The annual family gathering was yesterday and I didn't do so well.
The entire family always gathers at the end of March to celebrate my grandmothers birthday. This year, she is 99. I KNOW! So her birthday party is pretty much a command performance because let's face it, every year it's very likely going to be her last one. And yet she keeps on pluggin! Various functions are failing her like her eyesight and hearing, but she has not lost a single brain cell over the years, and she was pretty well endowed with them to begin with.
Our family is huge. And we all live in the area so when there's an event, there are a lot of us there.
I hate these events. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the people there, everyone is nice, and interesting, and unlike other families, everyone actually gets along. I would choose to hang out with the majority of people at these events, one on one. But I'm shy. I get really overwhelmed when I find myself in a crowd. I don't like parties, I hate the mall, I just get nervous and introverted when faced with more than 3 people.
Since I'm the youngest of my generation, I was always too little to get know my cousins as peers and never really felt like I knew many of them, but since I was the baby, everybody knew me. In one branch of my family, I couldn't figure out which of the female cousins was which until I was a teenager. Once I figured that out, they all started having kids and now I can't tell which kid is which or who that kid belongs to.
And my cousins kids range from ages of 5-just graduated from college. I'm going to get real upset if they start having babies before I do, but I digress.
And this year, it was standing room only. Seriously. We walked in the front door and couldn't even get passed the landing because we were already standing amongst 10 other people and there was simply no place to go where there would be more elbow room.
So I chatted for a moment with those 10 people including an aunt and a couple of cousins. I get embarrassed almost immediately because I incorrectly identify my cousins youngest boy with his older brother. And another cousin starts talking to me about how miscarriage sucks, she went through it twice, and yeah it sucks. Yup, in my family, the news travels throughout the, what, 200 or so family members within a matter of hours. Everybody in that house knows that this is my first public appearance since the miscarriage.
So after that polite interaction, I head back out the front door to cry for a few minutes. I gather myself together and head back into the fray.
A few more cousins, a moment of chat with my dad, I've made it into the living room now. Grandma is stationed in the middle of the room and there are layers of people around her, so getting in there is difficult. I'm faced with a few more cousins and as they say "Hi, how are you?" I'm trying to identify if that's just polite conversation starter, or if it's that "I know life sucks right now so really, how ARE you?" with sad face attached to it. Am I supposed to politely chit chat or am I supposed to give a grieving status update?
And out the front door we go again to cry some more. And while I'm out there crying, a distant cousin, one that's distant enough that I don't think I've ever actually had a conversation with her before, comes to the house with her new baby girl.
This particular cousin gets it. She just had her baby in October and that was her 8th attempt. She's done the IVF roller coaster, she's lost several children, a couple of sets of twins both herself and via a surrogate so when I say she gets it, she GETS it. And we exchange a look that says she kind of feels bad bringing a baby into my sight but there's nothing we can do about it and I hope I was able to give enough of a smile to say that it's ok. But yeah.
So crying jag finally over, and I try to wait it out a little bit because my face is red and puffy and there's just no hiding that I've been crying. So, back into the fray.
I see Grandma and chat with her for a couple of minutes. Yet another cousin tries to give me a hug and I have to ask her not to because if someone touches me, they are going to squeeze the tears right out of me. After a few minutes of chat with Grandma, I consider heading deeper into the house to get a bite to eat. But I glance over and there's an old woman goobering all over the new baby.
I'm supposed to be almost 8 months pregnant with twins at this event. I'm supposed to have old ladies and kids trying to feel my belly for kicks and everybody is supposed to be trying to give me enough wiggle room to not crowd my giant belly. But no. I'm squished among people and the old ladies are goobering all over the other baby.
And that's it for me. A total of about 30 minutes, probably 20 of those minutes spent outside crying. And we head home, me sobbing all the way. Didn't even make it fully into the house.
I called that distant cousin last night. I didn't want her to feel like she brought with her the trigger that sent me running. This camels back was already broken so the straw she brought didn't do a whole lot of damage. We talked for about an hour and a half and I got a lot of good advice and some general comfort that I'm not overreacting about things, this really is as hard as I'm feeling it.