"It turns out my grandfather was a riverboat gambler and a bootlegger," my wife said to me.
She told me this with a smile on her face, and a bit of pride in her voice.
It wasn't the first time I had heard tales of some people's ancestors that included things like grandpa was a pool hustler, card player, bootlegger, or even womanizer.
Typically, these stories are usually told with a smile and a chuckle.
I've been guilty of it myself.
Then I started thinking as my wife went on to tell me about some of her father's exploits in the military, complete with a large collection of him posing with women at nearly every port in Japan.
The past changes perspective drastically.
Today, if your father, brother, cousin, or nephew was a womanizing pot dealer who often gambled his money away trying for that one big score, it would be the kind of thing one would typically keep quiet about. Or at the very least, one would tell that story without the sense of pride that one might have when talking about Uncle Tim, the lawyer.
However, in 60 years, a child of one of the womanizing pot dealer's dozen kids from eight different women will be telling stories to their friends about their grandfather was always running from the law, selling weed, going to jail, and hooking up with women from every town within 60 miles.
In 60 years, stories about Uncle Tim, amount to little more than, "Oh, he was a lawyer."
Our riverboat gamblin', booze-runnin' ancestors get talked about as much, if not more, in the present than they did a century ago when they were terrorizing their home town.
Why do our ancestors who were little more than common thieves, social rejects, and derelicts get all the glory, and not ones with at least middle-of-the-road success?
There are a few plausible theories.
These braggadocios tales of ancestors who violated both moral and statutory law are just a way of saying, "Hey, look how far my family has come since this scumbag was running around."
It could also just be a means of saying, "Hey, I wish I could be more like my criminal heritage."
Another theory is one that goes a little deeper into the philosophical well.
Deep down, we all know crazy is lurking around our brains at all times, so we have to remind ourselves to keep a close check on our demons and not let them rule the roost.
I believe the we're-all-inherently-crazy theory is the one that is most accurate, based on my life experiences.
Some of us are capable of burying the crazy, or at the very least confining it to the panel-lined walls of our small, middle-class homes.
Crazy lies in all of us.
Some of us are the originators of the crazy in our families, others of us are the residual leftovers from generations of crazy folks everyone else in town tried to avoid.
Whatever the case, these tales of odd-ball relatives are important to the growth of not only the family, but humanity as a whole.
The fact that each of us is even here to look back at the crazy roots of our family tree, is evidence that even if we climb onto the bozo wagon and drive a herd of monkeys through downtown while wearing nothing but a smile, eventually things will be alright.
Our ancestral screw-ups set the behavior and achievement bar really low for future generations. Low expectations are easily achieved, and any achievement is good for one's self-esteem.
Self-esteem enrichment is never a bad thing when it comes to raising a child.
So for now, keep some of those stories of relatives who fall into the "currently crazy" inside family circles if at all possible. Meanwhile, go the extra mile and document the best stories you can remember, and make sure it's handed down from generation to generation.
The future of each of our family trees depend on it.