When people talk about their "crazy" families, it really brings out my competitive nature.
Unless one uncle shot himself in the head and one aunt suffocated herself with a plastic bag per the instructions in a paperback version of "Final Exit," your people just aren't that crazy.
Oh, and don't forget my great-aunt Rose, who watched her husband show a houseguest how to load his gun and soon after used that knowledge to shoot herself dead. She was a fast learner. Her first shot was also her last.
Your cousin has seven cats? Call me when she hangs herself.
Your grandpa never leaves the house without his black knee socks and a golf hat? Let me know when he gets checked into a mental health facility against his will. If having unbalanced relatives is the 3-mile, I am Prefontaine. Don't even try to outrun me. I own this distance.
With so much insanity in my family, you may wonder if I'm concerned about my own mental health. Sure, it's marginal, but I keep a close eye on it. I get sleep, get therapy, get close to the edge sometimes, but pull back before I start eyeing my plastic bags.
Hold on: It's blame my mom for everything time. Everyone get cozy.
Last week, she left the apartment we had been renting for her nearby so she could help out with our 2-year old. She said she'd be going home to Vegas for a week.
I had a feeling she wasn't coming back when she packed up her entire desktop computer and router. I was notified by text message that she would not be returning. There was a 97 percent chance that moving my mom into the neighborhood, that having her around every day, that this arrangement would end abruptly and horribly, which it did.
Sane people know that their insane parents will not cease acting insane because we need them to, or because the little kid in us just wishes they would.
That's where I claim my branch on this family tree. I can't stop dreaming my mom will be different. I can't let go.
I like to hope that when my child needs me, now or when he's grown, I will be there. Odds are, however, that I will be anxious, overwrought and generally imperfect about it.
When I pick up the baby from day care, I stop at the first red light every day and reach back to grab his hand. I smile with every bit of drive and passion it took Prefontaine to run those three miles. The finish line, the big win, is for my child to know one thing: that he is loved. I say "I love you," and he, not knowing what it means, says "luff yeeew" back from his car seat. What I can't always give him in stability I will give him in love. I will love him so fast and so hard I will never fail to break a sweat loving him.
For most of the first two years of his life, I struggled with the worry that I would be his crazy mom who did unpredictable and hurtful things. That worry was making me -- you guessed it -- crazy.
Now I don't worry, because just as the sun will rise and Elmo will ride his trike, I will have my moments. I will second-guess myself coming off the blocks; I will obsess about my stride, my technique, my overuse of running analogies. But I'm going to express my deep love for his little soul every day.
When I resent my mom, and I do that more than I extend tortured running metaphors, it isn't because she is odd. It's because her oddness means I have no idea whether or not I've been a joy or a burden. I doubt I ever will.
I'd like to say I don't blame her, but that would be a lie. I blame her, and at the same time, I'm grateful for all the ways she helped out since I had my son, even if she predictably flew over the cuckoo's nest and took her router with her.