Most people really enjoy Thanksgiving. They get together with family and eat too much, drink too much and watch football. What's not to like, right?
Yet I find myself uncomfortable half the time. I could go for the easy answer and blame my annoying over-chatty brother-in-law's sister, but it I would still feel uneasy with or without her being there. Although, I've gotten better over the years, family get togethers make me feel weird and out of place. As crazy cynical as this sounds- seeing genuine affection and closeness in a family situation irks me. How fucked up is that?
Growing up, my immediate family was a touch cold but we did ultimately like each other, so I can't blame my Mom and Dad for feeling this way. It was however strange once we got together with our extended family. My father's parents both died before I even turned 8 so I have scant memories of them. His youngest sister lived in Alabama so I never saw her. His older brother was very reserved and quiet and had older children that wanted nothing to do with us so going there felt cold and I was often very bored. My dad's other sister did have children our ages so it was rather enjoyable spending time there, I think it may have been the only "normal" family experience we had.
My mother's side was worse. My grandmother was mentally ill and seeing her was always uncomfortable. (just seeing the pain on my mother's face of interacting with her was all it took) My mother's Aunt Ruby who took care of my mother when she was a child was a cranky old biddy who was extremely uptight. She didn't drive, so they would always have to pick her up and bring her to our house for Thanksgiving and she would complain about this and that and how much a burden she was etc. Needless to say, she was very unpleasant to be around. My Uncle Ed wasn't so bad but he wasn't easy to identify with as he was a blue collar truck driver who just wanted to drink when he had free time. (he was never nasty, we just didn't have much in common) His kids were annoying brats.
So, excepting my one Aunt and set of cousins I never really experienced close familial interactions during the holidays. Despite knowing the best of intentions of my in-laws, I feel like an outsider when I attend events like this. Fortunately, I seem to grow more comfortable each year and I tend to have a better time. I also feel better knowing that I've ended the cycle and my kids experience a positive attitude with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, etc.
I suppose you could chalk up my negativity to trust issues. I also know that many other people have much worse family situations so this post isn't intended to be a "woe is me" type of post. It's just something I'm trying to work through and become a better person and family man. A little self-analysis is just like Thanksgiving after all- it can be fulfilling as long as you don't overdo it.