It’s never a good thing when all the principle people of the family are together in one place and one time, and after all these years, couldn’t we just decide that fate, luck, bourbon or god has brought us together, and in a few short years, one of us, or more than one of us, will likely be dead, and we should be thankful for the time we have been given, and those people we have also been given, no matter who they might be? I have these thoughts on Mother’s Day, knowing that my mother and father will be in the same room sitting at the same table for the first time in years, and it might not be pretty at all.
My niece, who is doing very well at Mercer, has arranged everything, and I thought that might carry the day. It’s her father’s birthday also, and we do not do enough for him to know how appreciated he is, and I thought that might help. My brother-in-law is a good man, a solid individual who has been married to my sister now for nearly twenty years. Surely, his birthday, coupled with Mother’s Day will be enough to dampen any lingering animosity over a divorce that happened in the early 1970’s, but no.
My nephew is still a freakshow, and it is very likely he always will be. That’s harsh, I do realize that, but he doesn’t ever show the slightest vestige of gratitude for anything or anyone. He orders food at the restaurant, sits and stares away from the table, and doesn’t eat with us. He has his food boxed up to go, and will eat in his room when he gets home. He wears a ratty tee short to the restaurant and looks surprised and insulted if anyone speaks to him. The waiter, who my sister adores, seems slightly lost and confused. I’ve managed restaurants before, and I know good help when I see it. This is not what this group of people needs. We need things to go a little more smoothly than they are, and they aren’t.
My father is late. This is like saying the moon is late rising, or the tide is late receding. The confused waiter is confused by the fact we aren’t ready to order, and asks twice while we are waiting. There are seven of us. There were seven of us five minutes ago. There will be seven of us when you return. When there are eight or more people here, then come back, please. The young man seems at a loss as to why my father isn’t there and he doesn’t even know the man. Mt step father is a man written off as dying over twenty-five years ago, and I think he lives just to piss doctors off. Three times in the last thirty years he’s been married to my mother, experts and specialists have declared this year his last, and now pushing eighty, he is still getting up and going. He’s somewhat deaf and not really that intuitive, so he answers questions he thinks might have been asked and it is sometimes more than just a little funny. He’s the only real relief for the tension at the table and I’m tempted more than once to asked him questions unexpected just to get an odd answer but resist.
I think all of this has been made worse because my younger sister, who is not present and accounted for again, raised the question of whether or not my father should come to this gathering on Mother’s Day, and I suspect that my father might not have come except there was some question as to whether or not he should, and I don’t think my mother would have minded if he did show up, except that my sister raised the question as to whether or not he should, and therein the pressure lies. My father arrives and he’s not only late but grumpy, which is normal for my father when he is out of sorts with the world. If he isn’t happy he’s going to make someone else unhappy, and thus it has always been and thus it will always be. The confused waiter is confused now there is another person, and that person wants more bread, and we want to order and oh god it is just too much, the man looks like this is enough for him to need therapy, really.
This is one of those restaurants where you’ll be paying for the atmosphere and dishes with Italian sounding names. My brother-in-law gets lasagna and they bring him a one inch by one inch by one inch cube of what looks like it might be, under a microscope, lasagna. Mt father grouses about there not being enough salad dressing, as if a teaspoon of the stuff isn’t enough, and he pirates a salt shaker from the table next to us. He grabs the frightened and confused waiter by the apron as the man hurried by to escape out gravitational pull into the abyss, and my father demands more bread. But there is a bright shining beacon of hope here, and that is very small portions of food means we’ll get done sooner than later. After a few quite moments of reflection on the meal we might have had going to a restaurant with less air, we all retreat to my sister’s home, and Mother’s Day begins to end.
The time we have here is finite, and each day it becomes more so, not less so. On the way back home I pass through small towns with cemeteries filled with people who had their own family dramas and each and every one of these people though the tiny politics of life were oh so important but each and every one of them wound up in a hole in the earth, politics decided at last as to who they would, or would not be speaking to forever and ever.