I’m pleasantly exhausted after a week-long family gathering at my house in California. Friends lent us their house to bed down six people; the other three stayed with my husband and me. My house was the center of activity for eleven of us for seven days, together! The success of the event and the even-temperaments of everyone, despite the inevitable conflicts about where to go and when to go…made me remember reunions that weren’t quite so perfect, with the relatives from hell who put the ‘t’ in turmoil. Are you thinking of one right now?
-the loud-mouth contrarian
-the passive aggressive one
-the annoying prankster
-the one who refuses to do anything
My deceased aunt Frances (Frannie), comes to mind - unmarried PE teacher and tap dance instructor, prematurely wrinkled, hair askew, and always racing from one place to another. A know-it-all; a conniver. She had to be in charge at every reunion; if it wasn’t her idea, it wasn’t worth a cent. She used her last will and testament, the promise of an inheritance, to keep her nieces and nephews in line. I called her on her manipulation tactic; I got none of her tainted money.
The good thing about Fran? See, I’m an organized, plan-ahead kind of person, so I have to be careful I don’t become the ‘Fran’ of our yearly reunions. I ask family members ahead of time for activity proposals and once we’re all together, we make sure the schedule is flexible with each person’s interests met. This takes good listening skills and means the whole group won’t always be together, but everyone has a good time. And no, I’m not holding out an inheritance as an enticement for my nieces and nephews to be nice to me. Instead, I give each a certain amount of money at the end of each college term, if their grades are good enough AND they’ve signed up for the next year.
So here’s your chance. Describe your relative from hell…and the negative lessons she/he taught you.
And if you want to read about an interesting family dynamic in Petersburg, Alaska, LIE CATCHERS is for you. Liv has returned to her home town (where her brother is the sheriff) to help her mother save the family business.
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