There are lots of things in this world you can pick. TiVo let’s you pick the shows you watch(it even let’s pick through those annoying Erectile Dysfunction commercials.). iTunes let’s you pick what music you want. Subway has made their entire business out of picking what you want. Yet, there is one facet to our lives we don’t get to pick. Our family. They are ours whether we want them or not.
If you and I happened to be related then you are well aware of Ruth and Martin.
If you scour deep enough among the branches of your family tree, you are sure to come across a Ruth and Martin(depending on your family, you may not even have to scour too hard).
Like your gay cousin or alcoholic uncle, Ruth and Martin occupy a space at every family’s picnic table(just hopefully not the table you’re at).
They are the ones who decorate their house with velvet oil paintings of Elvis Presley. Ruth looks like she did her makeup with a floor buffer while riding bareback on a Clydesdale. Her hair has a Mohs Scale of hardness rating equal to Corundum thanks in large part to the three and a half cans of AquaNet she emptied into her quaff.
Martin rarely ventures far from Ruth’s side. He smiles a lot and he always seems to be chewing on something? He might even carry a toothpick with him(either behind his ear or in his pocket trapped between some lint and a bicentennial dime). Martin has the balding comb over static electricity look. Imagine you have but a few pieces of hair remaining on your scalp you have combed to one side. You then put down your comb and grabbed a balloon and ran it across your head a few times. Bingo.
Their wardrobe hearkens to being approximately two decades old. They talk loudly. They set up camp at your house long after the rest of your family members got the hint to get out(Ruth and Martin are deaf, blind, and a little dumb to even blatant suggestions to leave). They have made the same dish for Christmas since 1973(and coincidentally it has been made in the same dish since ’73 too).
Their kids remind you of characters you may have seen in a 1970’s Wes Craven movie. They laugh at inappropriate times and speak to one another in a language only they know. You have yet to make eye contact with either one of them.
And yet, despite all of this, they are your family. Sure they are bizarre enough to star in their own attraction at the Mutter Museum, but somewhere in their DNA strand bubbles your DNA strand too(be thankful if you only married into Ruth and Martin and carry no genetic similarities). We should cherish our families, no matter how idiosyncratic their lifestyles are to us. We may not have long with them or not long enough or maybe Ruth has decided to have another cup of coffee and cake before she leaves your house.
Family is family. You have accepted your niece’s bicurious college lifestyle choices. You don’t judge your mom’s cousin who did a three year stint in jail for insurance fraud. We need to get over ourselves and embrace these crackpots. You don’t have choice in your family(Your family tree unfortunately is not the field of 64 bracket). Your ability to select is limited to a spouse(if you’re lucky enough to have someone either propose to you or nod yes to your proposal). No one says you have to invite Ruth and Martin over for your Texas Hold’em tournaments Friday nights. Like Michael Jackson at an all boys orphanage, your exposure to them can and by all bets should be limited.
They love you. They find you fascinating(How else would they be able to talk to you for 14 continuous hours?). They have looked beyond their prejudices against you. Your command over the English language. Your conservatively applied makeup. Your ability to part your hair with a comb. These matter not to Ruth and Martin because they understand we do not get to pick our family members.
So this summer, at your family’s annual reunion(or Christmas or whatever other occasion you would have reason to come in contact with Ruth and Martin), when the two of them corner you between the three bean salad and your Great Grandma’s walker, drop the Deviled Egg and give them a hug. Choose to ignore their idiosyncrasies. Remember, they didn’t get to pick you either.


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