Q My mother is making dinner for the holidays, and she invited my mother-in-law who is undergoing chemotherapy. My mother-in-law is very upbeat about her condition, but she constantly talks about the details of her illness.
The problem is this. My dad died from cancer 10 years ago. He and mother were very private about his illness and never brought it up with company unless someone asked. Mother was devastated by his death and has a hard time listening to other people’s cancer stories.
My mother told me she is going to call my mother-in-law and tell her a guest, who will be at the dinner, had cancer before and does not want to talk about cancer or have it discussed. That isn’t true, but mom said the guest will play along.
I feel uncomfortable with this. I told my mother, but she said it’s her dinner and she is going to do it. I always treat my mother-in-law as a second mother, but my mother and my mother-in-law have a standoffish relationship. Since my mother is making an issue of this, it seems to be my problem, or is it?
A Jennifer, a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay contains the lines, "There are a hundred places where I fear to go,--so with his memory they brim." That is where your mother is. But your mother-in-law is, as another poet said, raging against the dying of the light.
Your mother’s scheme reminds us of the sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Each episode involved a ruse, and when the ruse was discovered, everyone laughed and all was forgiven.
In real life subterfuges blow up and cause bad feelings. The guest’s “cancer” may be all your mother-in-law needs to turn the conversation to sharing support groups, books, treatments, and her current cancer battle.
The real problem is two mothers who don’t get along. Go to the dinner, but don’t be a party to this ruse.
Wayne & Tamara
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Invade – to enter as if to take possession, to intrude upon.