Not My Kind of Family Stories
March 12, 2007
Not long ago, somebody pointed out to me that I was a writer in close contact with elderly people who would have wonderful stories to tell, that it almost seemed meant to be. After this past weekend, I have to say that the stories some elderly people tell are not worth passing on. In fact, they are best forgotten—if only the parties involved would.
I spent the weekend with two sisters, big sister, aged 90, and baby sister, aged 82. One would expect to hear interesting stories of the Dust Bowl and World War II and the like. On a more intimate level, one would expect to hear family stories, some cute, maybe some sad. One would expect a fascinating weekend.
One would, perhaps, if one had grown up in a family like mine.
These are some of the stories I heard…
I heard all about how mean their older sister was. They discussed how nasty her little dogs were and how their brother was a saint to care for her. Occasionally one would comment that she had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t help it, but then they would go right back to telling stories about the mean things she did.
I heard an in-depth discussion of who was a mean drunk and who was just a drunk, but never mean. I also was privy to all the fascinating details of the people they grew up with—who cheated on whom, who was divorced and remarried how many times, and who just never bothered to get married at all. The conversation was, of course, peppered with expressions of dismay over how horrible it all was. But that didn’t stop them from dissecting every juicy detail.
I heard a blow-by-blow account of how big sister beat the stuffing out of her sister-in-law over some insult. Even though they apparently made up and even became good friends, big sister gleefully went on and on about how sister-in-law had no right to say such things, and little sister ardently agreed. The concept of “forgive and forget” never entered the conversation.
This was, of course, interspersed by discussion of current events. The sisters thought it was absolutely horrible that they were claiming to have found the grave of Jesus, and they just didn’t want people to believe in God, and how could you not believe in God??? What was the world coming to, anyway?
It made me sad, and yet grateful for the kind of stories I hear when my family gets together.