Yet another unfortunate consequence of my parents divorcing was the introduction of Margaret into my young life. Margaret, the mother of the man considered my stepfather, became my mother's mother-in-law shortly after she divorced my father.
A woman in her eighties and me a single digit, I remember the first meeting as if it was yesterday. My mother, her husband, Margaret, and I all crammed around a metal table awkwardly placed between the refrigerator and back door of this stuffy worn house. Margaret had thinning grey hair which she repeatedly patted with gnarled fingers, thick glasses which magnified her shifty eyes, and teeth which periodically sought escape from her mouth before she somehow lassoed them back in with her tongue. My mother told me not to stare, but I found it difficult not to glance her way during a breakfast of fried eggs, salty bacon, and toast with unevenly spread butter. Not having much of anything to say to anyone, I ate silently while listening to my mother agree with everything the man said and to the clicking of Margaret's teeth on their perpetual journey from inside her mouth to outside her mouth and back again. Finished with my plate, my mother asked if I cared for more bacon. Before I had a chance to nod my head in agreement, Margaret shoved the paper towel lined porcelain plate of bacon in my direction with the remark, “Go ahead, Piggy! Eat it all!” Surprised by the sudden clanking of plates, I sat perfectly still frightened by this old woman's outburst.
In the months and years to follow, more Margaret tantrums ensued when least expected. One time while on leave from her nursing home, the man bathed Margaret in the only tub in the house. She somehow escaped the bathroom half dressed yelling someone or so and so was after her. Too engrossed in my television program in the next bedroom, this was usually the time I increased the volume.
My mother and this man liked to what I refer to as “dump” Margaret on me for extended periods of time. With the one television in the house being in the guest bedroom upstairs, one could sit on the hard bed or in the wooden rocking chair. With Margaret with me, I had no choice but to sit on the side of the bed with the maroon bedspread. While watching Hee Haw or whatever happened to be on these Saturday evenings, Margaret would rock and mumble horrible sentiments about me and my mother under her breath. Since I knew it would be hours before my mother would take a break from her smoking and listening to country music with the man in order to climb the creaky stairs to check on me, I decided one night to simply gaze at Margaret. I could sense Margaret knew I was doing it, but I did not care because I knew no one would believe her if she told. To me, this man and his mother were nutty, and I despised every minute I had to spend with them in this twenty-four-hour-shades-drawn house.
When the man was at work, my mother's solution to her mother-in-law situation was to jump on Margaret's furniture. This was the same furniture in the same arrangement as when Margaret lived in the house and raised her two sons, one being the man. Finally, though, my mother's sofa assaults came to a conclusion with Margaret's passing as well as my being called by names eponymous with farm animals.