My Least Favorite Relative

We all have them. The one we hope won’t show up at our door or the one we dreaded in the past. It’s a fine writing challenge to go for the negative instead of the positive. Who was your least favorite relative?

28 responses to “My Least Favorite Relative

  1. An unmade bed was the catalyst that began my dislike for my least favorite relative, Cousin Alan.
    I grew up in Northern Indiana in a boisterous lower middle class family of five. We played with gusto, went to church on a semi-regular basis, obeyed our parents and learned how to do chores. My Father was a very gentle man who was a pharmaceutical salesman by day and leader of a Jazz Band by Friday and Saturday nights. He put himself through college with his own dance band. My mother was indeed his perfect match if it is true that opposites attract. She was the “Storm Trooper” of the house. If Josie said jump, we did not even attempt to ask, “How High.” We just jumped.
    I had cousins on both coasts in the years of 1967-1970. The New York cousins were the children of Aunt Lou and Uncle Abe, who was the Vice President in charge of Recordings for RCA Victor. He signed such stars Elvis, Henry Mancini, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormet and Dolly Parton. This family lived in a whole other stratosphere than mine, but they were humble, fun and hard working folks, just like us.
    The other cousin, Alan, was the only child of a homemaker and a high school teacher, who lived in California. He was an extremely smart, spoiled rotten, Hippy. His parents decided to send him to our house for the summer of 1969 so that my parents could teach him responsibility. Since Alan was the son of my Father’s brother, my Dad felt a modicum of compassion for the kid, but he did not receive any leniency from Josie. She was energized by the challenge to remake Alan into a “Citizen” in one short summer. She went into overdrive.
    Alan arrived, wearing an oversized shirt, baggy pants, sandals and hair that hung way past his collar. Josie was cordial toward him as she handed him a list of the “HOUSE RULES.”
    1. Wake up at 6:30 am
    2. Make bed
    3. Eat breakfast (we always had meals together, before Josie & Bill left for work)
    4. Swim at least 10 laps, weather permitting (we had a pool)
    5. Do chores
    6. No sassing
    7. No cussing
    8. No fighting, unless you are defending your Country, Sister, Mother or Grandmother.
    For some unknown reason, Alan thought this list was negotiable. The poor sap didn’t stand a chance.
    Morning one, he was still in bed when we sat down to our cereal. Josie went upstairs, loudly. We had wooden stairs and she was in heels. My brother, sister and I could not hear the exact dialogue, but it was not pleasant. The thud that Alan’s body made as it hit the floor was impressive. He came down to breakfast shortly thereafter. I must give him credit, even though he whined excessively, Alan was a quick learner.
    Alan told my Mother that he did not know how to make a bed. She showed him. Morning 2, his bed remained unmade, so Josie used Visual Aids and graphs, thinking this approach would appeal to his high IQ. The third morning, Josie guided Alan to an empty office space adjacent to our garage. It was no longer empty; it contained one Army Surplus Cot, one hard pillow, and an Army Green wool blanket. Alan only spent one night in solitary confinement, as if by magic, he learned how to make a bed overnight.
    By the end of summer, Alan knew how to eat meals family style, mow a lawn, swim laps, comb his crew cut hair, and tuck in his ironed shirt.
    It may have been Alan’s summer of discontent, but when he returned to California, he was a responsible “Citizen.”


    • Happy New Year, Peanut! I know you wouldn’t probably have enjoyed it, but it’s too bad Alan couldn’t have had a longer exposure to Josie. He might’ve turned into a responsible adult and stayed that way. I enjoyed reading your story.

      • Thanks Barbara. Actually, I wouldn’t have minded him staying longer, it was sort of like watching the prototype of “Survivor” reality TV, we would have not voted Alan off the island so quickly, he was good for entertainment value.

    • Happy New Year to you, Peanut.

    • This is a good story. I’d try to beef it up in a couple of ways. Include some of the interesting dialogue between your mother and Alan. Check each sentence to see if it relates to the main tale here–Alan and his summer of learning how to be a decent human. I’d rethink that last paragraph. The final sentence needs to come off. You’re summarizing what we just read, and that’s always a bad idea. Let the story convey that message. Think of someway to bring the beginning (unmade bed) in at the ending as a way to tie this up nicely. Good luck!!!

      • Peanut Beranski (aka Becca)

        Thank you Ann. I’ll do what you suggested. I have since written something I feel is much more universal for publication. I would love to have your opinion, but don’t want to impose on your time. I know you have many stories to read and many egar students to teach. Please let me know if I can post my other story. And Happy New Year my friend.

