Everyone has family members that aren’t the people we want to spend time with, and I’m no exception. All of my immediate family, except for a few cousins, are dead, and I’m coming to realize that it might be a good thing. Not only would the majority of my family members be tottering along in their 120’s-130’s, but the younger generation, (my mother’s), would be old, sick, and if Mama was any indication, cantankerous. So, for the second Christmas of my life, I missed all of that, and I am grateful. No one told me what a rotten, lousy person I am, how disappointed they are in their gifts, (wrong size, color, style, brand), etc., or that the corn pudding is a SUCH a disappointment, because Grandma didn’t make it. So, let’s heave a sigh of relief on that end.
However, I have been blessed with voluminous in-laws—and they have been fruitful and multiplied. In my family there were 3 of us in our family group, and in my husband’s there were 7. We could have a family reunion at one booth at McDonald’s. So, I am shell-shocked at the sheer volume of people at Family Festivities, which is exacerbated by the personalities involved. Fortunately, we don’t have to go every year! (And may never go again!)
I do my best to get along with everyone, to be cheerful, kind, non-judgmental, and pleasant, but sometimes, I have to go outside and take a turn around the shrubbery and just stop my ears up so I can hear myself breathe. Seemingly hundreds of small children boil about the house, and it is a real success if I can move from the door to the table with my one good eye, without stepping on anyone, knocking someone’s drink over, (and better make sure it’s not a part of the Christmas Glug, that belongs to the eldest son-- he might take an arm off), or getting tangled with the latest, greatest toy that flies. For the most part, I sit at the table, and do my best to just stay out of it all, and keep smiling. I try to be encouraging and occasionally go outside to the rear balcony, which looks out over the Ohio River, to enjoy the lights, and to speak a bit more privately in a smaller group, with less decibels.
This year, the eldest son’s family was there, not quite en toto, but what’s a few 10 less people? The eldest son is a bonafide wackadoodle. Always has been. Stayed in trouble throughout school, married at 18, and proceeded to have 9 children, the first 5 of which have been a MESS. He used to work at a plating company, and I truly wonder if he doesn’t have some environmental brain damage…
The eldest of his children has since gotten her head together and is a wonderful person, but she, herself, has 4 boys, who are sweet rapscallions, and her eldest daughter is on drugs, so she is also rearing her grandson. This adds to the general melee, but he is a sweet, small child and I am very thankful she has him.
Next in line, (of the eldest son’s bunch), a daughter who has done prison time for drugs and been in and out of rehab 3 or 4 times. Frankly, I gave up trying to keep track of her, as every time I thought she was out of jail, she was in, and visa-versa. She has two greasy 16-year-old boys that are likely to be future serial killers… I never got to talk to them, as they behaved as if they were asleep so they didn’t have to talk to anyone. She also has a daughter, whom I would rear in a heartbeat—Sweet Girl, but has a snowball’s chance in life. Yet, at 14, I don’t think she would take too kindly to a normal family life…
Next on the Hit Parade, a son, who is also on drugs, but didn’t come to the ‘festivities’, as he isn’t welcome. Who’d a thunk it? He stole a set of wheels from another sister’s husband and they are now sworn enemies. He took the wheels with his father’s blessing, and HIS only regret was that HE wasn’t in on the deal. See? Wackadoodle.
The next one is a son, who has two lovely, darling, children, who are being reared by their maternal grandmother, so they’re ok. Good thing. This son used to go up to my father-in-law’s room at the Old Folk’s Home and steal from him. How pleasant. He has matured, although he is still in and out of trouble with the law, and knows the rehab intimately… By the way, I get along with all of them, and am kind to them. I don’t say anything, despite having a ticker tape running in my head… (No, No, No, No, No, No, No…)
The other 4 kids are good kids, productive members of society. NORMAL. Truly a joy to be with! These are the second wife’s children and they’re wonderful kids. Her two children weren’t there due to the wheel incident. The two children they share were there. One is in pre-med and other on is a basketball/football/track star who is ‘into’ healthy living. I wouldn’t want them around the others… Ever.
