Jul 25, 2011

Family Reunion/Dysfunction

In junior high my dad ate a carrot at my grandmother's house which resulted in the purchase of a 17 ft. SeaRay boat.

There is a segue. The carrot tore his esophagus which he didn't realize until much later when he started throwing up blood. After x-rays confirmed he had a torn esophagus and a spot on his lungs turned out to be a healed broken rib from a waterskiing accident years before, he spent a night thinking life over. He decided he wanted to live his life without regrets and, on the drive home from the hospital with my mom, he bought a boat.

My parents had spent years playing with the tender balance of making family memories without their children killing one another. Although apparent very early on, my parents were slow to realize my older sister and I absolutely could not share a bed at any time in our childhood. Disneyland trips were nearly overshadowed by blanket wars and drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the bed. The same imaginary line was drawn on car seats and even at the kitchen table. In my own defense, my sister really was a big, stupid meanie.

My blog. My opinion. My truth. My grown-up words.

There were the camping years where we piled into the station wagon and headed for the great outdoors and whined when we were cold or had to go to the bathroom which was definitely a scary hike outside. This kind of vacation was usually accompanied by a lecture of how we should be grateful we had a camper when my parents a) slept outside without a shelter, b) slept in an army tent or c) never had a family vacation because they were too poor. The story changed every time it was told so the truth is probably somewhere at the Hilton Hotel.

The camper disappeared before I hit puberty and my dad started taking us down the Colorado River in a raft where I clung for my dear life and prayed with all my might that I would not die that day. Then we had to sleep outside because the river guide forgot the tents. There was also one day I forgot to go to the "bathroom" before getting in the raft which was far, FAR worse than having to get up to go in the middle of the night.

My dad discovered Lake Powell in my adolescence. This morphed into more camping but without the camper and the tent was far too hot to sleep in so eventually the whole family crushed themselves onto a houseboat while dragging the new SeaRay. Our days were spent learning how to waterski which is not a pleasant experience. I became an expert on being a human torpedo and I drank enough water to cause a drought in California.

The expectation was that we all ski once in the morning (he started honking the horn at dawn) and once at sunset. Fortunately, we all figured it out, including my mom who started her waterskiing career at the age of 47. Unfortunately, we still mostly skiied under duress, threats and bribes. I earned my "Bullfrog Marina" T-shirt when I slalomed for the first time at the age of 16.

Nights were still filled with imaginary lines and blanket wars and gnats forming a cloud over our heads then committing suicide on our toothpaste we just squeezed onto our toothbrush. Very unsavory.

The opposite of Lake Powell is Bear Lake in northern Utah. Synonymous with Bear Lake is The Bear Lake Monster. The creature is based on stories handed down from generation to generation and differs with every telling. Best I can tell, it's a cross between The Loch Ness Monster, a great white shark, and a cow.

My first experience with Bear Lake was in 1975. Significantly, Steven Spielberg made his debut that same summer with the blockbuster, Jaws. I have never recovered.

Since that summer, my family has returned year after year to Bear Lake eventually buying a timeshare where my older sister and I, by then mature teenagers, fought for the covers, argued over space, called each other fat cows and pinched each others' thunder thighs at the most critical developmental stages of our self-esteem. Because we love each other very much, obviously. Above all else, we ski. It's a requirement.

This year my parents couldn't make it to Bear Lake. Regardless, one sister drove from Arizona and complained about the cold weather while we stood before her sweating, one sister brought her newborn baby and crammed the other three kids in a truck with her husband. My brother and his family came. My older sister and her husband brought the boat and he got to fight with her over the bed covers. We then crammed all 28 of us into two condos and allowed all the family dysfunction to flare.

It was awesome.

During the 7 days my siblings hated each other at least once. I hated them enough to want to pack up all the kids, toys, food, bedding, and hurt feelings and come home.  I went to the van to cry in private at least once. Maybe twice.

My older sister is still a big, stupid meanie.

And yet...

I never laugh so hard, play so hard, and work my muscles so much than I do this week every year. We stay up too late playing dice or card games, call each other on our crap, make each other be real, laugh at our wipe-outs, sprained pinkies (mine), missed shots, bad hair, and overall company. When one of us is in the cold water, freaking out about the great white shark/Bear Lake Monster, we gaze into the spot right behind them then look horrified.

 Every year I nostalgically don't want to leave and watch for my last view of the lake before we drive over the mountain. In the meantime, we are raising up the next generation of the neurotic and dysfunctional.
 Although we may be failing in the "dysfunctional" department. And hating each other. They seem to enjoy each others' company far more than we did as children.
I'm not going to lie to you, though. It hurts. I can't express how much it hurts.

In the end, I come home happy, content, and quite glad I'm part of this crazy family.

And grateful for carrots.


Rachel said...

Funny how little things result in lifelong changes.

Glad to know you're passing along the quasi-dysfunction :)

M-Cat said...

Sounds like a perfectly normal familhy to me! We too have our times where we are the absolute definition of dysfunctional, although I like to impress the FUN

Tiffany said...

How is it that our siblings bring us such joy and such sorrow at the same time? At least it's not just you, or just me. I am still holding a grudge from last year's family debacle. I mean, family reunion.

EmptyNester said...

I absolutely love the way you weave a story. Just love it!

Sista In Arms Lxx said...

Loved reading this post. My husband and I often look at each other with dread before a family adventure. 4 girls crammed into the car, tent,room, whatever often close to killing each other.....but oh the memories :) Lxx

Riahli said...

Beautiful, the good and the bad, it's what family is all about. Just getting to be real, it's great you all have a nice place to get together every year and build family memories to share for years to come.

SupaFlowaPowa said...

I just LOVE your writing and story telling - LOVE LOVE LOVE! And totally get you on the dysfunctional family party - I didn't grow up in a big family but I had cousins that we were close with and they even lived with us for a bit and to this day, I have a love/hate relationship with them and somehow, I always feel like they are leaving me out (which they very well may be especially not that I'm Momo!). They also jokingly told me if they came to my baptism, they'd be wearing shirts that say, "You can't take us too!" .... lol, I figured that was better than pure antagonism.