Having our folks over here on Wednesday reminded me of just how lucky I am to have a fairly normal family.
That might sound kind of funny, but believe me, I don't take it for granted. We certainly have our family problems and trials to bear, and everyone has to deal with a little drama at some point. I have relatives who have dealt with marital problems, financial problems, substance abuse problems, and health problems. But for the most part, my immediate family is fairly drama-free, and we're a very easy-going bunch. I don't argue with my parents, I don't argue with my sisters, and they don't argue with me. We're jam up and jelly tight, baby. Ken's family has been through some drama in the past, but they've weathered it. Now that his Mom and stepdad are here in town, I believe they're removed from the drama they've had to deal with in the past, and can settle in and enjoy a peaceful existence.
[A major sidebar here. On Wednesday, my Dad noticed the large silver platter atop our corner curio cabinet, and asked what it was. Ken explained that it was a trophy that his own father gave him, one that he won for his dog training skills. Dad was initially wondering about the silver content of the platter, but quickly learned that there is much more value there than the silver. Ken went out to the trunk--the one that belonged to his Dad--in the garage and brought in the Hollywood stills of his father's dog, Baron the German Shepherd. Baron was a legitimate movie star, starring with Gene Autry and playing the part of Bullet, Roy Rogers' and Dale Evans' dog. There's one shot of Baron wearing a fedora and holding a cigarette in his mouth--it's so cool! I told Ken that I should get frames for those. A cool piece of memorabilia, and a nice tribute to Ken's Dad. I'm very sorry that I never got to meet his Dad, but I have a feeling I would have liked him very much. A brilliant engineer who worked at Fermilab? A big guy with an even bigger heart and a great sense of humor? Yeah, I think I would have enjoyed spending time with him! How much fun would it have been for all three of us to get into science discussions? It would have been a veritable geekfest! Ken told me once, "My Dad would love you. Your intelligence, your sense of humor...I know he'd love you." I am content with knowing that, and with hearing other family members say the same thing. They also have told me that he'd be proud of Ken's achievements, and very pleased to know that he is happy and content at last. End of sidebar.]
Since my family is fairly stable (My parents celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary tomorrow...how amazing is that?), it's always a little surprising to me to see drama and dysfunction in other families. I guess I'm naive, but I can only say that while I understand that there is a lot of dysfunction out there, I haven't had to deal with it much--and I'm grateful for that. My parents have always been the bedrock of my family--a long-lasting, happy relationship, and I've never seen them fight. I've seen them disagree, and I know that they've been irritated with each other, but I have never seen them fight. Call me crazy, but since that's been my example for almost 47 years, that's pretty much my ideal. For anyone who says that it can't be done, or that healthy relationships have to include fights, I suggest that you meet my parents and hear what they have to say about it. I think that 62 years speak for themselves, though!
The alternative to Stable Happy Family is Scary Dysfunctional Family, and I'm sure we've all seen the latter on various talk shows, or have had them as neighbors, or have maybe even been a part of one. For my gentle readers, I hope that is not the case, but SDF is definitely out there. Parents who have been through multiple divorces and marriages; philanderers; parents who show their kids that lying, bitterness, and hatred is the norm rather than an aberration and something to be avoided; parents who continue the same abysmal behavioral patterns that their own parents exhibited.
What's great is that I've known plenty of people who have broken the mold and have not continued in their own dysfunctional parents' footsteps. They've managed to learn a lesson in the midst of all the misery and have decided "I'm not going to be like that." They move forward, step away from such behavior, and do not let the dysfunction continue. To those folks, I say Good for you! and what an admirable thing to be able to break that cycle. I salute you! Unfortunately, there are also many who seem to revel in dysfunction, and that's where Jerry Springer has found his niche, much to our national shame. We've all known people who actually seem to get off on drama, and if there's none to be found, they'll create their own, even if it means lying in order to stir up trouble and emotions. What's really sad is that rather than breaking the chain of dysfunction (get the func out!), they choose to perpetuate it and pass it down to their offspring. 'Choose' is the key word there, because there is always a choice. How mental do you have to be to not care if you screw up your kids as much as your own parents screwed you up? That's definitely a case where the family "heirlooms" shouldn't be passed along.
I honestly believe that there is a certain mentality that loves to wallow in such unpleasantness, and feels that life isn't quite as spicy without a little drama. Call it Jerry Springer/White Trash Whore Syndrome. (Several years ago, I worked in a place where the secretary was seriously a white trash ho type...Cousin Shane and I wrote a song about her called "White Trash Whore," and we're still hoping that Shane might be able to retrieve it from an old hard drive. I recall it being quite hilarious!) I can laugh about it to a certain point, but there is also a tragic side. If someone has been through such tragedy and drama in their own childhood, wouldn't they realize their own problem and do whatever they could to keep their own neuroses from being passed on to their kids, rather than practically ensuring that the problem is perpetuated unto the next generation?
My parents did their best to give me a better life than what they had. They both came from very poor families, and life wasn't always easy for them. Despite some very rough times, especially in Mom's family, they chose to not let that define their lives, and created a very happy and long-lived relationship as well as a loving, stable, and happy home for us girls. I will always be grateful for that and for the example that they have set for me, my sisters, and virtually everyone who has encountered them. Happy 62nd Anniversary, Mom and Dad! (And don’t look for any of us on Jerry Springer anytime soon!)
*Random uncomfortable family photos via AwkwardFamilyPhotos, a truly hilarious site*