Thank you so much for all the enjoyment that your site has provided me over the years! I’m happy to say that I’ve developed more of a polite spine in the eight years since the events below occurred, and thanks for that are due in no small part to you and your contributors. And now, my horrifying tale:
When I was very young, my maternal grandparents moved far away for health reasons and my family began a tradition of driving the long distance to visit them on certain holidays, including every other Christmas. As my siblings and I grew up and our parents eventually divorced, my mother carried on this tradition with whichever of us were able to come along. By the time I was in college (and working), my increased responsibilities meant that I was only able to make it to my grandparents’ house for one holiday a year, either Christmas or Thanksgiving, and I was not always able to spend much time with them during the summer when they came to visit my mother. Thus, our trips to see them became more important to me than ever and I would get very excited each year as the time approached for us to leave.
I graduated from college in December. That same year, barely a week before our departure date, my mother announced that her friend “Sue” would be joining us for this visit. I was quite disappointed, as this was likely to be my last chance to visit my very elderly grandparents for a long time and I had wanted nothing more than to relax and enjoy the holiday together. Sue was a know-it-all and a busybody who had often annoyed me in the past by giving loads of unsolicited advice and harping on and on about her religion and how I needed it in my life. I knew that it was unlikely that her presence would make the visit relaxing for anyone. I did not discuss all of this with my mother, but did ask why she had invited Sue, as we had never had anyone other than family join us before. Apparently she had asked her to come because she felt sorry for her as another divorced woman and she was worried that Sue would otherwise spend the holiday alone…never mind that Sue’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids had already announced plans to visit her for Christmas! I decided to keep quiet and try very hard to have a good time, no matter what. I was determined not to let anything ruin Christmas for me.
Unfortunately, Sue’s bad behavior started before we even left our home state. She at first asked for, then outright demanded very frequent bathroom breaks. Each time we stopped, she would spend several minutes rummaging through the trunk and rearranging things. She spent the entire trip blaring religious music and rambling on about her medications and various ailments. Some of them seemed entirely imagined, e.g., “My lower back hurts—I must be getting pneumonia!” Once she actually screamed and pulled at my mother’s arm, while Mom was driving, because she was excited about something she saw on a billboard! Her antics caused the trip to take a couple of hours longer than usual and we were all exhausted by the time we arrived.
Things did not improve when we finally reached our destination and settled in to my grandparents’ house. Every minute of the day, no matter what anyone was doing, Sue knew the right way to do it and insisted on telling them all about it. For example, while my grandmother was preparing the Christmas turkey, Sue took it upon herself to hang over her shoulder and prattle on about everything that she was doing “wrong” and how Sue would have done it better. And when Mom and my grandmother were doing crossword puzzles together, as has been their favorite shared hobby for many years, Sue would not stop bothering them until I offered to do a puzzle with her (because for some reason she wouldn’t do one alone). She took complete control of the puzzle, insisting that I not answer anything and only write down the words that she gave me. Despite her claims of crossword expertise, she did nothing but make random guesses; I actually had to try for several minutes to convince her that the most likely answer to “a three-letter word meaning ‘distant’” was “FAR.” I could provide many other examples of Sue’s interfering, know-it-all behavior during this visit, but I will leave it with just those two.
Sue was also extremely childish. On Christmas morning, Mom always hands out the gifts to everyone until they are all distributed; then we go around the room in a circle, each person opening one gift when his/her turn comes. This was explained to Sue and it was obvious that no one else was opening anything as piles of presents grew around us. But each time Sue was handed a gift, she tore into it immediately, crowing loudly about the nice things she received. When she finished, she looked around at all of us in seeming surprise and acted as if she hadn’t noticed what we were doing. She then pouted as we opened our gifts because she had nothing left.
When we played our family card game, we invited Sue to join us and spent quite some time teaching her the rules. We made small allowances for her here and there, as she was just learning. We quickly learned, however, that Sue expected us to allow her to cheat outright! Each time she tried, we politely but firmly explained that the rules prohibited XYZ, and Sue always became loudly defensive and said that she may as well just quit if she wasn’t going to be allowed to do that. I wish that we had taken her up on that offer, but my mother always stepped in and soothed her instead.
