My son had a football game Saturday three hours away from us. I woke up early on Saturday. I rolled over and looked at my husband sleeping peacefully. I checked my watch. It was now or never, I thought. I gently woke my husband. Looking out of the window I said,“You know dear, you may want to tell you mother that today is not a good day to go to the football game.” He looked at me rubbing his eyes.
“Why,” he said closing his eyes. “She said she wants to go.”
I rolled on to my side and looked him in the eyes. “Ah, it is forty degrees outside. It is raining. The wind is whipping around the trees and it is a three-hour drive.” I pleaded touching his cheek lightly. “I don’t think this is the day for an eighty six-year-old to go and sit outside at a football game.”
I love my mother-in-law, though we never, ever see eye to eye. She is quite chipper at her age and very ornery indeed. Because I cannot find a job, I am home too often with her. My husband teaches and also coaches football. It is football season now. He is never home.
I made the case that she should not go to this game. It was not good for her health. My husband agreed.
“I will ask her again and tell her about the weather conditions.”
I felt terribly guilty, but I had hope. I quickly began to do what I had to for the trip to the game.
“She still wants to go!” My husband stated.
“Ok!” I replied. Keeping my back to him, but rolling my eyes? Joy. Joy, I thought blandly. I closed my eyes. I had a dilemma; A quandary that put me in quite a pickle. My mother-in-law went to the games often with us, but the games were at home just an hour from the house. As a result, we did not have to stay in the car together long. This trip was different. We would have to be in the car together, for at least six hours there and back.
I know I sound like a terrible daughter-in-law. I am not really. I do everything I can to get along with her. I am her transportation, she helps sometimes in the garden (try’s to) and does the laundry (not mine). We exist well except for one major problem. A huge problem no one will mention to her, not even my husband her good son. Yet, everyone knows the problem exists. It is an embarrassment to her and anyone who discovers her problem. I am writing about the problem because I am anonymous. I can tell the truth. I do not have to lie! I do not need to be politically correct. But I feel impelled to beat around the bush so I won’t feel as guilty for sharing her secret everyone who is around her knows.
My mother-in-law cannot hold her urine. This is what the old folks use to say. My generation says, “She pees on herself!” Okay, I said it. She wears diapers.
My mother-in-law, is old school. Real old fashion Southern, where nothing is wasted that can be reused. I happened to visit her room when she was not there to drop something off-not spying. And there, on the cloths line, were diapers. They were hanging up drying. She re-wears them! Ugh! I ’bout died and could not believe my eyes or nose. Who does that? She does not know that I know. That day, I started buying diapers for her. I thought she would be mad that I knew her secret. All she said was, “Thank you baby!”
Diapers are expensive! Unfortunately, I lost my job and had to quit buying them for her. I suggested to my husband he buy them. My mother-in-law has a very limited monetary base almost non-existent. I could not tell him, she was reusing diapers. I am assuming he knows, but maybe not as he is not often with her. Still, how can he miss the smell? His mother reeks of pee.
Because she knows she smells, she buys an expensive oil to camouflage the odor of the urine. Of course, the oil combines with every scent she possesses and overwhelms everyone around her. We can smell her coming and leaving anywhere before she arrives.
I mentioned she lives with us. We have a four, floor home. She is a recluse and has made no friends here. Even with us at home, she seldom comes upstairs to be with us. When she has a question or needs something, she knocks on the kitchen door with her cane loudly, until someone answers her. Annoying! She created a make-shift kitchen in the basement using a single portable stove eye. She cooks for herself because none of us will eat pig ears or fish heads. (This is another story!) Thank goodness,she is supportive of her grand children, who are in college. She attends all their events.
Anyway,I knew her going to the game meant,I would have to smell her scent the entire trip. My nose smells almost as good as a bloodhound dog. I should not go. But I wanted to see my son play. This was his senior year and last year of college football. I was going!
In the meantime, my son texted me and asked if we were coming to his game. “Of course!” I texted.
“Who is coming with you? Dad?” He texted.
“Yes, Dad and I are coming and your grandmother too.” I stated, trying quickly to squeeze that last part in.
“What? What? Did you say grandma is coming mom?”
“I did sweetie!”
There was a long, pregnant pause. I was quiet.
“Mom how are you going to make the trip with grandma? You know she smells! You have asthma!” He texted with lots of explanation marks. “Damnnn! What if the smells triggers an attack? Mom!”
“I want to see you play. I don’t care what I have to endure!” I texted.
“Mom,” he said. “You have got to be careful. You don’t have to come! I will understand.”
“I will be there!” I texted in large print.
Packed and ready, everyone in the car but me, I started walking toward the car. The smell lingered in the air from her leaving the house and walking to the car. It was a staunch, semi-sweet oil smell not yet laced with pee. Yet the odor was strong enough I placed my scarf discreetly over my nose. My inner voice chanted inside my head, “Stay home. Do not get into the car.”
I opened the car door. She was sitting in the back behind where I was to sit. My husband was behind the wheel. The windows were rolled up tightly. I looked at her.
“Good morning. How are you?”
” I am blessed,” she said giving me her everyday response to that question.
