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Yes, we are messed up.

One of the many joys of visiting the laundromat is all of the interesting people one encounters there. Saturday night, after Lucy's birthday festivities were over and we were all a hypoglycemic, exhausted wreck, I took a few loads of washed-but-wet clothes over the local -omat for drying. As I was taking my dry duds out of the machine, I heard a man's gruff voice saying, "Heather? Is your name Heather?" I turned and did not recognize the man behind me. He was extremely thin, had shoulder-length, curly gray hair, a winter cap, a long bony nose, and lots of wrinkles. He said, "Do you remember me?" Shake head, no. "I'm Jimi!"

Then I remembered him. My sister, who is six years older than I, dated Jimi for quite a few years in the early to mid-1990s. Jimi (yes, J-I-M-I, I do not know why) and my sister never lived together. She would stay at his house on weekends, but during the week she, and my niece, stayed at our house, with us. My memories of Jimi mostly involve him buying a pint of Jim Beam for me and my best friend Lisa before we went to a show, or he and my sister passing a joint back and forth in the front seat as they gave me a ride someplace.

Needless to say, I was not particularly thrilled by this encounter, but I was trapped by the dryers; I had to stand there at least long enough to empty three dryers' worth of clothing into my baskets. Jimi began to ask me about my family. It went something like this.

Jimi: How's your mom and dad? They still live in Mt. Vernon?
Me: No. They got divorced in 2003. My dad had been having an affair for a long time. They are both remarried now.
Jimi: YOUR mom and dad got a freaking divorce? What??
(takes a moment to absorb this news)
Jimi: What about Steve? Is he still in prison? (my uncle was in prison for murdering his father, my grandfather, in 1998)
Me: No. He died last April, in prison.
Jimi: How's your great grandma?
Me: She died last February.
Jimi: What about your sister?
Me: She's back in prison.
Jimi: BACK in prison?
Me: Yeah, she was there for 3 years, 2000 - 2003, and now she's back, this time just for a few months.
Jimi: I saw in the paper about your niece getting arrested for running from the cops. I couldn't believe it.
Me: Yeah. Pretty crazy. She's about to have a baby now too.
Jimi: Man, Heather, I always felt so nervous around your family, I thought they were better than me. Turns out you guys are REALLY messed up!
(We both kind of laugh, say it was nice to see you/you too, go on our merry ways.)

Then I am driving home and just feel overwhelmed with sadness. My family is, indeed, 'really messed up.' I know that every family has problems - even people who don't talk about it, we all have issues. An alcoholic. An abuser. Someone with depression. Dropouts. Adulterers. But in my pretty small family, we have far more than our fair share of screw-ups and embarrassments.

Murderer. Adulterer. Drug addicts. Alcoholics.

I do love my family, but as my children grow up, I realize I want to protect them from these people. These people - for the most part - are not bad people. They just make poor choices in their lives. But I don't want my children to think that these are okay choices - that they are even OPTIONS at all.

I subbed in Young Women on Sunday and I asked the girls how often they tell their family members that they love them. They said that with their parents, they tell and and are told, every day. I can remember one time in my childhood when my dad told me he loved me. One time. I can recall perhaps a dozen times with my mother. Out of twenty years of living in the same house.


  1. Jimi is obviously named after Jimi Hendrix :) We have a lot of crazy crap in our family too. I'm not sure of any murderers, but definitely the rest of it isn't uncommon. I have lots of alcoholics, a pedophile, at least one adulterer... Oh, and my family has always looked pretty Beaver Cleaver from the outside.

  2. Oh right, you just reminded me... pedophile. I don't know you'd call him this, but the cousin I grew up with and was closest to is now in prison for forcing another cousin (male) to give him oral sex.

    Distance is going to be a very good thing.


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