One night, Sue sat in the chair that I had always occupied during card games. When my grandmother commented on this in passing—not to complain or ask her to move—Sue had the nerve to say that she wanted to sit in the padded chair because she had less padding on her butt than I did! There were so many things that I wanted to say, but I wisely opted to keep my mouth shut.
On evenings that we didn’t play cards, Sue always took over the television. Regardless of what was on and whether anyone else was enjoying it, she would pick up the remote and say, “Oh, we don’t want to watch this,” and change the channel. This was especially annoying when we returned home from the Christmas Eve service and the entire family had to resort to slight rudeness to convince Sue that we really did want to watch the 1940s Christmas musical program that a local station was airing, rather than the Weather Channel.
My sister received DVDs of some equestrian sporting events for Christmas and when we tried to watch them with Mom and our grandmother, Sue babbled continuously so that we could not hear the commentary at all. We could not turn up the volume because our grandfather was napping in the next room. Our repeated requests that Sue lower her voice were ignored. We never had another chance to watch the DVDs during the visit.
Shortly before our visit, my grandparents had purchased a treadmill so that my grandmother could walk indoors, where she was at less risk of falling and injuring herself. They told all of us that if we wanted to use it, we had to start it while standing on the sides of the treadmill, rather than on the belt, so that we didn’t break it. Not even ten minutes later, Sue came into the room and made some comment about how she’d love to use the treadmill while she was there. Without turning the treadmill on, she stood on the belt and walked a couple of steps before I was able to stop her. My grandparents had to call in a repairman to fix it, which was not cheap! Everyone was sure that Sue had broken the treadmill, but Mom and my grandparents didn’t want to confront her about it and she never admitted to anything. I believe that Mom ended up paying for the repair.
One of my aunts had given my mother a book for Christmas before we left on our trip. She brought it with her to read. When Sue saw the book, she promptly walked off with it and kept it in her room, reading it in bed at night. On one occasion, she asked my mother how far she’d read in the book and then announced, “Oh, I’m farther along than you.” Well of course she was; she’d had the book for days and Mom had only read it for about half an hour! When Mom pointed this out, Sue bean-dipped her. I was of the opinion that Mom should just walk into her room and take the book back, as it was her property, but she wouldn’t do it.
Sue also had a bad attitude toward animals. When my mother told her how much my great aunt’s Yorkshire Terrier loves my little sister, she replied, “He’s just a dog; he doesn’t know anything,” and said that he couldn’t possibly remember her. After church one Sunday, we saw a couple who had left their Jack Russell Terrier in the car during the service. It was freezing cold at the time and I expressed concern for the dog. Sue said, “Oh, I’m sure they cracked a window.” I pointed out that that would only make it worse by letting the wind blow in, and that it wouldn’t be all right even if the weather were warm because the dog could overheat in a car. She said, “Animals are all meant to live outside.”
Worst of all was when a severe natural disaster struck a couple of other countries during our visit. My family and I were riveted to the news and made plans to donate to a relief fund for the victims. Sue, on the other hand, kept telling us that these third-world nations did not deserve our help because they hadn’t sent large amounts of money to assist the United States after several exponentially smaller disasters that our country had experienced within the last several years. She then declared that the event was “a judgment by God on those countries” because of “the gays” and child prostitution. I was so angry that I had to leave the room.
I must say that given Mom’s legendary temper, I can’t believe that she didn’t say a single word to Sue about her behavior! But despite what began to seem like a genuine effort on Sue’s part to ruin everyone’s holiday, we all did our best to grin and bear it and we had a good time anyway. I really enjoyed myself during the all-too-rare moments that my sister and I had our grandparents to ourselves, and at least now we all have some good stories to tell! My mother learned her lesson, though, and never invited Sue on so much as a weekend getaway again. 0116-13