Every so often my mother-in-law rings the doorbell and hands me a list of things that she thinks I’ve lifted from her house – dishes, sweaters, an ironing board, etc. This started about a year ago. A couple of days ago, when I was at my most exasperated and had basically decided to stop talking to her, she rang the bell. I found her on my doorstep with tears in her eyes. She gripped my hands in hers ( a rarity, as she is not a touchy-feely kind of person) and said, “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” At last, I thought. She finally realizes how badly she’s treated me and in this moment of lucidity she is apologizing. But then she thanked me for putting something that was obviously important to her in a drawer, where she’d found it. No doubt it’s been there all along. “I didn’t put it there,” I said. “I haven’t been in your house.” “If you didn’t then, who did?” she asked. I could see where this conversation was headed, so I just said, “Well, it’s good that you found it,” and let her go on thanking me. She’s been very friendly ever since.
A propros, I’ve started reading Mother in the Middle by Sybil Lockhart, who is a trained neurobiologist. She writes about starting a family at around the same time that her mother began showing signs of dementia. It’s a very accessible book. Since Sybil is a scientist, she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the brain, and she explains what’s happening as events unfold. I’m hoping it’ll give me some insight into what’s going on with my mother-in-law.