Is your family a little weird? Do you have a couple of "dysfunctional" family members? You're not alone! Chicken Soup for the Soul presents YOUR FAMILY! This great new collection of stories highlights our wacky yet lovable relatives, holiday meltdowns, funny foibles, and incredible in-laws, along with more serious stories about abuse, control freaks, and flare-ups. This book is usually hilarious, and occasionally poignant. It is a quirky and fun holiday book, and a great bridal shower or wedding gift! Norman Rockwell's famous Thanksgiving family painting appears on the back cover and is lovingly parodied on the front, showing that all our families are just a little dysfunctional!
JM gives an overview of the book:
My mother-in-law was always late. Something always happened at the last minute: a slip strap broke and had to be pinned, the hem of her skirt or pants unraveled, the heel of her shoe broke, or something equally drastic occurred, like spilling coffee, tea, or food down the front of her blouse. It never failed. She was accident prone, but only when it was time to go somewhere. When Esther was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, she was even late for her treatments.
“You'll be late to your own funeral,” my father-in-law, Bill said with a wink and a smile, but Esther's habitual lateness wore down everyone's nerves and patience.
“I'll get there when I get there,” Esther said as she took her time getting ready to go. “The Lord gives us plenty of time.” She smiled and patted Bill's arm. “Plenty of time.”
“There's not enough time in the Lord's day for you. You always try to get a little more,” Bill said as he kissed his wife.
There was never any argument just the calm give and take of a well worn discussion that no one ever won, no one but Esther. She always had the last word -- with a little help.
Bill couldn't handle even a little pepper. He couldn't taste it, but he felt it. Over the years, Esther had determined exactly how much pepper it took to send him running to the bathroom moaning, as it did its fiery work. The moments passed with Bill in the bathroom and Esther quietly smiling while she did the dishes. Life went on in this way until they found out Esther had cancer.
Esther was determined not to let it change her or her life. Bill tiptoed around the house and Esther until she peppered his food one night. He ran to the bathroom moaning and holding his stomach while Esther placidly cleared the table and did the dishes. My husband, Nick, and his brother, Larry, snickered, forgetting their fear and grief as their father raced up the stairs.
“Don't you two have something better to do? Take out the trash? Get ready for work tomorrow?” Esther jiggled the pepper mill in her hand.
Nick and Larry beat a hasty retreat, Larry to the garbage and Nick to his room to lay out his work clothes. Neither of them wanted to be present for the confrontation they knew was coming.
When Bill came back down the stairs Esther was putting the dried dishes into the cabinet. He watched her from the doorway as she moved about the kitchen, occasionally stopping to catch her breath from the pain. She closed the cabinet doors and picked up the broom from the basement stairwell, walked over to Bill and handed it to him. “It's about time you started helping around the house," she said.
Bill took the broom, and under Esther's eagle eye, swept the kitchen linoleum to her satisfaction. She took great pleasure in directing him to get under the edges of the cabinets and between the stove and refrigerator, ordering him here and there as one speck of dust or a cobweb, invisible to Bill, was thoroughly removed. Bill knew Esther wasn't going to allow her family to treat her like an invalid; she had enough of that taking care of her mother before they could marry. They both knew she wouldn't be around long, but what time they had left together would be shared the way they shared everything in their life -- in Esther's own time.
When Esther finally gave in to the cancer and died, the family was grief stricken, but none more so than Bill. He had lived every moment of his life for Esther. She was his sun, his moon, and his heart.
On the day of Esther's funeral the family gathered at the funeral home for the last time. Everyone waited for Esther's casket to appear. It didn't. The clock ticked on. People shifted in their seats and talked quietly. Bill checked his watch. Five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty minutes late. The funeral director asked Bill to follow him.
“I'm so sorry about the delay, but something has gone wrong,” the funeral director said.
“What?” Bill asked.
“Well, it seems the cart's wheels are stuck. We have to get one from storage. The spare is being used for another funeral.”
“Mr. Southwick,” one of the funeral home attendants called to the director. “We got it fixed. Should I tell Jerry not to get the other cart?”
Bill laughed and shook his head and checked his watch. Twenty-five minutes. Esther was always thirty minutes late. She would arrive on time, her time.
The funeral director looked like he thought Bill had lost his mind.
Bill smiled. “I always said Esther would be late to her own funeral.” He chuckled as he went back to the parlor.
Bill sat down and put his arms around his children. I watched in surprise as he smiled and looked at his children. My husband was stunned, trying to hold back his tears. “Check your watches,” Bill said as Esther's casket rolled into the parlor. One by one Esther's children smiled. I didn't understand. I checked my watch; it was 1:30. Then Nick laughed.
One by one his brothers and sisters laughed as the rest of the grieving family looked on in horror. Standing and turning toward the assembled aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, Bill tapped his watch. Each of them checked their watches, some through tears. One by one they smiled and nodded. I had only heard the stories, but they all knew Esther very well. She loved making an entrance and controlling time just a little.
Bill walked up to the coffin as the attendants raised the lid. “You just had to have the last word.” He leaned over and kissed Esther's lips one last time. “I love you, my darling,” he whispered, “but I pray there's no pepper in heaven.”
"On Esther Time" could have been written about my mother, except my mother is still alive. Instead, the story is about my mother-in-law Esther who everyone said would be late to her own funeral; they say that about my mother, too. I doubt I'll ever find out whether or not Mom is late to her own funeral because, at the rate she is going, when the bomb is dropped and humans are gone, the only things left will be cockroaches, moths and Mom.
Although chronologically middle-aged, I still feel like a youth except on those mornings when time, temperature and joints more used to sitting and typing than running, walking or just moving remind me I have been around a while; then I'm about 432.
At the foot...