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Widow Fight!

, , , , | Related | October 19, 2019

(My grandmother always has to be worse off than anyone else; she cannot understand that others have valid feelings. She and my father’s elder sister are having a disagreement one day, when she decides to pull the widow card; my grandfather passed five years ago.)

Grandmother: “You have no idea what it feels like to have lost your husband and be a widow for the rest of your life.” 

Aunt: “I lost my husband when I was forty.”

Grandmother: “That doesn’t count; you should be used to it by now.”

(I had never seen my aunt so angry before.)

Need To Keep Them At Fractured Arms’ Length

, , , , , , | Related | October 14, 2019

(When I’m about ten years old, I go on a weekend camping trip with my parents, siblings, cousins, a few aunts and uncles, grandparents, and my grandparents’ camping group. On the second night, I trip in the dark and fracture my left arm in two places. Neither fracture is severe enough to cause any pain and the splint I get in the emergency room makes my arm feel normal again, so I’m pretty calm about the whole thing, especially since I have no problems moving my fingers or gripping things. My family, on the other hand, is freaked out. We get back from the emergency room a little after two in the morning, so when I get up and go about my day as normal, I’m slightly amused by how everyone is treating me.)

Grandparents’ Friend: “[My Name]! How’s your arm? You scared us last night.”

Me: *lifts up splinted arm* “It’s fine; it doesn’t even hurt.”

Grandparents’ Friend: “You sure? You took quite a fall.”

Aunt: “Yeah, that looked like it hurt.”

Me: “Yeah, I’m sure. The doctor said it wasn’t bad, just two little fractures on either side of my wrist. And it’s not my dominant hand, so I can still draw and stuff.”

Mom: “Are you sure it doesn’t hurt? I’m sure Grandma and Grandpa have some ibuprofen or something.”

Me: “No thanks, I’m good.”

Grandpa: “Kiddo, you want some ginger ale?”

Me: “No, thanks, Grandpa, I’m fine.”

(They proceeded to smother me for the rest of the camping trip. I understood their concern, but I also thought it was hilarious how out of everyone, I was probably the LEAST concerned about my injury!)

“Normal Girls” Belong In The Past

, , , , | Related | October 13, 2019

(I’m the first in my mother’s family to attend university, and everyone is very proud of me… except for one person, apparently. I find this out when I visit my aunt and uncle one day and find my aunt looking torn between frustration and laughter.)

Me: “Hey, what’s the matter?”

Aunt: “I just got back from visiting [Great Aunt who lives in a nursing home and is experiencing the onset of dementia]. I told her you were going to university, and you know what she said?”

Me: *wondering if I want to know* “No, what was it?”

Aunt: “She said, ‘Why does [My Name] have to go to university? Why can’t she just work behind the cash register like a normal girl?'”

(Not that there’s anything wrong with working in retail, but “like a normal girl”? Gee, thanks, Auntie!)

Reason 8,447 Why We Need Black History Month

, , , , , | Related | September 23, 2019

(My family and I are visiting my dad’s aunt. She is in her early 80s, is typically very social and fun to be around, and loves the latest and greatest technology and classic sports cars. Some of the discussions that happen during this visit are reminders that we grew up in different times. For background, my dad’s side of the family immigrated from Ireland in the 1920s. My parents are somewhat liberal democrats, and my dad’s aunt is a somewhat conservative republican. While watching television, the following conversation occurs. A commercial comes on with black actors.)

Aunt: “They sure do love to employ black actors, don’t they?”

Mom: “What do you mean?”

Aunt: “All these commercials. They have so many people of color. Black people, Asian people, Spanish people… The companies really want to show diversity.”

Mom: “It’s a good thing.”

Aunt: “Yeah, but you hardly see white people anymore. We’re not represented. The blacks have it so good these days! It sure is a great time to be alive for black actors!”

Mom: “Uh… okayyyy.”

(Later, a conversation about slavery ensues:)

Mom: “It was one of the darkest periods in America’s history.”

Aunt: “Yeah, but it was nothing compared to how to Irish were treated!”

Mom: “What?! How so?”

Aunt: “The Irish were denied jobs, they were discriminated against, they couldn’t afford to feed their families or find homes, it was awful!”

Mom: “Yeah, but they weren’t slaves.”

Aunt: “Slaves didn’t have it so bad. It was their own fault, anyway.”

Mom: “WHAT?!”

Aunt: “Yeah! They came here on boats, but since they were from Africa, they did things the opposite way Americans did. They didn’t know any better because Africa is a backward continent. If they knew better like Americans did, they would have had jobs, owned houses… but they didn’t know how life worked over here, so they had to work as slaves.”

Mom: “They didn’t choose to be forced into labor, sold, or whipped. Most of them were kidnapped, captured, or tricked into thinking there was a better life over here.”

Aunt: “Well, I’m just saying, they didn’t have to come on the boats…”

Mom: “I’m done here…”

(Later, my mom told me she kind of hoped my dad’s aunt had the beginnings of some sort of dementia like her brother — my grandfather is very bad — but she also couldn’t rule out what the public education in the 1940s was like.)

This story is part of the Black History Month roundup.

Read the next Black History Month roundup.

Read the Black History Month roundup.

“Able” To Bring Her Down

, , , , , , | Friendly | September 15, 2019

(My uncle is considered by the rest of my family to be a “child-whisperer” because he can easily manage five children at a time by himself. He can take five of us — his kids and my siblings and our other cousins — on outings and manage to keep us all safe while we have fun. We all love him because he is very easygoing and patient but also can be silly with us. We go to the zoo when I am nine, with my ten-year-old and four-year-old cousins — his son and daughter — and twin six-year-old cousins — his nieces. We overhear two old ladies speaking. One of them points at my six-year-old cousin who has one leg.)

Rude Old Lady: “It is fitting that they brought that freak to a zoo.” 

(Her companion laughs. My uncle overhears this comment, as does my cousin, who starts crying. While her twin and the rest of us are attempting to cheer her up, my uncle walks over to the ladies, smiling.)

Uncle: *in a jovial sort of way* “Hello. Would you kindly repeat what you said?” 

(One of the women looks apprehensive, but the other doubles down on what she said before.)

Rude Old Lady: “I said that it is fitting that you brought your freaks to the zoo.”

Uncle: “Freaks? That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?” 

Rude Old Lady: “No, it’s accurate. You’ve got two kids wearing glasses — that ought to be child abuse, especially when you’re doing it to a little girl — and a kid with one leg. Plus, that kid has another kid who looks just like her except she’s whole.”

Uncle: “Oh, the twins? They don’t look that similar. For a start, she has blonde hair and she has black hair. I might consider it child abuse to not let children wear glasses, regardless of gender.” 

(So far, my uncle has been very conversational in tone. Now, he spreads his arms out like he’s making a grand speech and starts speaking loudly. The other people near the bear exhibit — and even the bears themselves, probably — are listening now.)

Uncle: “Understand this, O ableist hag! I do not appreciate you calling my family freaks, O she-who-made-a-kid-on-crutches-cry! I have nothing more to say to you, O demon-in-a-woman’s-body! Begone, I say!” 

(While my amputee cousin starts laughing at the absurdity of the statement, the rest of us cheer, and the woman, publically humiliated and shamed, stalks off, her companion saying, “Well, you were a bit rude, don’t you think?” to her on the way out. I bring this up now, years later, only because while visiting our grandmother during the summer, the oldest of my cousins and I go to the grocery store. My cousin nudges me in the ribs and says:)

Cousin: *just loudly enough for her to hear* “Hey, it’s the demon in a woman’s body!” 

(She scowled at us and kicked in our general direction before walking away.)