  2. Did Alan continue with his amended ways when he went back home? I love Josie. What a woman!!

    Congrats on your well-written tale of Josie vs. Alan.

    • Shaddy, Alan is 60 years old now and still does not have a real job. He married a very industrious woman who has kept him in the lazy manner to which he was accustomed. The summer he visited us, my Mom got him a job at a local Recreational Vehicle Manufacturer, testing toilets to see if the flush properly. He worked one half day and quit. The next day he ask Josie to take him to the unemployment office, because he thought you could claim benefits after one half day. And this kid was known to have a very high I.Q. I am so glad that I’m stupid enough to have had really interesting and challenging jobs since I was 21 working my way through college.

      • Alan is awful but your story is great. I love Josie and would love to send my daughter to Josie boot camp. This is a wake up call for me. My greatest fear is that she’ll end up like Alan. Your wonderful writing and sense of humor attest to your having a high IQ. Josie did a great job raising you.

      • What a shame. If only he knew how much happier his life would be if he actually put his heart and soul into something productive.

        Josie gave it her best shot, that’s for sure.

      • I am beginning to suspect you might be talking about a distant relative of mine. IQ off the charts, trust fund, mommy still takes care of him.

  3. Here’s the bad thing about growing up in Alaska: You don’t know many of your relatives.

    Here’s the good thing about growing up in Alaska: You don’t know many of your relatives.

    When my parents took the train from Detroit to Chicago in June of 1948, and then boarded a DC-4 for a flight that took us through Canada, to Fairbanks, and then to Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, which was the only airstrip that could handle large planes then, I was six years old.

    I knew three aunts on my mother’s side, and one on my dad’s side. There were eight cousins by that time, but two were infants. There was a grandmother somewhere, and there may have been more uncles and aunts, but I don’t remember them.

    Sometime during World War II, my dad served in the Army Air Corps, stationed in the Philippines. During the time he was gone, my mother and I moved in with her sister Myrtle and her five kids, the youngest of whom were twins Bonnie and Bobby.

    Bonnie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Bobby was a demon and I was his victim. His power was such that to this day he invades my nightmares and brings terror to my nights.

    I run from him, run as fast as four year old legs can carry me, towards the front door of the house on Greydale in Detroit that we shared with his family. I struggle up several steps, cross the porch and reach for the handle of the screen door, hoping to reach the safety of my mother. The door is locked. Always. I can never get the door open. Bobby never catches me, though I am certain that in real life he must have and hence this recurring dream.

    One day I was sitting on the floor in my room on the second floor, cutting out paper dolls, minding my own business. My back was to the door. I sensed danger behind me. I turned towards the door, raising my right hand at the same time—the hand holding the sharp-pointed scissors.

    At the same time a ball peen hammer struck the top of my head, the scissors found Bobby’s lower eyelid. I don‘t recall any blood from either of us. What I do remember is the anger and tension between two sisters as they each comforted their small child and tried not to condemn the other child so much that a permanent schism fractured the family.

    Moving to Alaska rescued me from Bobby’s violence, but the nightmares continued. Any dream that involves running from some dread invariably includes Bobby’s specter.

    He moved to Australia after he was an adult. I have seen him only once since then, in 1971 when I stopped to visit his mother in Oregon and he happened to be there also. We had almost nothing to say to each other.

    I tried very hard to see him as an adult, to see him without the fear of my childhood.

    I saw him only one way: An ugly American. His attitude, his bombast, the violent tendencies just below the surface were Little Bobby grown into Big Bad Bob. I remember hoping that Australians didn’t think all Americans were like Bob.

    And it puzzles me to this day that his siblings are such kind and cheerful people and he such a black sheep.

  4. Gully, It must be terrible to be in constant fear of someone like Bobby when you are a child. I am heartened to hear that you made a successful escape to Alaska. I can sense the reminent of the upsetting dreams that you have had about this time in your life. You write beautifully and Happy New Year!

  5. It’s lucky you don’t live close to Bob. He sounds like the kind of person who would try to drag you down with him. Happy New Year, Gully!

  6. I have contemplated this challenge and am deeply disturbed. I have been robbed…I do not have a least favorite person in my family. I can’t stand any of them — just kidding. I love them all and would die for anyone one of them. “sigh.” It’s hard to be me.

  7. I’m in the same boat as Pamela. I’ve been trying to come up with negative memories of a relative that I could share in response to this writing prompt. Either I’m suppressing memories or I didn’t have a relative who caused me grief.

