An old comedian once said, “The definition of family is that when they knock on your door, you have to let them in.” It’s true, you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes there’s a lot of bad to spread around.
I have one brother who is experiencing some health problems, another brother who is experiencing some financial problems, and yet another brother who is experiencing some legal problems. Yeah, I have to let them in, but do they all have to knock at once?
As if that’s not enough, my 19-year old daughter has been feeling her hormones over the past year or so, and my wife is dealing with similar issues associated with menopause. They are like oil and water. On fire. During a hurricane.
So things have been unpleasant to say the least. Lots of incidents where one or the other would storm out of the house, leaving me with the tattered remnants of the unfinished argument and the thankless role of peacemaker. When I was invited to visit with another family on Christmas Day, I jumped at the chance.
The family is all ethnic Chinese, although they come from South Africa and have that peculiar accent that sounds like Steve Irwin with a sinus infection. It was a typical chaotic family Christmas. The men played poker all day and the kids flew their new remote-controlled helicopters around the room, slicing the blossoms off the potted orchids that had been given to the women.
During dinner, someone brought out an iPad and Skype-called other family members in Canada. It was surreal, as everyone passed the tablet with a smiling Chinese face on it around the tablet, chatting with someone a thousand miles away. Thirty years ago it would have seemed like magic. I imagine that engineers are working on a system right now that will enable the tablet to float around the room, eliminating all that manual labor of passing it around.
After dinner, the women took over the poker table for a serious game of mah-johng against the men.
Mah-johng isn’t my game, and judging from my empty wallet, neither is poker. I said goodnight and returned home.
The next day, my wife wanted to order Chinese food from a local restaurant. Along with the usual dishes on the menu there was a section called “Chef’s Special,” with familiar dishes such as “General Tso’s Chicken.” One dish caught my wife’s eye. “I’d like to try this ‘Happy Family’,” she said.
“No, don’t bother,” I replied. “It’s a Chinese restaurant. In half an hour you’ll be unhappy again.”