A recent conversation led me to a discussion about having a “crazy branch of the family.” Most families have them and culturally in the South this is a given. One of our particular sayings is, “We don’t hide crazy in the attic. We sit it on the front porch with a drink.” It’s simply accepted that somewhere in the mix there will be a relative who falls into this category. There are, however, variations. Please, please don’t get me wrong. Mental illness is tragic and in general, we struggle to handle it properly in this country. That type of illness is not at all what I am referring to.
The “crazy branch of the family” type probably actually is more eccentricity, and can be amusing from a distance and utterly exasperating up close. On the other hand, it does make for family stories that are sometimes carried down through generations. In all fairness, people who marry into the family should be properly warned before the initial meeting, although that doesn’t always occur. Such unprepared encounters can cause confusion and interesting after-the-fact discussions along the lines of, “Yes dear, _______does believe blue paint on the house will keep “haints” away and does like to explain it in great detail. I forgot to tell you about that. I hope you didn’t try to argue the point.”
Learning to smile politely and nod at appropriate intervals is usually the best approach and you become adept at knowing when you can either safely change the subject or escape the conversation. I’m not going to say that whoever invented caller ID may have been inspired by having such a relative in his or her family, but then again, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that turned out to be the case.