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.. to feel uncomfortable in this house

(28 Posts)
FrauMoose Sun 07-Apr-13 09:41:22

An elderly relative has always been quite extreme in her need for tidiness. I am finding this increasingly difficult when I go and visit with my partner and teenage child.

She has a dining table - modern varnished wood, the kind that doesn't ringmark or stain. However the table has to be covered with a rubber protective cloth and then a table cloth. On top of that there has to be placemat and coasters. If there is a jug on the table, the jug has to be placed in bowl on a mat, so that there is no risk of spills getting onto the table.

Lately it seems to have got worse. On my last but one visits there were a lot of comments when my teenager made a microscopic spillage of some kind of sauce onto the (dark coloured, synthetic, washable) tablecloth. Yesterday I visited and there were further comments when it was discovered that I had spilled a drop of soup onto the cloth when serving out. On this occasion one tablecloth had been put on top of the ordinary tablecloth - in order to provide added protection.

I feel I should visit again as this person is quite old and - on one level - values my visits. On the other hand I feel very uncomfortable there. (I am expected to eat a meal when I go there, rather than just dropping in for tea.) An alternative would be to go out - but that is awkward and tense for a different set of reasons. I feel my relative wants of offer hospitality, but finds it very anxious-making in other ways.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Sun 07-Apr-13 09:43:46

Yanbu to feel uncomfortable but try to laugh about it with your family in a nice way when you're not there. She possibly has OCD which has gone undiagnosed....help her as much as you can by trying to be cheerful.

WeAllHaveWings Sun 07-Apr-13 10:04:01

Reminds me a bit of my mum. She inherited her immaculate dining able from my gran. It's immaculate due to many years of many layers of protection! Mum is now just as careful with it as gran was, think she wants to pass on in the same condition.

Is it just the dining table that's an issue? Think it's quite common for older people to protect them in this way as a dining table was quite an expensive and precious thing to them.

mrsjay Sun 07-Apr-13 10:07:28

my mum is like this I grew up with her fluffing pillows brushing non existent crumbs wiping tables and whipping coffee cups away to wash when you are not finished hmm. It is uncomfortable but you just need to go with it and smile and perhaps keep your visits shorter

Fudgemallowdelight Sun 07-Apr-13 10:13:14

Sounds like she needs a wipeable cloth.

HollyBerryBush Sun 07-Apr-13 10:17:58

Mature folks aren't from the disposable era though are they? they expect things they have bought to last, and take steps to protect and keep them nice. They aren't going to chuck something out and nip off to Ikea to buy a new table cheaply.

MIL used to have the heat protector rubberised cloth, a daily table cloth to cover that, and a nice table cloth for meals on top along with place mats and coasters. Never struck me as odd.

The exacting standards of yesteryear shouldn't be dropped because, we as a generation, are just so busy to keep up those standards (table cloth? my house? only at Christmas!). It's quite nice to see things done properly now and again.

However, back to your problem with mess making you feel uncomfortable and nervous regarding eating. No good host would make you feel like that. Depending on your relationship with this elderly relative, I think I'd be laying a news paper under my plate and rolling it up after. grin

mrsjay Sun 07-Apr-13 10:21:13

holly you are right things are very precious to them, and they do get uptight about spillage or crumbage grin

gallifrey Sun 07-Apr-13 10:49:55

I have a friend that's younger than me who really is a clean freak, I'm not sure if she does have OCD about cleaning but we went to her house one evening for a chinese and even when she opened the door to us she apologised for the mess and the state of her house, which was the cleanest, tidiest house I have ever been in. She spent most of the evening picking up non existent bits of dirt off the floor and we all very carefully ate our food so we didn't spill any.
One poor girl knocked her drink over and was made to feel so terrible she cried!
It was a truly horrible, uncomfortable evening and we never went there again.
OP I feel your pain.

Fudgemallowdelight Sun 07-Apr-13 10:53:33

One poor girl knocked her drink over and was made to feel so terrible she cried! Wow! shock

mrsjay Sun 07-Apr-13 10:53:41

thats my mums house gallifrey people went to my mums last year for her 60th it was us dds boyfriend and an aunt and uncle mum spent the whole time putting coasters down and washing glasses, was a stupid idea to go back to hers after the meal, she also bleaches her ceilings and has wasted atoilet seatswith putting them in a bath of bleach

Fudgemallowdelight Sun 07-Apr-13 10:55:42

I've got a heat protector and wipeable cloth on our table, but other than that i am a complete slattern!

landofsoapandglory Sun 07-Apr-13 10:57:52

My dining table has a table protector, table cloth, then we put place mats and coasters on it. It is about 11years old and is totally unmarked. We look after all of our furniture, TBH.

Pigsmummy Sun 07-Apr-13 10:57:52

I am precious about my table and I am 38! Friends regularly put glasses straight on it and I insist on coasters. I think you shoukd just carry on visiting and use mats/coasters all the time.

FrauMoose Sun 07-Apr-13 11:13:45

My feelings are probably related to underlying difficulties in the relationship.

But I think it is natural to feel uncomfortable when being watched all the time and repeated mention is made of possible or actual crumbs, minor spillage etc.

I would feel very upset if I caused permanent damage to anybody's furniture or possessions. But I think it would be pretty impossible to damage a table that was covered by a folded-over protector and two lots of cloths. Especially if that table that lies underneath at is the kind that can easily be wiped clean.

