Monday, 22 November 2010

Think I'll go out to Alberta...

My husband's uncle liked me. That really meant something to me, because I was pretty darn sure that no one else in my husband's immediate family liked me. Except for the Resident Fan Boy who has always seemed reasonably fond of me.

One night, I was enduring another Sunday dinner at the in-laws. This was always a case of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't. If I didn't show up, it was a snub; if I did, I felt like an interloper (which I was, having committed the crime of marrying into the family without an invitation). The meal was one long Miranda act in which anything I did or said would be taken down and used as evidence against me. The phone rang and my mother-in-law spoke in delighted tones to her beloved kid brother. Then she looked at me.
"He wants to talk to you." She could not conceal her astonishment.

I was never sure why the Resident Fan Boy's uncle liked me. Maybe it was because he was a fellow Taurus. He was a gruff fellow, a prairie man who had started out as a farmer, and eventually become a consultant to the World Health Organization, taking his large family around the world. After more than thirty years of marriage, he ditched his wife for his high school sweetheart, to the horror of his children and the embarrassment of his sister who stoutly declared that this wasn't the sort of thing that happened in her family.

The kids chose sides, my husband's uncle stubbornly waited out the divorce proceedings (his wife refused to cooperate), and married his old girlfriend. Five years later, he reconciled with his wife, dumped second wife and remarried. My mother-in-law was furious, having cut first wife dead for the sake of her brother. She wasn't speaking to him when she suddenly became terminally ill.

He phoned out of the blue during that final long weekend as we were waiting to hear the news from the hospital. I answered and he asked me what the situation was. I told him that I would call the Resident Fan Boy to the phone.
"Can't you tell me?" Brisk. Blunt.
"Well, I'm only the in-law, so it wouldn't be protocol," I stammered.
"Good. I'm glad someone's observing the rules."
When the RFB took the call, he was obviously trying to tell his uncle that a trip out from Alberta to Victoria would be pointless, given how far gone his mother was.
I grimaced at him, and hissed: "Tell them to come."
I could feel him relax as he said: "She says to come."

His memorial service is in four weeks. I think we need to come.

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