Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Another Family Reunion! Shoot Me. Shoot Us All.


What is it about our own flesh and blood that brings up thoughts of murder/suicide before we have even finished dinner?

It is a tired topic. As much as we love and adore them, our family can take us from 0 to 60 on the rage and frustration meter in 2.6 seconds. I might be willing to die for these people but I also may be the cause of their demise if they don't SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE. And it's not just me. I can’t count how many times I have heard the equivalent of “I had Sunday dinner with the family and after two hours I was about to go psycho!” The offending relative is usually participating in a variety of seemingly innocuous actions such as: clicking their dentures, telling the same story eight times, falling asleep when it's their turn while playing cards, asking "So when you are going to get married?” or saying "I sure could use another piece of that pie." We may not even notice when a friend or coworker says or does the same thing, but when it's Uncle Ed we want to punch him.

Frank McCourt is a favorite author of mine (Angela's Ashes, Teacher Man, etc.). His writings prove that this family hair trigger of anger surpasses the boundaries of ethnicity, religion, social status or region of the world. Consider what he has to say in "Tis'", about his mother who was a near saint having survived poverty, starvation, the birth of seven children and death of three, a neglectful alcoholic husband and relocation from Ireland to New York late in her life;

"She tells me I look fine though I should do something about my eyes, they're that red and "your a bit old to be having bad eyes". I want to snap at her that I'm twenty nine and I don't know the proper age for not having bad eyes and is this what she wants to talk about the minute she arrives in New York? In the taxi she says, "Lord above, look at all those motor cars. The roads are packed." I say, "You should have seen it an hour ago, traffic was even worse". She says she doesn't see how it could be worse. I am trying to be patient and I'm telling her that it was worse. She won't give up and I won't though I'm looking at the pettiness of the two of us and wondering why I'm arguing instead of celebrating the arrival of my mother in the city all of us dreamed of all our lives. Why does she pick on my eyes and why do I have to contradict her over the traffic?"

Why indeed.

" Tools For Coping With Life Stress has this to say;

Use a rational approach to rethink and reason in your mind what is going on and why you are angry.

· Is this a event bringing up old unresolved anger or resentment in me?

· How is what is happening to provoke my anger a product of my past?

· What is really getting me angry?

Much of the research I did on why and how we seem to get so incensed with family members revolves around the theme of unresolved issues or past patterns. When we do not have the tools to handle a situation, the offending issue imprints itself but there is no resolution. Subsequent "reminders" cause a stressful reaction and because the original issue is unsettled our emotions escalate quickly.

The practical application? Let's say you were six years old one Thanksgiving and reaching for a piece of candy when Uncle Ed slapped your hand telling you that "sweets aren't good for kids." You then watched him devour three pieces of your cousin’s pumpkin pie. Twenty years later when Uncle Ed goes for the desert table you may feel tense. Or you have a sister who is passive/aggressive and never confronts anyone about anything. What she does is clear her throat. I am one of the very few who can "hear" the accusation, judgment and disapproval in her throat clearing. When I pointed it out to a date one Christmas, she looked at me as if I were out of my mind and said; "judgmental throat clearing?" But I heard it.

So is that all there is to it? Unresolved issues that stem from wedding receptions when Aunt Betsy drank too much and mooned your Grandma? I think the feelings that only family can evoke in us are rooted a bit deeper. I think there must be someplace inside most of us that resents the family we were dealt. Most of us have spent vacations and holidays throughout our lifetime trapped in small quarters with people we have little to nothing in common with except a bloodline. We didn't choose them, we didn't ask to be grouped with them, we may not even like them. But out of obligation or tradition there we are again year after year feeling stuck and imposed upon, playing another round of Trivial Pursuit and eating Tums wishing we were anyplace else on earth.

I don't know about you but I don't want to feel this way about my family. I have lived long enough to know that there is another time that we see each other and that is at funerals. Maybe it is at then that we can actually appreciate the ties that bind us. Memories flow of both happy and sad times together, sharing an understanding and history that goes all the way back to birth. Who knew that Uncle Ed would put his arm around your shoulders and let you cry like a baby? Maybe it's because he has known you since you were.

They make us crazy. Perhaps we would never have chosen them if we had been given a choice. But it is what it is and at some point you make your peace. Besides, my cousin's pie is so good we all want three pieces.

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icanluvulongtime is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on Another Family Reunion! Shoot Me. Shoot Us All.

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By Jen on July 17, 2008 at 07:53 pm

Whenever I visit my mother she drives me absolutely woman I'm going to stab you with a butter knife if you don't give me some breathing room for just a moment kinda insane.  But...then we part ways and I'm not sure how long it will be before I see her again and I miss her almost immediately and have regrets for not being just a little more patient with her while we were together. 

Bottom line...she's old, tired, and cranky but when I'm really feeling blue or scared or nervous about the future she is always there to tell me how wonderful, strong, or just plain super I am and even though I suspect she's lying through her teeth and wondering when I'm going to get married, finish my thesis, and get a "real" job. 

And for that...I forgive her for making me eye that butter knife that sits so invitingly on the counter just waiting for its moment...

Nice article :)

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By D. E. Carson on July 18, 2008 at 10:57 am

It's not that family isn't there for you, it's when the whole "fam damily" gets together at the same time in the same place that can cause problems.  We all moved out of the area because we all had differences of opinion on everything and the family reunion reminds us of those differences.  We don't stop loving family because we disagree, but when there are more than three of us together, the basic rules of behavior override our desire to speak freely in public -- even when "public" is still the family.  There is only one family reunion to which I have gone and felt "safe" and that was my paternal grandmother's family.  Somehow that branch of the tree managed to stay pretty sane.  Maybe it was that the family came from Germany in the late 1800s and helped settle Oklahoma and the toughness has trickled down -- or maybe it's because it isn't that far back to the old country...

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By Lila M. on July 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm

this is why tv & films with family dilemnas, a wierd relative, etc. are always a hit, cause we can all relate to those family woes.   it's endless nag city when I hang out with the fam, it's like DE said, we don't stop loving them....but I've narrowed my visits to holidays and birthdays for the sake of my sanity.

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By 'Mean' Mike Duffau on July 26, 2008 at 12:41 am

a phone conversation works well for me. good topic champ!

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By icanluvulongtime on July 26, 2008 at 06:28 pm

Lila, it IS a universal topic isn't it?  Thanks Mike, always my supporter, I like the phone calls too.  YOU can decide when it's time to hang up...!

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By Alethea on August 01, 2008 at 11:55 pm

I like how you included Coping Tools, lol

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By icanluvulongtime on August 06, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Thanks Alethea, it is a great resource.

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By TonyBerkman on November 08, 2011 at 01:40 am

The title alone is hilarious.

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By Credo on October 23, 2013 at 09:50 pm

You have my vote....


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