Five years ago, my Uncle John brought a dead guy to Thanksgiving dinner. The dead guy, fresh from the airport, waited in a hearse out in my Aunt Judy's driveway while John ate. Halfway through dessert, John suddenly jumped about 6 inches in his seat, smacked his forehead, and said, "Shit. I gotta go drain the body! I'll be back in a while. Save me some pie."

Family gatherings can get weird when the entire family are morticians.
Morticians who are obsessed with National Lampoon movies.

The next month at the family Christmas gathering, we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (as we do every year) before dinner. When the movie was over, Judy stood up and said she had a surprise for us. In "honor" of John and our unexpected Thanksgiving guest, Judy and her husband Larry had made a special trophy. It wore a flapped aviator's hat-just like clueless, socially inept Cousin Eddie wears in Christmas Vacation. Judy said that the trophy was for the family member who'd commited the biggest faux pas of the year. John turned a deep purple. We howled.

The next year the trophy was passed on to my father, who had somehow managed to fall off a mountain in Estes Park, Colorado. He'd fallen 12 feet and landed on a tiny piece of rock jutting from the mountain's face. Three feet to the left and he would've been a daddy pancake.

Four years later, the "award" is still going around. My sister received it last month for "Lifetime Achievement."

What an honor.

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