The word “martyr” is tricky. It’s supposed to mean that you stand by your principles. You’re willing to let your enemy crush you with a steam roller knowing your flattened corpse will be right. In a family, the “martyr” is the one that can twist any argument in their favor by making you feel guilty for something. It has nothing to do with what made you angry in the first place. By the end of a conversation you’ve apologized twice, offered some penance like baking a five tier cake for their kid’s next birthday party, and then walked away wondering how that argument even started. You’ll remember. In the middle of the night you’ll sit up in bed and think, “Wait a minute…hold on! How did that happen?”

    “Gloriana” was the new sister-in-law of my friend “Diego.” I met his brother “Juan” once. He always walked around with wide eyes like he was waiting for the attack. Diego was unprepared on a Sunday when he came to watch an important football game at Juan’s house. He got irritated that Gloriana was making noise in the kitchen. The food processor screeched over the ref’s calls. There were loud cackles from Gloriana’s sister. He lost his cool when pans clattered onto the tile and echoed through his nerves. 

    “Can you make more noise in there?” Diego yelled. He ignored Juan who looked terrified. Diego didn’t care if Gloriana came out swinging. He wasn’t afraid to be direct. “We can’t hear the game and its at full volume!”

    Gloriana did come out of the kitchen. She was carrying heavy trays filled with nachos, and taco makings. Her sister (very pregnant) came out balancing a thick bowl of guacamole on her belly and dragging a cooler of beers. Diego and Juan jumped up and helped them place everything on the coffee table. 

    “I’m sorry we were noisy,” Gloriana said. Her voice was  humble like a child being scolded. “We wanted you to have food for your special time.”

    Diego stared at the food and the two women blocking the TV. He felt like crap and apologized. Apology number one.

    “I know you don’t see your brother very often.” Gloriana said. She cast a look at Juan who was frozen on the couch. “You are so busy with your important job. I wanted to make this a special occasion.”

    “You did,” Diego said. His face got red and he wanted to hide his head in the guacamole. “You are right. It was nice to do. Things are crazy at work. I’m sorry.”

    Apology number two. 

    “My sister is staying with us to have the baby. Her husband is deployed for six months.” Gloriana said. She pointed to the boxes in the corner. “Do you think you could put together the baby furniture? While you’re watching the game?”

    “Sure,” Diego said. He would say anything to get them to leave the room. He spent the next three hours figuring the instructions for a crib, dresser, stroller, and changing table. They missed half the game and didn’t get to eat any of the snacks. Juan cursed him under his breath with every touchdown they missed.

    When Diego left that night he walked through the kitchen.  He noticed the bags of take-out on the counter. Gloriana’s Mexican feast was the courtesy of Sombero’s Taco Shop. The most effort she made was taking the food out of the bag and stacking it on the tray. 

    There are good people that get a free pass to be called martyr. They deserve the title since they wouldn’t yell, “uncle” when the bricks were being chucked at their head. A martyr in the family is not that saint. They are willing to take a hit. They  know they will come out in the end with a huge brick pile. Guess who will build them a house?

Published by Julie Ann Sanchez