Published on August 29th, 2014 | by Richard Black0
Family Reunions and How to Avoid a Slideshow on Converting Costa Ricans to Lutheranism (Spoiler: There Isn’t One)
Laura, my wife, had a family reunion this past weekend and it was lovely. There’s really nothing like being around someones extended family to make one thankful that she, or in my case he, isn’t around one’s own relatives.
I love my family but only because I’m required to. Once the zombies rise up, social mores break down and we’re all fighting for fresh produce and prescription pharmaceuticals my relationship with my blood relatives will be a whole different ball game. Until that happy day we will all be required to tolerate each other for a limited time everyone is secretly thankful for because it only takes place once a year.
Family members are the people whom we are required to make a part of our lives. Friends are the people we choose to be with, at least, until they sleep with our significant others, mooch to many beers or stick us with the tab at the end of a meal (yes Larry I’m talking about you.)
Don’t get me wrong my family is full of nice, well meaning Midwesterners which is to say most Midwesterners. Aside from our genetic ties however we really don’t have much in common. Whenever my extended family gets together, usually for the Thanksgiving and occasionally for Christmas, we tend to stand around and make awkward conversation about our jobs or our health and the weather until someone opens up a bottle of Schnapps and we add heartburn into the conversational mix.
“I’ve got a hemorrhoid the size of a Concord grape,” one of my uncles confided to me last year over a pile of Ritz crackers and a pint glass of Apple Pucker. I’m generally prepared for these sorts of things and keep a handful of Saltines on my person at all times to jam in my mouth and gesture wildly toward the bathroom to imply that I’d really like to hear about the medical condition (hemorrhoid, heart valve, dysfunctional penis) but my IBS is acting up. Most of the time Uncle Sid is willing to let me race off to the can but halfway to the toilet I’m usually accosted by one of my 18 aunts who is hell bent on discussing her prolapsed uterus.
“You should really have your wife talk to her doctor,” Aunt Sherri or Terri or Flo will say, “It’s more common than you think,” my aunt says as she leans over and whispers, “it really makes sex a lot less painful. We’ve been going at it like teenagers!” she finishes just as her morbidly obese husband enters the room to sweep five pounds of shrimp onto a plate.
It’s times like these that I’ve found prayer to be useful. Not because I’ve found that it provides any tangible results mind you, I imagine God has bigger fish to fry than helping me avoid awkward conversations, but the act does allow me an ostensible reason to focus on something other than a septuagenarian’s plumbing as I make a frantic dash to the facilities.
Once I emerge a few hours later a slideshow is, inevitably, in full swing. Apparently one of the benefits of having an extended family is that they provide a captive audience for a documentary on one’s trip to Arkansas, the local outlet mall, Costa Rica or a viewing of someone’s colonoscopy.
Attendance for these sorts of things in my family are mandatory and by mandatory I mean that they are not worth the nagging I’d have to tolerate for the next three years from my mother, my wife and, most likely my daughter when she’s able to voice her concerns and side with her mother which is, probably, for the best.
I’ve seen slideshows of my pasty white relatives in the Holy Land, I’ve seen them with third degree sunburns in the Mediterranean and with frostbitten toes on a cruise to Alaska. I’ve even witnessed a five slide carousel epic documenting a trip to Costa Rica in which an aunt and uncle were ostensibly providing the indigenous population with medical care as well as liberal amounts of Lutheranism. And that’s great. It’s just not how I roll these days or really any day now that I think of it.
The thought of converting an entire population into my belief system is a few orders of magnitude beyond my comfort zone. I don’t even like recommending movies to people. Imagine how embarrassed I’d be if I met an entire island’s worth of men and women in the afterlife whom I’d unintentionally destined to hell because I told them to watch the third Matrix movie or convert to Lutheranism?
For the sake of my daughter’s mental well being I think I might forgo family gatherings for the next ten to fifteen years. Then again I might have some video of a colonoscopy I’d like to show everyone and the upcoming Holiday’s would seem to provide a perfect opportunity for this sort of thing.