Monday, August 24, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation by Sam Morton

My wife and I like to watch Criminal Minds. She records it and we settle onto our plush little corner of the couch, remote in hand, to watch it after the kids go to bed. Each episode begins and ends with some obscure quote by Yeats or Coleridge or some other literary figure we avoided studying in college. It sets the philosophical tone of the episode.

Here’s an example: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” Joseph Conrad said that.

I’d like to offer my own quote to set the tone for today’s blog: “Any man who does not embrace death has never been on vacation with his in-laws.”

I’m not talking about my wife’s immediate family: mom, dad, sister, two brothers and their wives and kids. I’m talking about all them plus close to 50 more relatives. As people all over the world have said, “There ought to be a law.”

My wife and I have had this discussion a number of times. Granted neither one of us is a trained sociologist, but here’s the point I’ve made to her repeatedly (usually during or right after a family vacation): You spend the first 18 years of your life trying to get away from these people. Why then, do you spend the next 40 trying to “get the family together?” It’s like a forced marriage.

Her counter is that I’m male, and therefore stupid, and should just shut up. “It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.”—Benjamin Disraeli.

The vacation rules were, as I understood them, that we (since Myra set up and administered the Yahoo group site for the trip) would say, “Tuesday at 10 a.m., we’re going to the Washington Monument.” Or to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the “shining phallus on the hill.” Then others could join us or not. The choice is theirs.

Now, I’m not a trained sociologist, but it seems to me if you’ve thrown the plan out there and all 50 billion of your relatives have traveled from their home galaxy to be with family, ah...we most likely gonna have a crowd. So here, my friends, is the salient question:

How do you get 50 trillion Fraileys (yes, they’re like bunnies. Every time you turn around, there’s more of them) to move at the same time, in the same direction, toward the same destination?

The answer: The same way you divide any number by zero: It is a mathematical impossibility. IT CAN’T BE DONE!

My family gatherings are much simpler. First off, as my daughter summed up one day, “So, Daddy, let me get this straight. Other than you, Uncle Mike, and Aunt Cathy, pretty much everybody in your family is dead?” Bingo, kid. It’s called heart disease. Other than about a dozen aunts, uncles, and cousins, she hit the nail on the head.

I have one cousin who “don’t take to people.” The last family reunion we had, he climbed up a tree and “throwed up.” That’s why we don’t have family reunions anymore.

When I was a kid, they were fun because we had this older relative who had Tourette’s. In the middle of a sentence, he’d throw his head back and let out a sound like a whooping crane. Everybody called him “Whoop.” The reunions were simple affairs—Big K Cola, big bags of generic Kroger cookies, potato salad, and ham and cheese roll-ups (“the hardest part is takin’ the plastic off the cheese!”).

Even Whoop probably wouldn’t come to a reunion with people throwing up from the trees. And he damn sure wouldn’t come to one with 50 gazillion people trying to be at the same place at the same time. Just an observation.

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” ~Erma Bombeck


  1. Where are you sleeping tonite, dear?

  2. Actually, you can divide any number by zero, any number of times. 1/0 equals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and every other number going. So does 2/0, 3/0, and all the others. That's why it's forbidden in mathematics. Everything is equal to everything else.

    Don't know if that helps your point or not.