What's that? Oh, please. We HAVE to have a sense of humor about these things, and plus hello! NO website out there comes with directions for how to handle this doozy of a diplomatic family issue.
The whole situation is incredibly difficult. And it's not like my family isn't sensitive -- hell, I think we compensate for our over-sensitivity by being incredibly sarcastic.
We've had a helluva hard time, my family, but we've always managed to get by okay by finding humor in things. Even where there maybe ought not to be.
A favorite example comes to mind...
My mother has just died. Family and friends are meeting up near the dock, where we'll be boarding a boat to take us to a small island off the coast of Maine. We're traveling for her funeral; she will be buried on the island.
My father is unpacking the car he came in, getting help from his best friend, Roger. My father hands Roger some luggage, some soft drinks, a bag.
The last thing my father grabs from his car is the urn containing my mother's ashes.
I watch as my father holds the urn in both his hands and looks at Roger. He hesitates for a moment. Something has crossed his mind. He's not sure how to proceed.
But he can't resist.
With apologetic eyes and a sheepish grin that emerges unexpectedly and seems a bit out of place, my father holds the urn towards Roger. And he says it.
"Take my wife, please."
Roger bows his head. And laughs.
So right. The "diplomatic" family issue.
In case you're new here, my sister just found out that her son -- the first baby in my immediate family -- has a genetic disorder that will cause him to have some mild to moderate mental delays.
That doesn't seem very funny to me, you might be thinking. And you'd be right. Mostly. The disorder isn't funny. Nor is the genetic nature of this situation: Charlie inherited it from my sister who inherited it from one of our parents who inherited it and so on. And now that it's surfaced in this generation, it will affect how my sisters and I approach having (more) kids, and can affect our cousins, too. No, not funny.
Well, we don't know what side of the family it came from yet. And even though "carriers" of this syndrome may not have a full-blown version of it and may not show any signs at all...sometimes carriers of this syndrome do have symptoms.
So not only do we get to play "Which side of the family did the disorder come from," but until we know, we can kind of quietly play, "Which side of the family seems more likely to have passed on a bit of mental disability?"
Is that not good old-fashioned holiday fun?
Because if you ever thought your family was crazy (and I know you have), let me tell you: this little twist adds a whole new dimension. You know, the twist wherein you realize those suspicions you held at the holiday table years ago about that relative who seemed just a bit "off" to you? Turns out, you could have been very, very right. And you may be next!
It's just that the more I think (and giggle, sorry) about it, the more I realize there is strong evidence to suggest that this genetic mental "un-swift-ness" really could have come from either side of the family.
And so now, for your holiday bemusement I share a Sammis-family, Christmastime story with you that involves my forehead.
And my cousin's forehead.
And anecdotal evidence to suggest a paternal inheritance.
Merry Christmas! Hahahahahahaha!
My cousin Nate, who appears here in the comments every now and then, and who is a contributor on Atlas Chugged, is a year older than I am. He grew up in Maine with his brother and I grew up in Connecticut with my sisters. Our families would get together at Christmas and for various other occassions throughout the year.
While Nate and I have never been too good at staying in touch on a regular basis, we get along famously when we're together.
One Christmas when we were some unfortunate age, I'd say maybe 13 and 14, we discovered we had very similar haircuts. While his hair was mostly short, he had grown out his bangs. His hair parted on the side, so his bangs swooped over his forehead. If he chose, he could tuck his hair behind his ear, or leave it down and have it cover one eye.
For our younger readers, please understand that this was an incredibly fashion-forward look at the tiem. Also? Be grateful you weren't trying to look good as a teenager in the 80s.
My hair, on the other hand, was longer -- shoulder length, I'd say -- and ALSO included grown-out bangs that ALSO swept over one eye in a most dramatic way.
We were hot.
At one point, we decided to look at a family photo album. We sat next to each other on a window seat. I believe I was on the left, Nate was to my right. As we looked at the photos, our heads hanging over the album, we realized that both of our bangs were hanging onto the photo pages.
We thought this was funny. We thought we were so cool with our same hair and how funny was it that our same hair hung over the pictures and hey, wouldn't it be like, even more funny to like, point at things in the photos with our hair?
So we did. We started pointing to photos with our bangs and laughing and thinking we were silly but awesome. And then the fates conspired against us. (Probably the fates were thinking we had no business having those hair cuts and needed to be taught a lesson.)
And so, while we were laughing and hair-pointing, both of us kind of pulled back from the album in opposite directions, and then at the same time, we very suddenly decided to point to something in the center of the book.
There was a loud CRRAAAAACK! as our foreheads careened into one another so very, very hard.
I saw spots. I started to tear up. I could feel the heat of the golf ball-sized bump forming on my forehead. I looked at Nate, who seemed to be in the same predicament. We rushed ourselves to the kitchen for cold compresses.
Unfortuately, we were too hasty. We should have taken the few extra minutes to come up with a better story for why our foreheads were sprouting mountainous bruises than the one we had.
But we didn't. So we stood in the kitchen, in pain, with ice against our heads, having to explain to our mercilessly sarcastic family that we were bruised, probably for life, because we LOST CONTROL OF OUR HEADS WHILE POINTING AT PICTURES WITH OUR HAIR.
Dad's side of the family, I'm looking at you.