If I was at a formal do and I knocked wine or tomato sauce all over a beautiful white damask table cloth, I would certainly wish that I had been more careful. But it is hard for me to feel that quite the same degree of vigilance is needed care is need for a green polyester cloth owned by someone with a washing machine and tumble dryer.

Nothing my relative owns is old or precious or beautiful. We eat off a kind of green utility china that I have only ever seen used elsewhere in church halls. Also as she is a well off person, it is not the case that poverty means she has a particular need to take care of say, a table cloth, because it is the only one she has and things could not be replaced.

I suppose when I visit somebody I like to feel there is a focus on conversation, enjoyment, celebration of being together. And when there is this nervous ultra-protectiveness of possessions, it seems that the conversation and celebration keep getting pushed out of the way.

Euphemia Sun 07-Apr-13 11:21:38

It's kind of bonkers being so precious about a table, isn't it? Having all that protection to keep pristine a table that no-one ever actually sees!

There might as well be a wallpapering table under all that. I don't hold with that nonsense - use your nice stuff, look after it, yes, but what's the point in keeping it covered up?

It's like my MIL with her bloody china cabinet - full of lovely china and crystal, yet she serves tea in mismatched BHS mugs and wine in mismatched cheap glasses. Why why why?!

ToysRLuv Sun 07-Apr-13 12:41:43

Euphemia: I totally agree. In any case a good quality table can be very easily sanded and varnished/treated again for the next generation. Genuine antiques are trickier, but how many people have 200 year old table as their regular dining table anyway?

VenusStarr Sun 07-Apr-13 14:15:49

This sounds like my mom. I think it's something she's inherited from her parents, but she is so rigid! So if I go round for a meal the table protector, table cloth then place mats are laid out. Plus all the cutlery. If we have something like a wrapped chocolate bar, this will be given in a bowl or on a plate, even though the item will not touch it hmm this then has to be rinsed and then put in the dishwasher.

I have not inherited any of this, if I get something out and don't use it, it goes back in the cupboard. Why create more washing up?!

We are also expected to stay for a meal, the while process lasts around 1 and 1/2 hours! We can't just pop round for a cup of tea. I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say you're not alone!

VenusStarr Sun 07-Apr-13 14:16:11

Sorry that should be 2 and 1/2 hours!

stressyBessy22 Sun 07-Apr-13 14:21:03

has this situation wotsened or has she always been this bad. I think it could be early signs of dementia

FrauMoose Sun 07-Apr-13 15:43:23

I think the rather obsessional quality of it all has got worse over the years. About seventeen years back my relative and her husband moved to a flat that was suitable for older people, and bought various new items of furniture. There was a particular zeal to protect the new furniture - that perhaps hadn't been there with stuff that had been more associated with the wear and tear of family life with the children who had once lived in the old house. . And then when her husband died my relative has stopped having to live with/tolerate a person with slightly different habits. So the rigidity has increased. And perhaps as she has got older - well on in her eighties now - I have been more inclined to notice how she wears herself out with tidying up.

WeAllHaveWings Sun 07-Apr-13 15:55:17

Nothing my relative owns is old or precious or beautiful

maybe not to you................but the older generation, especially a lady in her late 80's, will probably think very differently. If she has bought new furniture it might be important to her to protect it and keep it beautiful the way she learned in the past.

Different way of thinking to how our generation thinks, but I would respect that way of thinking in a 80+ year old and try to accommodate it without letting it bother me too much.

SquinkiesRule Sun 07-Apr-13 16:22:30

I wouldn't be comfortable eating on the multi layered protected table either.
My Mum (70's) has a naice table it's 40 years old now and she doesn't cover it at all ever, only place mats when we eat, she wants me to have it, I don't want it, she freaks when anyone puts anything on it. She'd still be doing it if I had it in my house.
I like to be comfortable, I like my old Oak table, it has marks, the kids did homework at it, Dd coloured all over and it came off with a magic eraser. Spills do nothing and hot pots don't hurt it.

FrauMoose Sun 07-Apr-13 16:50:53

I like the story about the wrapped chocolate bars VenusStarr.

I suppose ultimately it's just rather sad. An older person lives on their own, and does want to be visited.

But maybe as the visitor who has made a long journey in heavy motorway traffic I want/need to feel cared for? And for my family, who have come along, to be cared for too?

Lately it's felt more and more like a mixed message. We are all quite polite and considerate and helpful. But there is this sense of being constantly regarded as people who may damage and mark and spill and drop and untidy her things. It is the furniture, the possessions that are loved, not us. It's as if she would find it rather less stressful if we weren't there.

But thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

hairtearing Sun 07-Apr-13 17:10:23

I can see where you are coming from its stressful and puts you on edge constantly, if you are courteous then you are doing as much as you can.

I dunno if I would continue visits that were that uncomfortable tbh, if she values her stuff more leave her too it.

WeAllHaveWings Sun 07-Apr-13 17:18:55

She is well into her 80's!!! Are you seriously going there for her to care for you and your family? hmm

ime when an relative reaches this, frankly amazing, age the relationship does change and you are visiting to give them some company and make sure they are still coping ok.

Unfortunately most elderly people naturally lose some socials skills as part of the ageing process. My dh's papa, a lovely man, was a nightmare in his 80's before he passed away. But we would not have deserted him in his old age just because he became a cantankerous old bastard bit more difficult.

If this is someone you care about, you might need to adjust your expectations and make more allowances.

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