law has zero communication skills. She won’t tell you what the problem really is. She just lays there, suffering, and keeping everyone in the surrounding county awake and on the edge of their chairs wondering whether they should call an ambulance or dial 911. “Don’t let me bother you. I’ll just suffer through it. That’s what we did during the depression.” Even a non-verbal head movement would help through the interrogation process. Instead, her head movement is more of a yes, no, circular motion. My kids say it is the inspiration behind the original bobble head. I give up.
I get children in the office this way. The parent is saying, “Just tell the Doctor where you’re hurting, Jenny.” There is just silence, no motion. I ask her to just point to where she thinks she is sick. “Is it in the head, the throat, the chest, or the tummy?” Complete silence. No gestures. No communication skills. A future mother-in-law, I am sure.
The worst part of this ritual can be the accolades that are poured out after the treatment. It’s laid on so thick it could choke a horse. All that relief she could have had days earlier if she had just gone to the drug store and spent $3 in the first place. But what happens three months later when she starts getting more symptoms? That’s right, nothing. She just starts suffering through it. After all, that’s what they did in the depression.