Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Family Gatherings"

          My siblings and I talk weekly. The habit, established years ago when you paid for a long distance phone call by the minute, resists change. I usually contact my sister during the week. We chat about family and friends. Although each of us have only met the other’s friends a few times, over the years the life events of these people weave into our conversations. We spend time discussing world events and allergy seasons. We share with one another the grind of our jobs (both retired teachers who now substitute to keep out of trouble.) My sister lives in a small Texas town and participates in her church, political party events, and the “this-n-that activities” of her community. We divide our worries and our woes and multiply our joys. These phone calls ebb and flow with a life of their own. Sometimes they last only a few minutes. Other days we drain our phone batteries.
          In contrast, talks with my brother have slipped into such predictability that variations bring unexpected pleasure. I call my brother during the weekend. We enjoy a little contest on who will call first on Saturday without it being too early. These tête-à-têtes time out to fifteen minutes, give or take. My brother loves following weather, so a hurricane in the Atlantic will swirl us into a longer conversation. If I need to download a problem, he offers a sympathetic and non-judgmental ear. If he faces car trouble or a plumbing problem, we’ll figure out a way to fix the situation. As he is single, he sometimes needs another pair of hands to handle household challenges, but I know he’ll never ask for help. Every few months, I suggest that I visit. Sometimes my sister will rendezvous with us. Sometimes my husband and son will make the trip with me. All of us feel it’s important to help my brother maintain the family home.
          Getting to spend weekends or holidays with my siblings always proves a challenge. My sister and brother-in-law spread their holidays in several directions:  their son, daughter-in-law and grandkids; my brother-in-laws siblings; my brother; and my family. Many holiday choices are dictated by my brother’s work hours. If he has consecutive days off, he’ll head for San Antonio. Often times, he only gets a single day at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and so he’ll make the shorter two hour drive to my sister’s house. It isn’t unusual for them to have Stouffer’s Lasagna as a Thanksgiving meal. When my brother has more days off and decides to come to San Antonio, we celebrate the event will special holiday treats and trimmings.
          Over the last few years, my sister and her husband have tied themselves to their town because of responsibilities for one of their community obligations. My brother-in-law runs the local KC hall, and someone almost always uses it on Thanksgiving. His responsibilities include inspecting the hall after the event. This year, my sister convinced him to delegate some of his duties. She called yesterday with the wonderful news that, although they wouldn’t make it up for Thanksgiving Day, they’d arrive on Friday morning! My nephew and his wife and kids have other plans, and so they won’t be adding to our holiday, but we like that different branches on our family tree begin their traditions with family and friends.
          During this week, television sitcoms revel in the mishaps and mayhem of dysfunctional families gathering for Thanksgiving. I appreciate the humor mixed within the discord, but feel especially blessed that our holiday will embrace a laidback air of “adulting” with shopping during the day and nice dinners and drinks in the evenings. 

Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman