I walked out of a family get together yet again. Some people make dramatic entrances, I make dramatic exits. Usually it starts with me disagreeing with somebody and this last time was no different–hateful texts were exchanged and Facebook pages blocked. Shocking!
When you have a family as large as mine, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up the fake smile all the time. A long time ago, someone told us that our family looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We were all gathered together for Christmas Eve and the stranger sat in his car and stared at us hugging, eating, and exchanging gifts through the windows. Minus the creepy factor of the stranger watching, what he said was kind and rather accurate of the family back then.
Multiple divorces, deaths, and spats later, we’ve become more a picture of the perfect dysfunctional family… but with our smiling faces, fake smiles, and polite conversations, you’d never guess it. We’ve all become so consumed with our fake perfection that we don’t bother to know one another anymore. We don’t try to rely on our family–what for, you might ask. My cousin has a perfect life. She would never understand.
We can ignore each other at a family dinner, but make a display out of passing one another at the grocery store. Last Christmas I lied and bragged how my sister adores her new niece, but she’s never met her niece and I haven’t seen my sister in over 10 months.
In our attempt to attain perfection, we’ve only isolated ourselves from the very people who could support us the most.
A recent and very unexpected death in the family has revealed a lot about our large family and I’m heartbroken with what I’ve been told and witnessed. Several have moved beyond the fake smiles and greetings to downright rudeness. As a generally mean person myself, this wouldn’t bother me most occasions, but I’m bothered by who’s on the receiving end this time and I’ve Googled ‘elder abuse’ on more than one occasion.
As our family continues to reveal itself, those who stay in the inner circle are going to have to do it with fake smiles and vapid, polite conversations of relatives who really stopped listening–and caring–years ago.