Christmas Day was spent at hubby's brother's house up by North Branch, MN. It was a rough drive home, with the hiways covered in a few inches of slick snow and traffic moving well below the posted limits. Since I'm the one who always drives, I had the radio turned off, instructed the kids to be quiet and entrusted the lives of my family members to our Guardian Angels and just about every other saint I could putter through my stressed mind. There were cars in the ditch and no plows in sight. An hour of scrambled prayers and a few curses ended with all of us, and the kids' stash of presents, safely at home.
Shortly after returning home, I got a call from a cousin. Aside from exchanging Christmas cards, contact between us had been limited to seeing her at my wedding nearly 19 years ago and then expressing my condolences at her sister's funeral about two years ago. We've always gotten along well, it's merely that this particular branch of the family has some problems "just dealing." I often times feel like I'm standing in the middle watching all of the family chaos swirl around me.
This cousin is estranged from her seven siblings. I have no idea what she has done to get the "black sheep" treatment, but it seems there is a rule that someone on this side of the family must be the designated sheep. I try my best to keep a low profile and stay out of the fray, but by golly, this branch will come up with anything just for some drama. Back when I was pregnant with my son, a very difficult pregnancy and an even more touchy delivery, I missed my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary because I had to get into a Labor and Delivery class at the last moment, necessitating my absence at said anniversary. Sending a card was not good enough, talking to my aunt and explaining all that was going on with my having a baby and all, and why I really, REALLY, couldn't be there wasn't good enough...nothing was ever going to be good enough to get me off her DNR* list any time in the future. No matter how many good things I had ever done, this perceived slight relegated me to the "Christmas card only" pile.
And I used to wonder why my dad's response to my genealogy enquires was the stoic and firm, "You don't want to know."
I spent the day today with my dad's eldest sister. She's almost 90. It was a nice and very pleasant visit. She is living in an assisted care residence that reminds me more of a Las Vegas casino than my archaic ideas of a nursing home. There is a grand staircase, grand piano, weight rooms, barber shop, gift shop, chapel, on and on. Very swanky digs that I could get used to. We even had lunch in the "private dining room."
This aunt and I both like genealogy and I love to talk to her for her first hand reminisces of people I only know from pictures. At no time did the conversation drift into ugliness and gossip, hallmarks of this branch of the family. I felt blessed to share this time with her since she too is cut off from her few remaining siblings. I think I'm the only one of my cousins to visit her, walking quietly through the battles without picking sides. A very sad and shameful commentary on how far this branch has drifted from the days when my grandfather used to say the rosary while keeping one eye on the football game or when great-grandpa said his daily rosary out on the front porch.
Now I have to wonder what is going on with my cousin. She called to see if I knew what was bothering the aunt who is irked with me for not going to her 50th wedding anniversary. Seems my aunt sent a little note in her Christmas cards to the eight siblings in this particular family alluding to some slight she has felt from them. My cousin wanted to know if I got the letter. No, thank Heaven, I only got the obligatory card sans ascerbic letter. My cousin was sincerely upset to think that she had hurt my aunt in some way...without even knowing what she could've possibly done nor how it would've even have been possible, especially considering that my cousin is also on the "Christmas card only" list and doesn't have much contact with this aunt.
As Linda Ellerbee says, "And so it goes." It's just the story of my dad's family. If there is no dissention in the ranks, some must be created. If people aren't bickering, it must be time to stir the pot. The weird thing is, most of the pot stirrers are in their 80s (please do NOT confuse these folks with my mother's side of 80-somethings who are saints) and have been behaving this way their entire lives. If they don't get over this petty behavior, they may all go to their graves angry and estranged from each other.
Again, I hear my dad's voice loud and clear..."You don't want to know." And, admittedly, I don't want to know why they behave this way. I just want them to stop acting like idiots and get on with their lives, what precious little time of them they have left.
*Do not resuscitate