On both sides of my family, I’m one of 12 grandchildren (both sides will be expanding to 13 by the end of 2015).
Molly and I are the oldest on the Dugan side at 21 (although she has five months on me). Isabelle and Caroline took our title as favorite grandchildren when they introduced my grandpa to the fact that twins are infinitely cuter than regular babies. At four years old, they’re tied with Emma as the youngest. Between Molly and I and the three preschoolers are Conor, Paul, Anna, Patrick, Colin, Grace, and Matthew.
Kristin outpaces us all on the Hoffmann side—she’s 26 and already married. Then there’s Matthew, 22, and myself. The youngest, Leo, is two. To give perspective, I’m more than two times closer in age to Leo’s mom (Katie, my de facto sister) than to Leo; I’m nine years her junior, yet 19 years his senior. Scattered between us are Thomas, Paul, Michael, Will, Josie, Evie, Leah, and Henry.
In summary: there is a full generation gap between my youngest cousins on both sides of the family and myself. Yet I still am not guaranteed a spot at the big kids’ table.
It’s easy to lose my humility and forget this rule. Take, for instance, the round of golf I played with grandpa, dad, and Uncle Jimmy today.
At some point during my childhood, I made the mistake of saying “Oh my God” in front of my Grandpa Dugan. To make matters worse, I said it with my Grandma in the room as well. I should’ve known better; like all grandparents seem to do, they taught me over and over that I wouldn’t get food I wouldn’t without saying please, that I’d be served food I didn’t want unless I followed my “No” with a “Thank you”, that no matter how bad my hat head (which was and continues to be horrible), I better respect their house by removing my baseball cap upon entering (luckily, they’ve realized this rule is futile). So breaking that Commandment warning its followers to avoid profane use of God’s name should’ve been an obvious no-no. But pre-pubescent me either didn’t care or completely forgot my surroundings. After that lecture, I refused to say so much as “sucks” in front of them until I was about 18.
As much as Grandpa told me not to curse or use God’s name in vain, though, he laced every sentence with a bastard here, a damn there, or a shit wherever he could find space. On the golf course especially, his vocabulary tends to be profane (albeit still otherwise polished). Chains of expletives replace sentences following a detrimental hook or slice.
This tendency certainly isn’t limited to him, though. In fact, I probably don’t trust you if you don’t curse like a sailor on the golf course. It’s certainly true for me. Which at one point became a sort of dilemma when golfing with my grandpa (my main golfing partner).
Today, though, I yelled, “God, dammit!” following a mishit, only to turn around and see my grandpa directly behind my left shoulder, waiting in the golf cart. Yet he said nothing about the phrase he used to try to weed out of me.
Later in the round, I hit my best drive of the day but couldn’t find the ball. I dropped a ball near my dad’s shot, figuring it must have landed around there. But as we drove up another 75 yards or so, Uncle Jimmy found my initial shot sitting up in the rough left of the fairway. I called bullshit immediately, audibly and with Grandpa sitting next to me. When I realized what I had said, I checked his reaction; he didn’t care that I took after him after all on the course, at least verbally. A few holes later I even dropped an f-bomb without thinking, and again, Grandpa said nothing.
I felt more liberated from the figurative kids’ table than I did even when Grandpa gave me a beer on my 21st birthday. Maybe I’d finally be in the dining room, not the side room, for good.
It didn’t take too long to test this hope. An hour after the round of golf, we had a family dinner at my other grandpa’s house. We call him Pampa, and Pampa’s dining room table doesn’t seat as many as Grandma and Grandpa’s. So maybe my hopes were a little too high on the way in. But when Kristin joked to her husband Alex that they’d never make it to the real table, I realized something horrible: no matter how old I get, or how many new grandkids come, I have a death sentence at that fucking kids’ table.
Maybe there’s parole somewhere along the line. On the big holidays, especially at the Dugan grandparents’, Molly, Conor, Paul, and I all usually sit with the adults. But somehow we seem to always end back up at the kids’ table one way or the other.
Come on, Grandma, Grandpa, and Pampa. When will the seats open up for us? So I can curse freely on the golf course now, but my seat isn’t totally reserved in the dining room?
Shit, maybe I deserve to stay at the kids’ table.