Does your family ever ask you if it’s okay if they come to visit? Or are they like my sister who just makes an announcement and expects your whole world to come to a standstill?: “I’ll be coming the second week in May.” I can’t tell her “no” either. It’s not because I’m such a good-hearted person or that I feel guilty for turning her away. It’s because, frankly, I’m a sucky liar. I notice that when I lie, I lose all grasp of punctuation. I just ramble on and on with no end in sight. Thank goodness my supervisor’s voicemail at work has a time limit on it: “Hi this is Lori it’s 6:45 Monday morning I couldn’t sleep last night I was up with this stomach headachy rash strep throat allergy thing I’m so tired I think I’m rambling but I’ll be fine tomorrow I’ll come in then the pulled muscle should be better by then but if it’s not…………..Beeeep….. Finally! Thank Gd!”
So I don’t bother trying to tell my sister she can’t come that week because I’m going out of town for vacation or elective surgery or to participate in a mass suicide. She wouldn’t hear a word I said anyway and would show up on my doorstep right on time.
The main issue with my sister’s visits is that she brings stuff… lots and lots of stuff. George Carlin must have known my sister. People have moved their entire extended families to the Himalayas in winter with less stuff than she brings for a 4 day visit. Every time she makes this expedition, I fully expect her to arrive with a jam-packed U-Haul hitched to the back of her Corolla. Half of the stuff she totes are gifts for me. I know, you’re right. It’s a nice gesture and I’m a horrible sister. So the next time she shows up and offers me slightly used size 9 flip-flops that she got at a yard sale for a dime, I’ll try to think about that. I’ll try to not even feel sorry for myself for wearing a 6 1/2. Or sometimes she brings me Nancy Drew books someone’s tossed out. When I say: “You brought me Nancy Drew?” She looks confused and responds: “I thought you liked Nancy Drew.” It’s true. I love Nancy Drew. I read all the books…. In 1974. My sister’s only three and a half years older than I am. I’m pretty sure she’s aware of that. So why doesn’t she grasp that if she’s well over forty, I’m probably not still ten?
So I said that “the stuff” issue is half the issue. Right. The “food stuff” is the other half. When the doorbell rings announcing her arrival and we swing the door open, you’d better get those hugs in quickly before you get run over by the cooler she’s schlepping behind her. Apparently there are no supermarkets in the state in which we live. Truth be told, there are five within a three mile radius, but you can’t be too careful. And yes, my sister is on a special diet. The coyote diet. If they eat it, she eats it. She is so notorious for this fridge-on-wheels that in the background of every phone call leading up to her visiting day, you can hear my husband yelling with desperation in his voice: “No cooler! Don’t bring the cooler! I’m not kidding!” She always proclaims it’s just a few necessities for the drive and things she can’t get here like Friendship brand cottage cheese. Breakstone won’t do. Then, along the trip, she’s accumulated a few other edible items that you can ONLY get here. By the time she’s unpacked everything and loaded it into our refrigerator, our poor food is cowering in one corner of one shelf. At night, if you’re very quiet you can actually hear it tapping on the light bulb and yelling very softly: “Help! Please help!”
Maybe what they say is true: We can’t choose our relatives. But at least once we’re adults, we can choose which ones not to live with.