There are two ways to do things you really don't want to do: you can spread the pain out over a long period of time and bitch and whine and moan about shit for weeks on end, or you can jump in to the shit pile and get it all over with at once.
Prof and I chose to jump into the shit pile.
My Dad's side of the family's family reunion was Sunday. I didn't actually get invited to it; my mom (who had been divorced from my dad something like 18 years before he died) did. She's real slow at providing info, so I found out about it about three weeks ago. She wanted to go. Don't ask me why someone would want to go to the family reunion of her dead ex-husband, but there you have it. And I couldn't let her go alone, because that would have just been way too strange, so I signed myself up too. And I signed up prof, because I think we are far enough along in our relationship that he gets to suffer when I have to suffer.
But the suffering was not one sided, trust me. Prof's dad and stepmom have been on us to come for a visit for months. I've met them both at various Prof family get togethers, but apparently they wanted more one on one time with me. I can hardly blame them, since I am incredibly funny and interesting. But still, what a pain in the ass. They live 90 minutes away, and aren't the most normal or easygoing of people. I've been dodging it for a while "Can't. Kayaking." "Can't. Bad hair day." "Can't. Pulling fingernails out that day." But with summer winding down, it was time to just get it over with.
So we filled the weekend with a big pile of family shit.
We drove to Prof's hometown on Saturday and visited his Grandma, cousin, nephew, dad, stepmom and uncle. But it wasn't that easy. Dad and Grandma don't get along so well, and neither do Dad and his sister, and hence he doesn't get along so well with Prof's cousin, uncle or anybody on that side of the family. Can you say awkward? So, we visited with Grandma, who is 93 years old and probably was wondering where Prof's wife was and who the hell was I? There's not much to say about that. Talking to someone who is 93 and in a nursing home goes about the same for everyone all over the world. Then we went to lunch with his dad and stepmom.
I'm not normally exposed to truly neurotic people, so I was on my best behavior. Being on my best behavior is exhausting. Prof's dad and stepmom are special people, with very special ideas and habits. And by "special," I mean insane. Yes, there was the obligatory Stepmom rifling through her purse to make sure we all had hand wipes; cuz apparently soap and water isn't good enough. I'm not even sure these were your regulation handi-wipes: I think they were bleach wipes. But that was nothing really, in comparison to the key story. Dad carefully explained, as he gave Prof his copy, why he had made 20 spare keys for his house, and how he had decoy hide-a-keys in the yard. Decoy spare keys people. I couldn't make this up if I tried.
As I've gotten older, I've realized that even though my family had some serious issues, we were still generally normal people, with normal ideas and normal goals. And only real hide-a-keys in the yard. Its something that I've really begun to appreciate.
Until I heard about my great-great aunt's collection of "hair receptacles" at my family reunion. That's right. Hair Receptacles. What, you don't know what that is? Well, let me fill you in. A hair receptacle is a small jar with a hole in the top that women of the Victorian era used to put their hair in after they brushed it or pulled it out or whatnot. While arguably, this is better than what I do today (smearing it on the shower wall), its still gross. More gross because of what they did with it. Apparently, "hair art" was all the rage, and women would weave things out of their own hair, or put their hair in jewelry or give it as gifts or whatever. But really, who would collect that stuff?
My 2nd-removed family, that's who. The daughters of the woman (now deceased) who had started collecting this stuff were totally into it. Like, really into it. I think I had a look of horror on my face the whole time they were telling us about it, that I just couldn't hide from them. Guess I shouldn't be so judgemental. Maybe someone will one day think my lunch box collection is gross (only if you open the thermos' and take a big whiff). Hair receptacles. Who knew?
Surprising as it was, the family reunion (minus hair receptacle) wasn't as bad as it could have been. I avoided the 97 people I had never met, and caught up with the 3 really old people that I knew. Mostly, I talked with my mom and Prof. And ate lots of red-neck salads, and cake. Also got my copy of the family cookbook, and a family reunion t-shirt. The cookbook isn't veggie friendly (duh) and the t-shirt, which features a black and white photo of my great grandparents, is clearly destined for the rag pile.
Its exhausting work, being nice and pleasant and charming, for people you barely know. I much prefer belching and farting and telling rude jokes for people I know well. Hopefully, we can do that this weekend.