I love baseball. At least once a summer, I meet up with my friend Matt) and take in a game. Matt is in a number of fantasy baseball leagues. As we sit and watch the ever-losing Colorado Rockies, Matt tells me about his fantasy baseball teams. He frequently cheers for a particular player - rather than a team. He is on a league where the worst team loses. When his players are up to bat, he tenses when they do well. He knows the statistics of each player and his idea of what they should do in every game. As he talks I let the words and ideas wash over me as the smell of the grass and taste of flat beer combine with the cool night air and the sounds of the crowd.
I recently realized that family, especially extended family, is like fantasy baseball. I know the statistics - one person has done x, y and z, another has done something else - and from this information, I predict what will happen. This person has said 50 nasty things to me, so I predict they will say something nasty this trip. Then I wait for my predictions to be true. If my predictions are wrong, I simply wait until they are right. One person has made a complete mess of their life, so I expect that they will continue, even though I firmly believe that people can change.
Many family occasions, I sit like Matt predicting the interactions based on my fantasy baseball statistics. I stand back and wait for someone to hit the ball and start the play. I believe that I can predict what everyone will do. Again, if they don't, just like Matt's fantasy baseball teams, I wait for them to fulfill my predictions.
The truth is that I don't really know these people. I only know their statistics. With effort, I might get a chance to know each person one at a time. And that will last until the next time I review the statistics, make a note and go to another family gathering a.k.a. fantasy baseball game.