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March 31, 2015 / 11 Nisan, 5775
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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A Wife’s Concern:

Her Husband’s Unwavering Kibbud Av V’Eim

 

Dear Rachel,

Let me begin by saying how happy I am to have a saint for a husband. He is always at the beck and call of his elderly parents, giving them far more honor than he would ever claim for himself, despite their constant verbal abuse in his direction. Seriously, your average schoolyard bully has nothing on my father-in-law, an 85-year-old retired professional.

Yet even as I appreciate my husband’s saintliness, the necessity of it is wearing thin on me. Why does my father-in-law have nothing better to talk about in his old age than what a failure his son is for not being a doctor or a lawyer? He talks about it constantly, often exploding into fits of rage with expletives flying in all directions. Neither my presence nor the presence of our children has ever done anything to inhibit him.

My in-laws are secular and completely insensitive to our observance. They call us on Shabbos, knowing that all they have to do is ring enough times for my husband to fly into a protective panic and pick up. They serve treif to our children when they visit them, a huge source of contention between my husband and me since he keeps insisting on taking them along on visits because he needs to feel like he has a normal family (yeah, right) and they might disinherit us otherwise. And then there is the all-important atom bomb in the arsenal of manipulation: “My poor parents are sick and are going to die soon. They need to see their little einiklach!”

My husband refuses to accept that his poor, poor, sick old parents have been exactly like this since as far back as either of us can remember. The state of their health hardly excuses their behavior. If anything, it highlights how disgustingly they are spending their final years. Didn’t they learn anything in their 80-something years on earth about being good people? My father-in-law seems to have never achieved anything in his life without using it as an excuse to belittle the less fortunate, and my mother-in-law loves to yell at and threaten sales help when she can’t have it her way.

Despite all this, you wouldn’t believe how much my son coddles, pities and babies them. He spent his life being called an idiot and a good-for-nothing by them, yet did not take the opportunity to reciprocate the ‘niceties’ when his parents went away for six months, left the key to the lock on their door that could be broken with a kitchen knife under the doormat, and thousands of dollars under their mattress — only to come home to find their home burglarized.

Instead, my husband spent every spare second with them, helping them speak to the police and put their affairs in order. I finally lost it when he insisted on driving four hours to see them because they needed to be driven to an appointment – in their very own town! I told him that if they had any respect for his time they would take a cab.

What nerve do they have living in a sprawling suburb hours away from their children when they are too old to drive anywhere? My husband went on the defensive and insisted that his parents love their home and deserve the honor of having their children help them out. I told him that they would never make such requests of his brother, who is a lawyer, and that every time he goes there he comes home wounded and bleeding from all of the sick things his poor little old father says to him. Therefore, I argued, all of their requests for help are nothing but manipulative, abusive attempts to put their “good for nothing” son to use. This when he is 55 years old and a husband and father who provides quite nicely for us. Is it fair for me, as his wife, to have to endure watching my husband get whipped and stepped on over and over again?

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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