Sunday, May 20, 2007

Being an in-law

Two stories about what it means to be an in-law:

Names have been changed to protect the guilty (and the innocent)

Story #1:
Dana comes home to a phone call from the superintendent of the apartment building where Dana's older, unmarried brother lives. The superintendent regrets to inform Dana that her brother has been found dead - a neighbor passing by the apartment noticed the key in the door and, thinking this was strange, pushed the door open, where he found the brother sprawled on the floor, dead. Dana is very upset, and doesn't want to have to go into the city to deal with identifying the body officially or any other business. Her husband, David, offers to drive into the city, where he has to identify his dead brother-in-law's body, talk to the police and the superintendent, arrange for the chevra kadisha to come take care of the body. He does this all willingly, wanting to ease his wife's pain and shock.

Story #2:
Tamar and Noam are newly married and at Tamar's parents for Shabbos. Tamar's mother asks Noam, who is an only child, to pitch in with the Shabbos preparations by sweeping the kitchen floor. Later, Tamar's brother Josh complains that when he has to mop the kitchen floor, it seemed no one swept it before. Surprised, his mother tells him that his brother-in-law Noam did sweep it. Noam swept the floor, but did it badly on purpose so that his mother-in-law would think twice about asking him to do it again.

What do you think?

7 comments:

Scraps said...

I think the guy in story #1 is amazing, and the guy in story #2...well, I hope he was just having a bad day, and that he doesn't have such a bad attitude about helping out all the time.

RaggedyMom said...

I think that if the brother-in-law in #2 had been sweeping and come across the dead older brother in #1 while running that broom across the floor, he'd have taken his job much more seriously :) I realize these are distinct stories.

In #1, the in-law seems very admirable. Though the lapse on the part of the wife in tending to her late brother is a little hard to understand.

#2 describes only an in-law thing, it's sometimes a husband thing altogether, from what I've heard. Luckily I don't speak from experience. I do find it surprising that a newly married guy would be asked to sweep his in-laws' floor - is that terrible? I'm all for helping but that's a bit forward on the wife's family's part IMHO.

the apple said...

Scraps,
me too.

RaggedyMom,
About #1 - the wife received the phone call that her brother had died about 8 p.m., so the late hour combined with the shock made her possibly too upset to do anything.
Re #2 - since I don't have any in-laws (yet!), I don't really know the "protocol" for how to treat new children-in-law. But is it really unreasonable to ask a son-in-law to do a low-energy chore? The truth is, it would be a good sign to me if the new son-in-law offered to help. Also, would it depend if the son-in-law had visited the house numerous times during the engagement or not (and so was more familiar with the in-laws' routine)?

RaggedyMom said...

The Apple - I agree with you: help requests are totally reasonable - maybe this is just raised a red flag for me because the first time I went to visit RaggedyDad's mother at her home (which is overseas), she soon put me to work peeling mushrooms! LOL - memories!

the apple said...

Raggedy Mom,
Ah. Totally understandable ;). When I was in seminary, my chesed lady also asked me to peel mushrooms . . . I really didn't know what I was doing.

SephardiLady said...

Count me in as one who doesn't know how to peel mushrooms.

Requests for help are totally reasonable. But the product might not be one you are expecting or find acceptable. I was surprised the conclusion was that Noam did the chore badly on purpose. Maybe I'm a product of my environment, but I've learned that sometimes the person you ask just doesn't know how or is plain incompetent.

In a post-Pesach post I wrote about giving clear instructions. But it was a short mention. It probably deserves its own post because different families do different things and expect different results. Just recently my MIL was on my case about why I fold socks wrong. Funny, I thought. My mother taught me to fold them this way. Oh well.

the apple said...

SephardiLady,
the truth is, Noam might just be plain incompetent. But based on his personality, it seemed most likely that he had done it badly on purpose.

My roommate in seminary and I also had little discussions about the best way to fold clothing - she once remarked that dorm life was the best preparation for marriage, because we had to learn how to live with other people's habits.

And welcome to the blog!