Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving - Dysfunction Junction

I would be very surprised to find anyone that does not think their family is somewhat dysfunctional.  Are there really people out there who think their family is entirely normal...whatever that is?  If there are, I would like to meet them and find out who decided they were normal.  Lest we forget however, the center of dysfunction is FUN. We have had so many dysfunctional Thanksgivings that I had a hard time deciding which one to share so I decided to start with the first one that Mark and I hosted.
We had only been married about 5 or 6 years when Mark and I or rather more precisely, I had decided that it would be a nice idea for us to host Thanksgiving.  Mark practically broke out in hives at the prospect because his family and mine are so completely different.  His parents both enjoyed an occasional cocktail, like every 5 minutes, my parents were practically teetotalers.  His parents, particularly his dad (Doug) like throwing a few F Bombs around and my parents rarely swear.  His parents like a good boxing match now and again with each other, just to emphasize a point and my parents fight a cold war.  His parents are Catholic and my parents are very Protestant.  So there ya have it, not exactly the Capulets and Montagues but enough of a difference to cause some discomfort.
The guest list was a little large for our tiny 1200 square foot house but we managed to gather enough tables and chairs to make it work.  We invited both sets of parents, Marks 80 something grandma, Marks two brothers and two sisters and one nephew, my mom and dad, my sister, my niece and nephew and my three kids.  Mark and I got up early to prepare the bird and we were all set for our company.  It was cold that year and started to snow, the big, wet non sticking kind of snow.
We didn't know whether the weather was going to be a factor or not but Mark's family arrived first.  Mark's dad came in first carrying two large grocery bags, he set them on the counter, looked out at the snow and said:  "We can stay for exactly 3 fifths!"  He promptly prepared himself a drink in the biggest glass he could find.  Doug's favorite drink was gin, we used to remind him that his sister in law died of cirrhosis of the liver because she drank too much gin.  According to Doug that was because she drank hers straight..."I drink mine with ice and a twist of lemon".  Mark's mom, Aileen always stuck with her gallon of Rhinelander Wine.
As Doug and Aileen settled in to get comfy with their cocktails and watching college football games, Mark and his younger brother Donald were busy acting like brothers in the kitchen.  Don and Mark were teasing each other which escalated into slap fighting and the next thing I heard was Don saying..."Oh man, I'm sorry...don't be such a pussy".  During their slap fight extravaganza Don's fingernail grazed Mark's eyeball.  Mark actually couldn't open his eye.  After about an hour with a severe headache and an inability to open his eye, I decided it may be a good idea to take him to the ER.
As we were leaving I left instructions for handling the food details, Doug is quite a good cook so I was fine about leaving the cooking to him.  I told them that my mom and dad should be arriving at any time.  In the ER they patched Mark's eye and gave him some salve for it.  He was having trouble trying to stay awake as the cornea was scratched and it is quite painful.  I know he was hoping to go home and just relax but that was not going to be the case.
When we arrived home, the front door was open.  I could see that Doug was bent over the open oven door checking on the turkey.  He seemed to be a little light on his feet, actually he staggered a bit...he was singing loudly and generally having a grand old time. I came into the kitchen intending to relieve Doug so he could return to his football game...he said, "Oh no, no, no I got it covered my little tomata".  As he leaned in to baste the turkey his eye glasses fell out of his shirt pocket and directly onto the oven element.  He didn't really seem to notice.
"Oh geez Doug, your glasses fell in the oven" 
"No problem..." he said as he reached in and grabbed his glasses.  When he pulled them off of the element, the plastic had melted so it looked like he was pulling a long string out of the oven.  It smelled a little like burnt plastic turkey at this point.
My mom took me off to the side to tell me that when they arrived the whole house was filled with smoke as Doug had dropped a pot holder in the oven and it proceeded to burn.  The first thing my mom did was to get the smell out of there and clean it up before we got home.
Mark spent the day in and out of sleep and totally stressed out over his parents behavior.  Personally I didn't think it was all that bad.  We were all joking around and having a generally good time in spite of the mishaps.  But Mark had always been nervous around his parents. Dinner turned out spectacular, Doug passed out for a while, we all had dessert and cleaned up the kitchen and it worked out just fine.
Mark's parents were wonderful people they were hard working, had a great sense of humor and were very fun loving.  I am glad I wasn't raised by them but I am glad they were my in-laws.  They are both gone now and we still miss them, dysfunction and all.  This is my first Thanksgiving without my mom, regardless of the level of dysfunction love your family, warts and all.  H A P P Y   T H A N K S G I V I N G  to everyone.

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