Father-in-law chose the place and time. Dinner at an Italian Restaurant in Los Angeles at 7:00pm. We decided to take an Uber to avoid driving in LA rush hour traffic. We arrived about 15 minutes early. The restaurant was, shall I say, a throw back to a different era. We recently watched the excruciatingly long Scorsese Film, The Irishman, and with Good Fellas pics on the walls of this place, Sinatra softly crooning a Christmas Carol, dark red booths, and absolutely no one in sight, we looked at each other with confusion and trepidation on our faces. Where there had been little concern before, we now started questioning the situation. The in-laws normally choose bright, upbeat venues with lots of beautiful young people to look at… although totally ridiculous, as we sat and sat in this empty dining room, we wondered if we were being set up. Watching a 3 1/2 hour Scorsese film about mob hits will do that to you.
The in-laws were fashionably late and although father-in-law had contacted Blue Eyes in advance to say that because of the rainy day, we were to come casual, mother-in-law was dressed to the nines. With her red-quilted, gold chained Chanel purse casually draped over her shoulder, she stood stoically in front of us. No “happy to see you,” no “It’s been so long.” No hug for their estranged child. Blue Eyes’ parents seem to have shrunk over the past six years. Age definitely weakens people, both in stature and in intensity. They truly are not the same people they were 6 1/2 years ago.
When I met mother-in-law approximately 35 years ago, the first thing she did was approach me with a less than warm embrace and tell me that “they are a hugging family.” She is all about impressions, not reality. For years I would get the same chilly hug and a cold, make-up caked cheek for me to kiss. This time, however, I did the hugging. I embraced mother-in-law in an uncomfortably warm hug. She didn’t reciprocate, which was totally expected. I took her by complete surprise. I also gave father-in-law a big bear hug, which he gave me right back. Win!
The in-laws chose this restaurant specifically. They said they are shocked it is still in business. They have friends that live very near by and they love it because it is never busy or noisy and they can have a nice conversation. Food is decent, service is good. I enjoyed a nice grilled chicken breast with veggies while Blue Eyes ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana.
The conversation, after six years of not speaking with these people at all, went exactly as expected. Mother-in-law talked about herself. She told us about how they have pared back on their activities over the years. How they are in the process of selling their “desert house.” How they “gave” their Hollywood Bowl box to the daughter. How they don’t travel as much anymore, but they travel each July to Vail for some music festival and stay in the same suite at the same hotel that has the most magnificent breakfast buffet. She talked about her Granddaughter’s wedding that we weren’t invited to. She showed us pictures of our own son and his girlfriend. Pictures from the wedding, and also from a trip to New York they took. She waxed on and on about the restaurant they took our son to. She actually talked a lot about our son as if we haven’t seen him. She likes to do this though. To make herself feel important. She did not, however, even ask about our younger son, the one that lives with us. She doesn’t like to talk about things or people where she doesn’t have the upper hand (at least in her mind). I did tell them the story of the recent break in at our house. Predictably her questions steered to how to blame us for how someone would enter our home in the first place. Father-in-law did, however, show concern for the welfare of his grandson.
Mother-in-law talked a lot about their youngest grandson. The one Blue Eyes’ brother left behind. He’s now 10 1/2. I see pictures of him all the time on Facebook. He looks healthy and happy. I hope he is. I’m also very happy that I helped instigate the in-laws having a relationship with him at all. I still remember the FaceTime call with them so many years ago, 9 years ago now where I cried and begged them to embrace that child. They had written him off because they hated and blamed the mother for their son’s death. All that is long forgotten by them, which is good. They seem to have a strong relationship with their daughter now, which I hope will make this transition easier, but I know it won’t. I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. Where the mother-in-law has mellowed, the sister-in-law has grown more toxic. Passing the torch, I guess.
We asked about the fires this past Fall. They were in an emergency evacuation zone and had to leave their home a couple times. It sounded very scary for them. Mother-in-law asked about my mother and how she is doing. My mother is suffering from some depression and anxiety around my step father’s stage 4 cancer. Mother-in-law said she spoke to my Mom a couple months ago and told her to relax and have a hot fudge sundae. My mother-in-law doesn’t “believe in” addiction or mental illness. She believes everyone can just wake up and tell themselves they are happy and are going to have a great day, and it will be so. She’s a delusional narcissist.
When we were leaving, I said that I’m sure The Peacemaker would love to see them and she simply said, “he never returns my calls.” I asked her the last time she called him and she admitted it has been years and years. Of course it has. She has not reached out to our younger son, not once. She is much less comfortable with this son. He looks like me and he doesn’t kiss up to her. He’s also much more vulnerable. Maybe she recognizes this. Maybe it’s a blessing. Mother-in-law lives life like it’s a game she must win. They seem to have forgotten the circumstances by which Blue Eyes disappeared from their life. Mother-in-law in a passive way merely expressed her concern for why her son just stopped talking to her. There is no point talking about it. She will never admit to having done or said anything hurtful, so there is no point even having a discussion about it.
Predictably Father-in-law was pretty quiet, but when he did join the conversation, he was pleasant and upbeat. He wasn’t negative or judgmental at all. He has definitely mellowed and appears to want to live a life that is as stress free as possible. I don’t blame him. He’s turning 85 in a couple weeks. Blue Eyes left the dinner very happy that he has reconnected with his father.
On the Uber ride back to the hotel, we talked about boundaries and expectations. We both realize at this point that the sister will now be the biggest hurdle to having a peaceful relationship with the parents. Because of her own issues, and self centered motives, she will not want Blue Eyes to have that connection. He is proceeding with caution.