I took my mother-in-law for her doctor's appointment today. In the car, she began to tell me about the tests being done on her husband, who is still in hospital. I have written here before that he has cirrhosis of the liver. The doctors are doing a liver biopsy and some other tests as well.
I asked her if she thought alcohol was a factor in his liver disease. And she opened up to talk to me as she has never done before. She told me that my father-in-law would go on binges for days. She said that she has been called every name in the book by him, been yelled at and belittled. She also told me that her own father drank. And she said that he did not want her to marry another man who drank.
All of this came as a huge "Ah-Ha" for me. I could understand her anger over the years, her need for a perfect house, her changeable moods. It all made sense to me when I knew that she was a kindred soul--an adult child of an alcoholic who married an alcoholic.
I have been around my mother-in-law for all of my married life. Yet, I never had this kind of conversation with her. She kept her distress from her sister and from close friends. And she kept it for all these years from me. Now, I see her through different eyes. I feel a level of compassion for her that I have for newcomers who arrive in pain.
She has persevered through a marriage of over 50 years, carrying around a secret that so many of us, who are affected by alcoholism, do. She told me that the reason she stayed in the marriage was because of her daughter, my wife. And that decision no doubt had its ramifications for C. Probably, what she isn't aware of, is that she stayed for other reasons as well--hoping to change the alcoholic, fear of abandonment, economic fears, pride, and a host of other emotions that keep us bound in an emotional prison.
I shared with her about my father. I didn't mention my wife as I won't break her anonymity, even to her own mother. I told her that I don't know whether my dad was an alcoholic but that I also had a lot of unresolved emotions carried over from childhood. And I told her that I have learned to detach from the belligerence of others by physically removing myself. She said that she tunes out her husband's yelling as best she can.
How I wish that she could have gotten into Al-Anon. The conversation we had made us both feel better. As she put it, "We now know something about each other that we didn't before." How very true. More will be revealed.
Each of us has our own share of truth, waiting to reveal itself to us. Each of us has our own share of the light, waiting for us to stand in it, to claim it as ours. ~ Melody Beattie