Thus far, I’ve written about the nutjobs I’ve encountered in everyday life -neighbors and people on the street and such- But now comes time to tell the story about the nutjob in the family. Specifically, my ex brother-in-law’s mother. Or my sister’s ex mother-in-law.
Are you with me so far?
Let’s call the old bat Margit. Margit was, for all intents & purposes, sane on the outside. She was always nice to me, and, appeared to be equally nice to others. That’s probably why I never suspected for even one moment what she was capable of. She hid the fact that she was mental exceptionally well. But we’ll get to that in a sec. For now, we can safely say that when Paulina married into this particular family, she hit the mother lode of mental illness. As it ultimately turned out, it wasn’t just her mother-in-law who was bat shit crazy, but also her three sisters-in-law and the husband.
Let’s see, where to begin. Let’s name the cast of characters. The husband, now ex. Let’s call him Edsel. There isn’t any one story per se to underscore Edsel’s nutjobbery. All the audience really needs to know is that he is a snivelling momma’s-boy whose alcoholism makes Ben Sanderson look like a light and casual drinker.
Next are the three sisters. Let’s just refer to them with a descriptive term that is fitting: Harpy Nos. 1 through 3.
As you may know, a Harpy is a creature from Greek mythology. They are almost always portrayed as annoying, intrusive, ugly, bird-winged women with razor sharp talons, which, as fate would have it, is a fairly accurate portrayal of Edsel’s sisters once you really get to know them.
Harpy Nos. 1 – 3 have children of their own so every holiday meal and summer BBQ was an iteration of family togetherness. During these times, it was difficult to see anything outwardly disturbing about the family in question.
But time has a way of revealing the true colors of the folks you think you know and this case is no exception. As this was a series of events in my sister’s life, I had no way of knowing or even guessing what was occurring. I had no way of knowing that Edsel, whom I knew was a drinker, was really a functioning alcoholic with a major problem, nor did I know that Margit was a manipulative bitch whose acts of kindness was really just one big mind fuck designed to win over to her side those who only knew her on a casual basis as I did.
I’m not sure at what point the family ties finally imploded or whether it happened all at once or incrementally. All I do know is that my sister had spent several years financing the remodeling of a two-story crappy row home into a very nice living space with a deck on the second floor only to inadvertently make the determination several years after the completion of the remodel that the home had been used as collateral to secure an unauthorized loan by Margit.
Let me repeat that – Margit used my sister’s home to secure a loan for herself. You may ask how this could have happened. Very easily, actually. You see, my sister’s home is attached to Margit’s. They were neighbors. Both homes were on the same deed, and when my sister married into the family, she didn’t think it was necessary to split up the homes so that each dwelling had its own separate grant deed. After all, if you can’t trust family, then who can you trust? Turns out trust is a four letter word.
Margit got a loan from one of the bottom dwelling, legal usurers for reasons unknown. It wasn’t like her home was luxuriously decorated, or she was taking vacations to exotic locales or driving pricey cars. She didn’t even pay her bills anyway (my sister did) so what she used the loan money for is still a question mark. She had a full-time, permanent job, but as far as anyone could figure out, spent the bulk of her money on lottery tickets. (We’re talking thousands of dollars here.)
It should be noted here that the only reason why Paulina found out about the loan in the first place was because her daughter was applying to colleges and filling out loan applications, not because Margit had told her.
Turns out the unpleasant notification of the loan was only the tip of the iceberg. Not only was my sister on the hook to pay back Margit’s loan, but she also couldn’t sell the home as she had planned to all along once she had her other home built elsewhere.
It took years, but she paid back Margit’s loan and sold the home to someone who was willing to pay slightly over market value for it. When she notified Margit that she had to move out, this was when the Harpies swooped in and Margit’s stealth, precautionary PR blitz kicked in. You see, for years, Margit had been busily making sure that to any casual onlooker she was a kindly, generous, old woman. She even had my mother convinced. In reality, this PR effect was all an elaborate act. Just another tentacle of Margit’s mental illness.
Margit played it up to anyone who would listen that she was being run out of “her ” home by her evil daughter-in-law, Paulina. And the Harpies then repeated the lies to make sure that Margit was perceived as the poor victim being tossed out on her keyster. They immediately ceased all communication with Paulina and the kids, but continued, however, to speak to Edsel, who was kept on only because of the useful idiot they knew he would be willing to be.
By now, Edsel’s drinking problem was no longer under the radar. He had numerous DUIs and his employer had forced him into rehab on several occasions to avoid losing his job. Each time, Edsel checked himself out before completion only to return home to continue binge drinking even worse than before he was forced into rehab.
Eventually Edsel was terminated from his job. This enabled him to devote himself to drinking full-time. (He used his disability checks to pay for it.) After several months, his descent into madness & alcoholism became readily apparent, and, his relationship with his wife & children drastically deteriorated. Margit & the Harpies were meanwhile whispering in his ear how “evil” Paulina was. Since Edsel was never his own man or very bright to begin with, he eventually succumbed to the booze and his family’s brand of poison against Paulina, which was just as well because he was far beyond simply being classified an alcoholic by then.
Edsel’s drinking was so astonishingly encompassing, that any time his blood alcohol level dropped, his body would convulse in protest and he would lose consciousness. The booze was so thoroughly a part of his bloodstream that he couldn’t quit drinking even if he wanted to. Fortunately for Edsel, he never wanted to give up the booze anyway, and so his ever worsening health problems are evidently what he has always wanted.
When Edsel was forced from the family home due to alcoholic assholery, the Harpies persuaded him to sign over to them his truck (that my sister had paid for) as well as his life insurance policies. He left his wife & children zero money in the event of his death because it was more important to him to be accepted by Margit & the Harpies than it was for him to provide for his own children.
Paulina has long since moved on from this particularly ugly event. Meanwhile, Edsel is still drinking and convulsing. He has no contact with his children since his brain is so pickled, he wouldn’t even recognize them anyway. And Margit & the Harpies appear to be satisfied for the moment with having squeezed every last drop of money, vitriol and drama out of this incident.
The lesson here is that even if you think a loved one’s drinking and/or mental illness eccentricities are manageable, the reality is that it’s not. And if you find yourself mired in it by simple virtue of the fact that you married into the situation, then note that you won’t “save” or “change” them with your devotion. They have to want to change for themselves, and, if that is not evident, then you should leave.
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