Friday, May 29, 2009

How Have Your Parents & In-Laws Reacted to Your Illness?

Both Richard's parents died before I met him so I have no in-laws. My own parents were in their 70's when I first developed a chronic pain condition. Their reaction was surprising, although it shouldn't have been. They both backed away and assumed that Richard and I would handle it just fine.

We were not a family that discussed personal matters, and I guess illness is a personal matter. Or perhaps more accurately, the illness of an adult child, which in my family's taxonomy falls into the category that contains topics like sex, birth control, divorce, and emotion.

I think that my parents' reluctance to dive into my illness any more deeply than asking "How are you?" does not stem from indifference or callousness. Quite the opposite. I think it is their way of defending themselves against the consummate horror of knowing their child is in pain and getting sicker, and they are helpless to make it all go away.

Eventually they began phoning more frequently. My mother started sending me quarts of her home-made pea soup by mail (she shipped them frozen overnight and they would arrive partially thawed). I always felt their love, if not their caretaking.

What has been your experience (both as the ill and well partner) with parents and in-laws?


Elizabeth McClung said...

My parents said "You have made your choice" once I was declared terminal and have gone on vacations ever since, my brother said, "If you ever need anything" but I haven't seen him. My in-laws sent my partner a ticket to come home - due to supreme court law, that mean I can buy the ticket and she can go as my aide. I can't imagine joy from the good farm families knowing that 'that lesbian' (geez people it has only been 15 years!), is coming back to town. But my in-law mother who works home care volunteered to fly out for my last few weeks. My parents haven't invited me to thier apartment in a year, and asked on my birthday to give the cake for me, to my partner OUTSIDE the apartment building. They have made clear that care-giving as in even caring would 'affect thier life choices.' - whatever that means.

Actually my mother openly states that she will not accept what three specialist and a specialist hospital have said: I'm dying. So they leave. They won't phone, they won't email, the occasionally send a letter (from 5 blocks away) because I can't answer them right away.

Surgeon In My Dreams said...

My in-laws are deceased so no experience there.

My mom, unless she sees a cast or a surgical scar, believes most every other illness to :be in peoples minds". I don't even bother telling her anything any longer.

My dad takes it to heart and worries, so I don't tell him either.

Ashley said...

My husband and I are so blessed to have the support of our families. When my husband had a really severe flare up and I couldn't leave him, his parents brought us groceries and my parents brought us several meals. They also help us with things around the house like yard work.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Elizabeth, Surgeon, Ashley - thanks for sharing your experiences with parents and in-laws. I found it interesting that your stories were so different from each other. Sometimes our parents and in-laws react similarly to how they have treated us pre-illness; sometimes there are surprises - both good and bad.