It’s not like we need an excuse to get together. Especially if it involves food, as it always does.
But this time, besides eating, my family had several good reasons to gather. The best reason? It wasn’t a funeral.
Given a choice, we prefer non-funeral gatherings. I live in Las Vegas, three time zones and a world away from my sister and two brothers in South Carolina.
I visit as often as I can. My mother used to say that “often as I can” is just a fancy way of saying “not nearly enough.”
My latest visit has been a long one, four weeks so far, but it hasn’t been much of a visit.
I’m staying on a lake a few miles from all my kin who live hereabouts, but I’ve spent most of the time working on a book.
My sister, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends alike, have all been encouraging and understanding about it.
But privately, I suspect they’ve formed an online chat group with my husband and children and friends back in that other time zone, to laugh about what I’m “really” doing here, and say things like they’ll believe I’m writing a book when they see it.
Which, come to think of it, is pretty much how I feel, too.
Funny, how we project onto others thoughts and feelings that are really just our own. Unless others are thinking and feeling them, too.
Truth is, most people are too busy dealing with their own stuff to wonder or even care what I’m doing with mine.
But book or no book, work or no work, four weeks is too long to be back in my hometown without getting my family together.
So I invited them all up to the lake to do what we do best: Eat, talk and laugh. As I said, we had several reasons to celebrate.
First and foremost, my niece and her husband are in the process of adopting a child, and it seems, at last, it could happen any day. He will be their child, but we will all be his family, and that is something to celebrate.
Second, I had just written the last line of my book. No, I didn’t finish the book. I just wrote the last line. But I felt I had earned, or at least wanted, a little party.
Finally, if I’m not mistaken, as I often am, this gathering would be the first time in seven years, since my stepfather’s funeral, that all four of us — my brothers and sister and I — would all be together at the same time.
That may not seem like such a big deal, but I can assure you it would have meant the world to my mother and my stepfather.
So we ate pulled pork and talked and laughed and had ourselves a good time.
My brother, Joe, who is blind, hadn’t been to the lake since he was a boy. I wanted to dunk him, but it was cold and I’d have had to dunk myself, too.
So we sat on the porch, he and I, tossing limes (I wasn’t about to look for rocks in the dark) so he could hear the “kerplunk!” and “see” the lake.
I see things my brother can’t see, and he hears things I don’t hear, things that can’t be seen. Sometimes, we compare notes.
“I saw a turtle,” I said, “with a shell as big as your belly.”
He laughed. “Listen,” he said, “do you hear that dog?”
“What dog?” Then I listened hard and heard it barking in the distance across the lake.
He asked about my book.
“I’m working on it,” I said.
Joe has never seen a book, let alone read one the way you and I read. But he reads Braille, and was quick to remind me that he expects to get a copy of his own.
“I’ll make sure of it,” I said.
After everybody left, I drove Joe home to his apartment.
“Sister, it sure was good to get see everybody today.”
“It sure was,” I said.
Then I drove back to the lake to work on a dream that I can’t see.
I can only hear it in my head.
But my blind brother sees it clearly for me.