The car was engulfed in the essence of “ole de pew!” We drove a short distance. My stomach began to churn. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ate was threatening to exit by way of my mouth. I rolled down the window a bit. Minutes later, my husband rolled it back up. Shortly there after, I rolled the window back down a crack. Again, in a few minutes, he rolled it back up. I glanced at him. Was he doing this on purpose? Couldn’t he smell? I took the scarf from around my neck, raised it to cover my mouth and nose more completely. This was going to be a long ass trip!
A slight urine smell was beginning to permeate my scarf. At the last stop before our arrival, I hopped out of the car.(I restrained myself from yelling, “Thank God! Fresh air!”) We all went into the store to use the bathroom. It was almost two o’clock-game time. When I came out, I was feeling remorseful that I had to cover my nose. I did not want to hurt my husband’s or my mother-in-law’s feelings. Shyly, I asked my husband asked if he knew why I had the scarf over my nose. He nodded his head. I was relieved. He knew she stunk. Back to the ratchet smelling car we went. I pinched myself for the thoughts I was thinking. I love my mother-in-law. I do! We made it to the game with only two stops.
At the game, the weather was terrible, rainy and cold. At halftime, we all went to the bathroom. My mother-in-law sat outside the ladies’ room while I peed. After the game, we chatted with our son and started home. We stopped at Wal-Mart down the road. My mother-in-law stayed in the car. She did not use the facilities. Not good!
The trip home was less pungent or my nose was not functioning. Perhaps sitting outside, with the cold wind blowing stiffly, was a blessing. The pee smell might have been hidden or entwined with the aroma of the roasted chicken we bought from Wal-Mart to eat on the drive home. Thankfully, we got home with no incident.
The day after was Sunday. I rested and wrote. Sat around all day.
Monday, I woke up feeling strange. I ignored the feeling. After taking my daughter to the doctor, getting stuck in a busy intersection because the car stoppered and would not move, towed the car, got soaked in the rain waiting for a ride home, later that night, I finally laid down to relax. Suddenly, I discovered-I was having difficulty breathing. I panicked. Where was my inhaler? In my purse. Somewhere in my purse. Found it. Used it-air! I had a full-blown asthma attack. Wow! The first one I had since… I can’t remember when.
So, here I am in the bed still suffering from the effects of having had an asthma attack. My daughter calls me. She has to go to work. Needs her uniform from her grandmother. Want me to go downstairs to the basement to retrieve her uniform. I held my breath and ventured into the stinky basement. I did not want to suffer a relapse. Her grandmother was about to put the uniform into the washer. I told her the uniform was needed immediately. But the uniform had a wet spot on it from the washer. She insisted on drying that spot and bringing it up. A few minutes later, my daughter called back. Her hours were changed. Went to tell my mother-in-law and caught her pouring the oil on the uniform. “What are doing?”
She answered, “Pouring oil on the uniform so that if will smell good.” Oh my God!
I am a terrible daughter-in-law. Did I mention that? I lost my composure and raised my voice to a loud whisper.
“NO! NO! Not the oil!” I said while trying to cover my noise discreetly with my night-gown. The smell drifted up to my nose.
“I always put this on her stuff. She does not mind.”
“But she is allergic to perfumes.” I said frustrated.
“You are not the only one who knows her. I know her well. I always put this on her stuff. She never complains. You always talk for her.” She said crouched over the clothes with the bottle. The smell was too strong now. I turned away. “You think you know everything! You think you know my son better than I do. Well,” she said looking up the stairs at me. Her large, old feet sticking out to the sides like a penguin as she yelled. Her semi-balding head bobbing up and down as she talked. “I am his mother. No one knows him better than I.”
I could not let this go. I did not want to feel weak in my own eyes. I reminded her I have known her son since I was eighteen he was nineteen. Decades! She grumped. Finally, I tried another approach.
“You know I have a son too right?” She nodded her head. “But I would never tell his girlfriend that I know him better than she does. That-I would never say, He is my son. She is his girlfriend. I do now know him in such a way. I am his past. She could be his future. But yes, still I am his mother. He will never forget that and neither will your son.” I ended the conversation with that and quickly closed the door. She yelled, “Jesus Christ!”
I opened the door, after taking a breath, and loudly stated,
“Jesus did not participate in this conversation.” She laughed. Surprised me.
I left the subject alone and went back upstairs. I could not hold my breath longer. I spoke to my daughter. She wanted to know if I stopped her from putting the oil on her uniform.
“Nope!” I replied.
“Shit!” Was all my daughter said. I asked her if she knew the oil was on her clothes?
“No. Not really. I just kept putting everything back in the laundry to be washed. I thought they weren’t cleaned yet because of the smell!” I giggled. “This explains a lot,” she said. “Now, I understand why it took so long to wash my things!”
You may ask, “Doesn’t your mother-in-law know she stinks?” She knows, but believes that the oil covers the smell that no one notices the urine smell. Everyone notices. No one says anything. Is it because she is old?
This drives me batty! At times I think I am going to lose my mind and nose! I do not go to the bottom two floors-in my own house! Oh God! Please give me a job I love. I need to be able to afford diapers for her and myself-if I am fortunate enough to get her age and need them.
Pray for me. I am going to hell!