We’ve been to see the in-laws. Sigh. Fidget. Sigh again. It wasn’t a duty visit because we don’t do those but we did have a distinct purpose. For some time, we’ve been planning to move to the country and it would mean we would be further away from the in-laws. As they’re in their late 80’s, we would like them to come with us so they could either live in an annexe or very close by. That way we could keep an eye on them, do the shopping, a bit of cleaning, make sure their health is OK – all the usual stuff. I think this is a pretty cool idea. They retain their independence and we get to spend more time with them and help out as and when we’re needed.
My FIL would come with us like a shot. He has already said so and, being gregarious, would make the most of small town or village life. But what do you say to someone who says ‘All my family are here, I can’t move’. Which family? ‘My mother, brother, grandmother’. Er, they’re all dead. ‘Yes, but they’re all in the cemetary’. You’ve never been there. Would you like to go there? ‘No’. How will they help you if you’re taken ill? ‘They will’. OK, well if they could come to the hospital and help you, do you think they would mind travelling a few extra miles to come to where we’ll be living? ‘Ha ha ha ha’.
The blinds are drawn in the real world and in my MIL’s mind. The house is dark and when I open the blinds, drawn against the possibility of someone with very long sight being able to observe her from a vantage point of approximately 50 yards away, she eyes me suspiciously. We raise the possibility that if they are unable to cope, Social Services might want to be involved and that might remove an element of choice from them. Having just had a conversation in which she said an old people’s home would not be for her, suddenly it is OK. This response is not based on any shred of realism but a childlike determination to say ‘No!’ to anything. Not leaving the house has been normality for years. Drawing all the blinds during the day is fairly new. Discouraging my FIL from leaving the house even to do small errands, like buy bread at the shop at the end of the road, is also fairly new. Any excursion is met with an enquiry of ‘Why do you need to go out? How long will you be?’. Kind neighbours are filling the gap in terms of getting shopping. Since a bout of shingles last Autumn, my FIL has gone out less as it left him exhausted but now he feels stronger, it has become something of a battleground. He needs the mental stimulation that Countdown and reminiscing about the war cannot give him. A trip to the opticians in a taxi gave him enough stimulation to make it an exciting experience. Six weeks later he is still talking about it and fondly remembering the taxi driver who waited for him as he went to collect his glasses.
We leave to drive home and I feel dejected, rejected and any other jecteds you can think of. Oh, and add frustrated to that list. For some strange reason I want these 2 people to live near me so I can keep an eye on them and smile fondly at the repetetive stories. I want to be able to roll my eyes when they talk about strange, hopeless friends we know by reputation only and answer up for my adult offspring when I am asked, in their presence, if they want a drink. I want to hear all over again about my FIL’s exploits in his career, his near misses with international disasters and having his footprints examined by a Bedouin tracker in Saudi Arabia to see if he was innocent of a payroll robbery.
I want to do all these things because I love the daft old buggers and I think living near us will be the best, healthiest decision they could make. I understand it’s a tough decision to take but I’d like them to make the leap of faith and believe we can deliver what we are offering.
So in the meantime I growl quietly from time to time feeling impotent and frustrated, wondering how they are feeling after our visit. I was so cross at one point I sat at my laptop and ordered hard copies of details of suitable bungalows for sale to be sent to my FIL. That’ll get them talking.