I slept for 12 hours, which was fabulous, and woke up wondering what in the world I was going to do with myself today so I stayed in my jammies and started a movie on my laptop.  A couple of hours later my daughter called and I was excited thinking maybe I would get to spend some more time with her before I left after all but nooooo, what she really wanted was 20 bucks to go buy their marriage license.

I was crushed but agreed to give her the money.  She stopped by the hotel room for all of five minutes, just long enough to make some polite conversation and take the money.  I asked her if this was my in-person goodbye and she said yes, hugged me, said she loved me and left as quickly as she could.

Wow.  I traveled for over 24 hours to spend less than 3 hours with my daughter and was looking at at least another 12 hours to get home with another 24 hours to fill before I could even leave.  I tried to finish my movie but couldn’t concentrate so I went out to spend money, which always makes me feel better, ha, ha.  I started by attending the grand opening of the cutest Walmart I have ever seen and even though it was their very first day open they still had a clearance isle, which I found intriguing.  Knowing that I was going to have to pack stuff in my luggage to get it home severely limited my choices but I wound up with a candle, several scented discs to put in a warmer and five Christmas light extension cords that have an on/off switch by the plug in for about $9 total.  Feeling pleased with myself for finding such bargains I next located a Sally Beauty Supply – they’re everywhere, who knew?  Because I’m an independent contractor buying supplies for my job everywhere I go allows me to write off a great deal of my trips so I made a purchase there too. Next I found a Burger King and then headed back out onto the open road to visit a local landmark.

About halfway there I got a call from FMIL inviting me to dinner at 5:30.  All of a sudden the sun was shining and I was having a good day!  I still had enough time to reach the landmark and take a few pictures before heading back to their house for dinner.  I arrived 5 minutes early, there was loud music playing inside and I had to knock 4 times before anyone heard me.  My daughter and one of the kids answered the door and after hugging my daughter I turned to find a rat staring me in the eyes!  My darling Future Son In Law was holding the rat so it would be right in my face as I turned and I’m happy to say that I did not freak out one little bit!  I said “Oh hi there, you’re pretty” to the rat and pet it’s head.  I saw that it was friendly so I asked if I could hold it and he put her in my hands.  The rat was white with large brown spots, very soft and very sweet.  I held her close and she climbed up to my shoulder and eventually tried to go down one of my coat sleeves at which point I pulled her out and handed her back to FSIL.  It was clear that I totally burst his bubble with my reaction and I mentally chalked one up for me, none for him, whoo hoo!

I was there about 3 1/2 hours and during that time I listened to him and his mom tell stories about him growing up and here is what I gathered from that conversation.

FMIL has raised her children not to shy away from a fight.  It was clearly stated many times with pride by both her and her son that if any of her children came home from school crying about being bullied that FMIL expected that child to go back to school and beat up the bully and not to stop until they had won the fight.  Older siblings were told to go to school and beat up other children who had picked on their younger siblings. If they didn’t beat up the bully and win the fight FMIL would beat on them at home and send them back the next day to do it right.  To FSIL winning a fight means until the other person starts to bleed and then he stops, unless they keep fighting him and then he has a green light until they stop.  As long as her children fought because they were standing up for themselves or someone else AND they fought “clean” (no groin shots) she was proud of them and would take them out for ice cream after picking them up from the principal’s office.  Over and over again I heard the mantra “You may not have started it but you WILL finish it”.  FMIL told FSIL repeatedly that by fighting he was a man.  Not surprisingly, FSIL was suspended from school many, many times for fighting and has a short fuse.

Here’s my conclusion.  FMIL, FSIL and family have good hearts.  They aren’t out to hurt anybody but by golly if you hurt one of them they will all come after you for revenge.  Their definition of being bullied is very, very broad and seems to go from just being talked to mean repeatedly to physical bullying.  In a duel of wits FSIL is unarmed, although it is not from a lack of intelligence but a lack of skill in verbal communication.  When he’s nice, he’s wonderful and I could see that he does love my daughter and she loves him – with the immature love of the young and naive.  When he’s upset, which seems to be often and easy to do, he’s a volcano.  And he’s a total mamma’s boy, she rules the roost and he always winds up doing what she says.  The good news is that she keeps kids she likes as part of the family.  A boyfriend who broke up with her daughter 7 years ago still hangs out at the house and calls her mom.  That eases my heart because if my daughter ever breaks up with FSIL that means FMIL is at least going to take care of her until she can get back home to me and at most keep her on as an adopted kid.

Other bits of knowledge I gleaned tonight:  FMIL is about 6 – 7 years older than I am and has been married to her 2nd husband for 20 years.  FSIL’s father was bi-polar and a bad, bad man.  FSIL is very good looking and charismatic, I can see why my daughter is attracted to him.  FMIL has lived through enough abuse of all types to justify spending the rest of her life drooling at a funny farm but is an incredibly strong woman and an amazing survivor.  Consequently though, there’s an acceptance in her soul for the terrible things that have happened to her children that flabbergasts me.  For example, one of her daughters was gang-raped by 17 men and had a child because of it that FMIL has now adopted.  Another daughter was born simple because FMIL had been beat up by her husband while she was pregnant.  Another daughter was attacked at age 15 by 8 guys who thought she was someone else – they beat her senseless and when she recovered she was simple because of the brain damage they inflicted.  And the list goes on and on, hearing about them was horrifying and made me wonder if my daughter will be safe living with them because bad things seem to happen to this family with great consistency.  FMIL has adopted three of her grandchildren that I know of, at least two of them are disabled in some way – one with severe physical and mental disabilities who lives off a feeding tube and cannot talk, walk or speak and one who is very bright but has significant mental handicaps when it comes to social and reasoning skills.  The third one I suspect may have a mild mental disability, judging by the way she speaks, but it could just be a speech pattern native to that area of the country, I couldn’t tell.  FMIL also took care of her mother with cancer for years until her mother became a danger to the children and she had to put her in a home.  FMIL has a HUGE heart and is a very protective mamma in every way that she thinks is right to be protective.  I have a lot of respect for her after hearing all the stories she told me tonight.  FMIL doesn’t look like much, a large, chain-smoking, middle aged woman who only has one upper tooth in the front but I could tell that her children all felt loved and secure in her house and there was a lot of happiness there.

That kind of an atmosphere is a soothing balm to my daughter’s soul, in spite of all the yelling and name-calling that is one of the ways they show affection toward each other.  It made me realize how sterile our own family atmosphere has been all these years, unwittingly designed to keep each of us from bonding to the other instead of uniting us as a solid family unit.

The whole visit was a lot to take in and I’m going to be pondering my experience there for quite a while.  It’s probably a good thing I have another 12 hours of air travel before I get home because I have a lot to think about.

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