We never really had an extended family with which to celebrate holidays. As such, our holidays were spent at our house comprised of me, my wife, and our 2 girls. We both had extended family, but neither me or my wife kept in touch with our respective kin.
Earlier this week, we received a letter from my wife’s great uncle. According to him, his father, my wife’s grandfather, had passed away. Because the unfortunate death basically coincided with Thanksgiving, we were invited to his ranch house about 3 hours away to celebrate the holiday and pay any respects we might want to pay.
After some discussion, we decided we would attend the funeral, and the Thanksgiving feast the next night. Since all we had planned this year was the same as the last however many, just our small family at the house, we thought it might be nice to do something different for a change. We set out yesterday morning and made it to our hotel at about 2am. We spent most of the day hanging out in the hotel, then made the half hour drive to her uncle’s house, where the wake was set up.
We thought it was odd that the wake was at his residence, but they were strange people, according to my wife. Really, the only reason she agreed to go was because she vaguely remembered spending time with her grandfather when she was much younger, and wanted to pay her respects.
We showed up to the house and there was an awkwardness in the air that was almost palpable. I got the idea that none of the people here saw very much of each other. The kids, however, all got along immediately. Our daughters were 5 and 7, and there kids older, younger, and the same age as them all over the place, and they all got along like they’d been friends for years.
We went into the house, which was full of kids running around and adults taking advantage of the full bar that had been provided. Random, tense small talk was made, and then the double door to the den opened, where the casket was and the viewing was held. We went through the motions of paying respects, then listened to a priest say his piece about the man, and once it was all done, there was a little more awkward chatting, and we were on our way back to the hotel. The rest of the night went without incident , and this afternoon, we headed back to my wife’s uncle’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.
As soon as we got there, I noticed a different kind of atmosphere. It was much quieter than the previous night. Her uncle, who had been kind of secluded the night before, was now hanging out in the corner and allowing his guests to do as they please, this time greeted each and every one of us and welcomed us back to his home. He was a strange man, I thought. Something about him just didn’t seem quite right. I thought maybe he seemed too happy that his father had just passed. But, far be it from me to judge someone else. We all grieve in our own ways.
After a while of uncomfortable reintroductions and unwanted chitchat with long lost relatives, we were called to sit down for dinner. Her uncle gave a nice speech honoring his father, and said he had a great surprise following dinner that would help us all pay our final respects. We did a toast to reuniting with lost family, her grandfather, and the rest of the family who had passed in recent years and past.
Then the food was brought out. There were the mainstays of mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. The turkey was brought out pre-sliced and served by her uncle himself. We all ate, and the whole time, I got the weirdest vibe from her uncle. He seemed more preoccupied with everyone else eating than he did with himself, more so than any host should be.
Towards the end of the meal, he began laughing. It started as a chuckle, then gradually changed into a laugh, then finally graduated into a boisterous howl. It was very unsettling. Everyone around the table went silent. Her uncle stood up and slammed his fists down on the table.
He began mumbling to himself while we all looked at each other, unsure of what was happening. Then he suddenly stopped and started walking around the table, brushing his fingers against everyone as he spoke.
”You come here. You drink his drinks, eat his food. YOU HAVEN’T SEEN HIM IN AGES! You never wondered about his well being. You never checked on him when he was sick. You never stopped by to see if we needed help. You’re pieces of shit, ALL OF YOU! Well, he had one final request before his unfortunate death. He wanted each of you to leave his home one last time with a piece of him. And it looks like some of you took a few pieces.”
The realization was harrowing. Many people began throwing up while her uncle walked back into the kitchen, then came back, dragging the one legged, no armed, filleted torso corpse of my wife’s grandfather behind him, leaving a blood trail. He heaved what was left of the lifeless body onto the table, to a reaction of screams. Our main concern was getting our children out of there, but we found the front door to be locked from the inside, but with a key needed to open it.
Everyone began screaming to get the door open, and I was the one at it, helpless. The windows were all barred, something we didn’t notice the night before. Before I noticed him get there, her uncle was in the middle of the staircase. He spoke again.
”I’m gonna let you out, guys, don’t worry! I just figured this might be the last time this much of the family was together at one time! Why don’t we go around saying what we’re all thankful for?! I’ll start! I’m thankful for being given the opportunity to supply my estranged family with a memory they’ll never forget!”
He then resumed his boisterous laugh and tossed a key down the stairs onto the ground. He then walked upstairs as we scrambled for the key and unlocked the door. On the way out to the car, we heard what was certainly a shotgun blast come from the house.
We all got in the car, and I tried to talk to my wife about what had happened to figure out what our next move was, without scaring the children. We decided a trip to the hospital would be best, and we’ve been sitting here waiting to get checked out. And it looks like we’re getting called here now, so that’s perfect timing. I have to go now.
If you get an odd request for a gathering from estranged family, maybe do a little research first. Because I didn’t, and now I’m technically a cannibal. Happy holidays.