As we do almost every Sunday, the extended family — dispersed far and wide on the Island of Manhattan — gather for dinner prepared by POB (partner of blogger). Three generations of the family are represented and range in age from 7 to 89 years-old.
My 26 year-old cousin who is a runner was talking about her gastro-intestinal problems, which she believes somehow is a sign from her father, z”l, who was a gastroenterologist (sp?). Ok, as much as our family is fixated on our intestinal fortitude, I am skeptical that her father, my dear cousin, would cause these kind of issues from Heaven so that she could remember him. I suggested it might be a parasite from living for 5 years in China. Food for thought, so to speak.
All my father had to hear was that someone was having issues with diarrhea and he started a sidebar with my sister the doctor about his own issues. Here is where there needs to be a firewall between parents and children. Ok, even if there were such a firewall, we would have drilled a tunnel under that it a looooong time ago. How did I know the topic of this sidebar, you ask? The look on my sister’s face told me everything I needed to know. Since my sister doesn’t drink, I needed to give my father more wine to stop the conversation.
All this is going on while I watch my 23 year-old cousin fade in and out. He came over early to toss a football with my son, and just as we were getting into the really gross intestinal details (over hors d’oeuvres, mind you), he was finally feeling the hangover from the night before — as in, it took him more than 14 hours after his last drink to process all of the alcohol in his system. I am not naming names, but he is a former hockey player and maybe some of my family will recognize the descriptions so far and call him out on that. But I am not saying anything. Nope. Lips are sealed.
Then a cousin of my generation put together a beautiful, stirring composition, “At My Daughter’s Wedding,” for my sister and brother in law in a CD with the cover featuring a photo at their wedding with my mother’s picture in the foreground and my sister and brother in law in the background. My sister and I fought hard to hold the tears back. We talked today and we were both choked up that my cousin captured the joy of the event and the sadness that our mother was not alive for the wedding, all in the beauty of his music. It was an extraordinary moment. We also played a song he wrote about our family history so the young ones could be further indoctrinated into the cult of our family. I really cannot say enough about my cousin’s music — it hit a chord in my sister and me that is too deep for words and I hope he understands the depth of his gift from the looks in our eyes.
Of course, this same cousin gave me cassette tapes about dealing with loss when my mother died and I had forgotten about them for over seven year until POB reminded me about a week ago. Then, my head and heart exploded when I realized I had the tapes when his mother died. Oy. Oy. Just when he needed them. Oy. Oy. I returned them to him last night. A little late. Oy. Oy.
Then, of course, my cousin and brother in law had to have an eating contest, just like two brothers, which warmed our hearts. POB made a traditional roasted chicken and vegetables using a Kosher chicken for our young cousin and an Indian chicken dish with basmati rice and some other vegetables for those of us more culinarily assimilated. Of course, the “boys” kept asking our kosher cousin if she had had enough so they could consume the rest. In other words, eat fast or don’t eat at all. It’s a tough world out there and our house is sometimes a little like boot camp.
Of course, one never knows what will happen next at a family function. My sister and brother in law brought over their wills to be witnessed. My sister wanted to do this quietly, so of course I had to announce what we needed to do to all assembled. So after dessert, we assembled the necessary witnesses and signed as appropriate. The lawyers at the table asked if they were each of sound mind and then we decided that no one in our family could really pass that test. We respectfully withdrew the questions and proceeded with the signing ceremony.
From the mundane (diahrrea) to the emotional (music for my mother z”l) to the eternal (the wills). No wonder these dinners are exhausting. And wonderful.