    It’s hard to be me too, Pamela. Poor, poor us!!!

    • You are Blessed Pamela, but I was lucky that my least favorite came early in life so I could learn from his behavior. In an ironic way, Alan taught me to be a better person. Happy new Year to you also kiddo!

  8. Do you have any annoying person who shows at Holiday time? Write about them. If you don’t have any of those, you are double Blessed Shaddy! Happy New Year.

    • My husband, son and I hightailed it out of here mid-December on a plane to Siesta Key, FL. That pretty much eliminated all Christmas stress. I think we’ve hit on the perfect solution to getting through the holidays.

      I am definitely blessed times a hundred!!!! Thanks for trying, Peanut.

  9. My problem was choosing the one of two that would get me in the least trouble should they stumble across these pages.

    • Gully, I would be thrilled to be related to you no matter how distant. Maybe we could arrange a casual dinner for our “Spoiled Rotten” relations and I’ll invite a guy I know…Vinnie “The Snozz” Gruberman. Vinnie could take them out back and learn them a thing or two bout be’in regular folks!

  10. When my father’s Aunt Gwen was in her teens, she came to Canada from Britain to work in domestic service. Her sister was my grandmother, who also came to Canada at the same time for the same reason. This was common; many impoverished British families sent their children over to Canada to work as domestics or farm laborers. My parents moved away from their hometown before I was born and moved back when I was nine years old. That is when my siblings and I met most of our relatives.

    Aunt Gwen was a very large, unattractive woman who gave me money or ugly brown stockings for Christmas presents. She wasn’t really on my radar until she came to live with us for a while, when I was in my teens. We had a finished basement, where she had a bed and kept her belongings.

    She never married or had much good to say about any man. She constantly mentioned that my father and my sister’s husband “weren’t tall”. She loved to repeat negative stories about other people – she never praised or appreciated the many good things people would do. Many times she would tell a story about my older sister baking a cake and then accidentally dropping it on the floor. Because she had worked as a cleaning woman all her life, that was all she knew how to do. So, she would go from room to room on her hands and knees, cleaning carpets, floors, and furniture with a wet cloth. This was during summer vacation when my mother worked and I was not at school. My mother told me to tell Aunt Gwen not to clean. So, I would follow her from room to room, asking her not to. She finally got angry with me, even though I was just acting on my mother’s instructions. I took her to a movie one afternoon, by bus. On the way to and from the cinema, she complained about having to walk one block between bus transfers and that her feet hurt. I did not want to wait for another bus to take us one block home, so I made her walk that too. When I walked into the house with her behind me, I rolled my eyes at my siblings and muttered that she complained a lot. She never did respect my mother’s request to stop cleaning the house and my parents finally asked her to leave the day a neighbor told us she had dragged the hall carpet out onto the back balcony and cleaned it there in full view of the neighbors, with a lot of banging and dust.

    Looking back from an adult perspective, I am more sympathetic about some of Aunt Gwen’s personality traits. Imagine having to leave your family, come to a strange country, and work for strangers. Who knows how she was treated? Her attitude towards men may have been a result of being abused. Her criticism and pleasure in putting down others I do not condone. However, I am appalled at how callous I was as a teenager, at making an overweight, elderly woman walk on sore feet between bus stops or one block just because I was young, healthy, and strong; could walk just fine, and was too impatient to wait for another bus.

    Aunt Gwen moved in with my father’s unmarried sister (my aunt Rose) and mother (my grandmother). My aunt cared for both of them at home until they died. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and Aunt Gwen remained the demanding, critical woman she had always been right up to the end. I think it contributed to Aunt Rose’s premature death at age sixty-three.

    When Aunt Gwen passed away, my brother refused to come to her funeral. My parents, sisters, Aunt Rose, Aunt Gwen’s sister, and her sister’s daughter were the attendees. She had no friends. There were no tears. Such a sad, lonely, unhappy life, in many ways.

    • It’s unfortunate that many people who have had difficult lives find it necessary to pass their discontent to others. I give you credit for taking her to the movie; I’m sure you didn’t really want to.
      Thanks for sharing this peek into your past. I enjoyed reading it although I felt bad for you and your family.

    • Sometimes it takes a person like this to broaden our perspective. You learned so much over the years as you tried to think how you could understand someone so unhappy and unpleasant. Poor lady.

  11. Thank you, imshaddy and Ann. I’m glad I can remember her with sympathy instead of bitterness.

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