The next down on the seminal family tree is us, and we are “normal”. I think anyway. We’ve not been in jail or rehab, we live a normal life, my son is in marching band, we don’t steal, and we don’t cheat. We have heirlooms, all in one piece… We’re just folks, you know? Let me say this, if my great-great grandfather would have revolved in his grave over me becoming a geologist, he would auger his way to China with this bunch! This includes Uncle Henry, who was a feather bed renovator and was always tactfully spoken of as dead.
Next down on the original family totem pole is a sister, who is a pediatrician and lives in LA. She didn’t come, and boy, was she smart!!!
Then there is the younger brother, whom I love dearly, and his wife, who is a wonderful person. The family affliction has gotten them too. They have two boys who are on drugs and semi-evil, in different ways. They have never had an ounce of discipline in their lives and it shows. About 5 years back, we quit going out to dinner with them, because the youngest son, who was 8 years old at the time, went around the restaurant, spitting in people’s food. I was so embarrassed, I refused to eat out with them until they got that problem fixed. We occasionally go out now, (the youngest is 13, and I have promised to whale on him if he does it again), but they have other means of making a meal torture…
Then, we have the youngest of the original siblings. Sister Peggy, who has a diagnosed personality disorder, an IQ of 72, and is a real problem. Just trying to talk to her normally, is impossible, as she has the emotional capacity of a 10-year-old. I do my best, but after a while, I give up. She starts off normally enough, but by the time she reaches the “Mama didn’t raise no fools” stage, I’m done. Yes, your dear, wonderful, classy Mama did—two of you. Not only should she have been beating the eldest like a gong from Day One, she refused to recognize that you had a problem and did NOTHING to prepare you for life. Peggy is officially 2 points above the cutoff for state supervision, and the rest of us have our own problems… So, all of us help her when we can and she needs it, but, after a while, one gets tired of it all, because no matter what you do to help, it comes back and bites you. About 5 years ago, she didn’t have a winter coat, so I ripped my own brand-new winter coat, (the 1st in 10 years), off my back and gave it to her. She didn’t like the color and left it on a bus within two weeks. Then, she called me to complain about the color of the coat.
Sitting there, listening in to Peggy rant and rave about how we all kept her from driving, (she threatened to wreck her car into someone and kill them—not anyone special, just someone driving down the street), the younger set who knows the booking sergeant downtown on a first name basis, their rehab stints, and how wonderful it will be on New Year’s Eve when they get all drugged up together, I got to thinking—Just what IS a family?
This is where I should put a meme about family that is heartwarming, yet true. Sorry, I can’t seem to find anything that quite equals the experience we had, NOR can I seem to gather my wits together. Here is my family truth:
I guess we’re all dysfunctional, just some of us are more dysfunctional than others. If you’re lucky, your family puts the word “Fun” in dysfunctional. If not, get your DNA fumigated and move on.
I have blood relatives that I count as my family. Yes, we’re all related through my great-grandparents, or great-great grandparents, or 3 great’s grandparents, but still. I love them dearly, care about them, hope the best for them, and will gladly do everything I can to be supportive and loving of them. I do the same for my in-laws, because that is what family does, but not because I necessarily want to. There is a distinct branch that I don’t want to be around, AT ALL. I keep thinking that blue lights will be flashing outside the eldest son’s home, who hosts this festive nightmare, and we’ll be caught up in the raid.
Then, there are friends that I think of as my family. The family of my heart, so to speak, I love them and care about them, and hope the best for them. If they need anything, I’m there, no question!
In some weird way, being at their family gathering is a lot like being on NT. I get a lot of the same sense of confusion… The What’s This? I will never be able to relate to the drug set, nor the elder son’s set, which revolves around alcohol-related incidents, speed boating, fabulous vacations on no money, and cheating other family members out of their inheritance. I'm too old and too tired. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with the younger generation who are now parents, because they think it is funny when their children deliberately spill their plate of food on the floor. (Except for the normal ones who didn’t come and wouldn’t think it funny, at all!) In my house, someone would not be sitting down, but in their house, it is hilarious! I can’t relate to this!
I can deal with the eldest son’s politics—needless to say, NT has given me the ability to tune out minor annoyances. Ditto his bragging, arrogance, condescension, and sheer stupidity. Although, if I have to go back any time soon, I may take a baseball bat with me… Good thing we only have to go every 2-6 years.
From here on out, if I have any say-so, we’re going to be out of town. I don’t know where out of town, but Anywhere will do!