My mom has been visiting. Her cousins had a brunch yesterday, and it was the first time she’d seen them in 20 years.
I tagged along, and was the youngest person there. Mostly, I got to sit back and take it all in.
Honey, when you have a big ol’ Irish Catholic family, you don’t need to watch the stories on the teevee. You just pay attention to your own people and be entertained. I mean, after all, there are a gajillion kids to keep track of.
And the names! Every family has a Michael, a Mary, and a Patrick. There’s a cousin who was supposed to be Michael, but since she ended up a girl? Well, she’s Mary, but goes by Mickey.
There’s Jim, and Big Jim, and Uncle Jim. My grandpa, Michael Edward, was surrounded by several Michaels and a handful of Eds, so he was simply “Bud.” And there was Daddy Mike, who “knew people” and worked for the city for 42 years, if you know what I mean.
I’m not even kidding.
I know just enough about this part of the family to be truly dangerous. It’s just enough to let my imagination run wild.
In my fantasy, Sister Pat is a Catholic superhero, flanked by her nephews Patrick, Patrick, and Mike. It turns out that great-grandpa Michael really was born on the boat on the way to the U.S., not in dirty ol’ England. This means that Big Jim was able to get his Irish citizenship before he died, just like he’d hoped. And Daddy Mike, who “knew people,” was a benevolent neighborhood do-gooder who leveraged his connections to take care of the less fortunate.
Or maybe they were all just flawed and interesting and imperfect like me.
After you die, people only say nice things about you. Well, unless you were really wretched (see also: my great-grandfather who burned down his son’s house). But mostly, people just recall the nice stuff. It makes it easy to pretend that we imagined the humanness and the flaws, that our perceptions and memories are somehow incorrect and invalid.
The self-doubt is bullshit. But focusing on the good is also a kind gift.
In 70 years, when I’ve finally kicked the bucket, I want my family to talk about how Aunt Cha Cha had a knack for saying the wrong thing and laughing too loud. Tell ’em my house was always filled with dog hair but I was a nice lady anyway. Laugh about how all the kids called my husband Uncle Cheeseburger and how any baby would poop if he held them. Pass around a goofy snapshot of us, where he’s making a face and I’m laughing with my mouth full of food, probably tooting a tiny bit in my effort not to spit food across the room.
Let us be human. Give us the break I have such a hard time giving myself.
How do you want to be remembered? Any interesting relatives in your past?