January 15, 2021 – Awkward Family Photos

The anniversary of my oldest sister’s death was a couple of days ago, on the 13th of January. She died in a car accident at the age of 31. The whole thing just about finished off my mom. Her mother, my grandmother (and unhappy roommate) had died the year prior, and my mom was still getting over her death when she suddenly lost her first-born child. My brother Clover is the one that broke the news to me. I thought he was kidding when he said my sister had died. It just isn’t something that comes up on a regular basis, unless of course, you work in the funeral industry. I remember it feeling so surreal. I loved her but I didn’t know her very well because she was 15 years older than me and had left home and moved to another state when I was very young. Because of that, I don’t have many memories of her, but of the ones I do, they’re mostly good. There are only two that come to mind that I wish could have been different, the one when she and another one of my sisters got in a knock-down, drag-out physical fight with some other women at a restaurant along with the very last time I saw her, when I drove her away.

Yep, I drove her away, too! I told you, I have an uncanny ability at ‘running people off’ or ‘driving them away’. And I was devastated when it happened because I really adored her. She was beautiful and smart and trendy and strong and a wonderful, talented artist. But there was one thing she couldn’t or wouldn’t tolerate and that was when people were being obnoxious, especially kids. And the last time she came to stay with us, before she died, my mom had her share my room as I had a spare bed. Was I delighted? You bet I was! I was going to get to hang out with my my super-cool oldest sister and she was going to sleep in my room? Oh my gosh, I was giddy!! How did I make her feel welcome? I put on the Mary Poppins record and played ‘I love to laugh’ over and over and over and over. Have you ever listened to that song? It’s ridiculous! And every time I play it, it makes me laugh. I cannot help myself. Well, at least it used to make me laugh. Now it has a very negative connotation.

My sister didn’t find my shenanigans terribly amusing. I was rolling around on the ground and laughing hysterically while she was growing increasingly annoyed and disgusted. She kept calling out to my mom and telling her I was being annoying and then when she’d finally had it ‘up to here’, she grabbed her things and left. I ‘sobered up’ real quick after that. I hadn’t wanted her to leave. I was just being stupid and silly and got carried away. I never saw her again. That’s my last memory of when she was alive. It sucks. That’s one of those things, if I had it to do over again, I would. Now, let’s fast forward to the following year when she died unexpectedly. Of all the days to die, she left this world on Friday the 13th. That day is bad enough and to make it even worse, it’s forever associated with my sister’s passing. At the time of her death, she was living in another state. Immediately afterward, arrangements were made to transport her body ‘back home’ and a service was scheduled to honor her life. If I remember correctly, her service was held a week later.

My mom is all about practicality. It was rare that ‘all of us’ were ever in the same room together, let alone the same city or state. She decided it was the perfect opportunity for a family photo. What better time for a professional family photo than after you watch your sister’s body get lowered into the ground? We weren’t going to argue. I certainly wasn’t. On the day of the funeral, once everyone had a chance to say their goodbyes, the remaining 8 siblings, along with my mother, gathered up their things with the intention of meeting up at the photography studio. But there was still nearly a 2-hour wait before our scheduled appointment and everyone was hungry, so a decision was made to go to Taco Bell and eat prior to the photo session. I can tell you now, from my perspective, it was a b-a-d idea. The food tastes alright, it’s not gourmet, but when you’re hungry and you want something fast and cheap, it’ll suffice. I cannot recall what I ordered but it was likely a burrito and/or tostada along with a soft drink.

Once everyone had a chance to whet their appetites, the whole procession headed to the photography studio. The photographer set up large blocks for some of us to sit upon while others stood in the back. I was placed front and center, my siblings on either side as well as behind me. Well, remember how I mentioned we went to Taco Bell just prior? There’s a reason their slogan is (or was) ‘Make a run for the border’! My stomach was none too happy. And it wasn’t long before I sat down in order to pose for the photo that it let me know. Now I want you to also consider what happens when I’m nervous or uncomfortable or experiencing any number of emotions, I laugh uncontrollably. The whole situation was already bizarre. We had just attended my sister’s funeral and now we’re supposed to act like everything is fine and smile for the camera on cue? Hold that thought. Now add in ‘someone’ polluting the space (where we are all gathered closely together) with an occasional ‘silent but deadly’. I’m not going to name names as to who the offender may or may not have been. Oh, come on, who am I kidding? It was me!!

Yes, I’m guilty! I admit it! But at the time, it was no laughing matter. I mean, I was laughing like a lunatic. The other seven? I wish you could have seen their faces! Each one suspected the others, only I knew who the real culprit was. But because nobody else did, it tickled my funny bone even more. I sure wasn’t making it easy on the photographer. You can imagine the expressions on my siblings’ faces, and I can tell you, they were NOT smiling! ‘Say cheese’ took on a whole new meaning. Think about what your face must look like when you’re in a grocery store, strolling down an aisle, and you walk into someone’s fart. And I’m not talking about just any ol’ fart, I’m talking about a ‘silent but deadly’. Now you understand! Yep, it ain’t pretty! It took the photographer quite a while to get a decent shot of all eight of us. Most of my siblings were able to ‘fake’ being happy, smiling ever so slightly through closed mouths. And then there’s me.

Me, smack dab in the middle, laughing like a lunatic. I look almost maniacal. If you don’t know the story behind the photograph, you’d think I was practically out of my mind. Which isn’t far off, by the way. I hate that picture! So many people get the wrong impression. I actually have a niece (Diabolical Debbie’s daughter) that accused me of getting pleasure from my sister’s death, insinuating that I was actually glad that she had died, and that it was ‘clearly evident due to my expression in the photo’ and that ‘I wasn’t fooling anyone’. I can tell you, that really bothered me. She has said some hateful things to me throughout the years but that one really stung. One thing that will get my hackles up is when someone assassinates my character, especially when they make an accusation as dark and twisted as that. But if you knew my niece, you’d understand. She likes to project her own demons onto everyone else. Yuck. I feel like I need to gargle with mouthwash now. Anytime I think of her or her mother (my sister), it makes me feel bad all over. Enough of that! Let’s move on, shall we?

What were we talking about again? Sorry, I just made a quick trip to the restroom to rinse my mouth out with Listerine. Oh yes! Awkward family photos! As far as the photo taken of my family over 35 years ago, how could it have been anything but awkward? You want to ask a bunch of grief stricken people to ‘smile for the camera’? That’s not what I call a ‘recipe for success’, especially once you throw in a few really smelly farts. I wonder what my sister thought of that whole scenario? She was probably watching us from up above and shaking her head in disgust. I doubt she was terribly surprised, however. When you consider what happened when we last got together, how I kept playing ‘I love to laugh’ while laughing hysterically and uncontrollably as I rolled around on the floor, she likely was expecting it as it was par for the course. What can I say? If you’re looking for a ‘normal family’ and you come across mine, you’d better keep looking because ours is anything but!

Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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