I have a few important personal rules: Always say Please and Thank You. Always order fried mozzarella sticks if they appear on a menu. Never visit friends and family in my home state during winter.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. For example - if you're playing miniature golf at Scandia with your new boyfriend and have just met his son for the first time, it is okay to not order fried cheese. Why? Because the kid might expect you to share, and let's face it - that ain't happening. Better to skip it and maintain an image of being normal, at least for a little while.
Another exception is when sad things happen, like when my sweet quirky Grandma passed away Monday morning. I immediately went into "Plan Last-Minute Trip To Michigan" mode, thereby increasing potential for total and complete shock once I finished that and entered into "Holy Shit I Have To See My Family AND It's Winter AND A Holiday" mode.
My family and I have been fine-tuning our Denial skills for generations, and so I've been putting off thinking about the above. Instead I've been thinking about my Grandma. She was the kind of lady who always dropped ice cream on her shirt, and never missed an opportunity to pose for a picture with a taxidermied moose or wolf. Usually she would hold out her hand and pretend to be feeding said deceased wild animal. She was really fun to hang out with, mostly because she was so clumsy and hilarious to watch. She taught me the very important skill of being able to laugh at yourself.
Unfortunately I'm a terrible granddaughter and didn't see her all that much over the last 10 years or so. Also, I have to confess, I forgot to call her on her last birthday. I'm pretty sure the timing of her death is her way of saying "you're gonna forget my birthday? Really? Let's see how busy you can pretend to be at my funeral you ungrateful little twat!"
Just kidding, my grandma would never say twat. Maybe she'd call me a stinker.
So now I get to look forward to Thanksgiving in the Midwest, otherwise known as All Things Meat and Cream and Meat and Fat. I'll likely be spending this day with friends. The next day, too. I get into a decent amount of trouble for not spending time with my family when I visit home. I mean, I assume I do. Since I don't see them often, they don't get much of a chance to give me shit about it...until I do see them. And then I can tell they've been saving it up. Luckily we aren't a yelling people. We choose straight up passive-aggressive guilt trips as our mode of shit-giving. Thanks to years and years of therapy, I can now recognize these traits and can fairly easily let it slide, smile politely, wonder for the umpteenth time why we aren't a family of drinkers, break out into a cold sweat, begin involuntarily holding my breath...you know, the usual survival tactics.
Saturday will provide a very rare opportunity for me to see all of my older brothers at once, probably some of their spouses - all of which I genuinely like - and hopefully some of their kids. I do really miss seeing the kids - I have about 20 nieces and nephews (have I mentioned that I'm also a terrible Aunt? I am). I'll also get to see some other random people that I won't mind catching up with, as well as a few that I would really rather not catch up with. This, as far as I can remember, is the very definition of Holidays with Family. Suck it up, put aside petty (yet completely valid, of course) grudges, and play nice - for Grandma.
Wish me luck.