by Charles W. Dowdy
Everyone in my immediate family has an opinion about everything, save my dad, who just sits around and cooks meat really, really slowly. With the rest of us, we don't have conversations when we get together so much as we have op-ed verbal statements that we share with each other.
In most normal families it goes like this, "Hey, did y'all hear Aunt Virginia got pregnant for the fifteenth time?"
To which the rest of the normal family would give a collective, "Huh? Is that right?" And one of them would add, "Will you please pass the gravy?"
My family would verbally analyze every aspect of Aunt Virginia's being, from her wardrobe, to her hair, to that time she ran off with the state trooper from Alabama and each and every one of her fifteen offspring and all of their imperfections and eccentricities as well.
It has gotten to the point that the first topic we broach once we are together is supremely important as we could be discussing it as long as a UN meeting to decide whether or not to impose sanctions.
My wife is always saying that to have an opinion about everything must be exhausting. A lot of times she curses before she says this, but that's neither here nor there.
Here's a fine example of our opinion statements. Our seven-year-old nephew calls my house ten times a day. On the phone he sounds just like a prank caller except we know who he is. He's got this gravelly voice and he talks kind of quiet, due to the fact that his mother forbid him from calling more than once per day, so he sneaks around to the different phones in his house to call.
Did I mention that he lives across the street?
If I make the mistake of commenting at a family gathering about how my nephew called the house eight times during the day, this becomes a topic we have to discuss at great length.
I will paraphrase how my family talks about this since there is a limit on how long my column can be.
My older sister, this child's mother, says this son of hers is just having fun and being a kid. Kind of like when she was a teenager and went out with the Parchman Posse.
My younger sister, who has no children, says this kid is bad and if someone doesn't get a handle on this they might as well incarcerate the child now.
I say that this nephew is not near as bad as I used to be.
My wife says she wants more wine.
Then my mother says that being a good parent is about rules and holding children to them, even using your own parents as role models, a rambling statement which she will invariably end with "see how perfect each of you turned out."
And my Dad stands off to the side and pokes at a barely dead piece of meat on a barely lit charcoal fire. (Because gas fires are for Communists.)
Sometimes my family even chooses to have an opinion about things that might not shade us in the best light.
My mother got to talking one night about a family who "disappointed her so much because they did not seem to have much compassion after I inhaled twenty or so little chocolate desserts at their cocktail party only to discover there were little bits of toothpicks holding the chocolate together." My mother knew that the husband of the candy maker was a doctor and called him at home late that night, "because I was greatly disturbed about danger to my colon and he acted like it was no big deal that I had eaten twenty little toothpicks."
I would not begin to suggest that the rest of the family took this conversation down the trail my mother sought.
My older sister said my mother needed to learn to bite into chocolate instead of inhaling it. She went on to talk about the value of teeth and general rules for hovering near the buffet table at a party.
My younger sister said my mother was a chocolate freak and discussed her violent reaction the time we accidentally gave her a Cakie for her birthday. (Half cake, half cookie. Not well received.)
I said that the Cakie had been my sisters' idea.
My wife said she needed another glass of wine.
And my dad said nothing as he prodded his barely dead piece of meat.
Charles Dowdy is the father of four and the husband of one. He's a freelance columnist for several Mississippi newspapers. Editors may contact him at email@example.com.
Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!
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