Well, it is over. The object of my pain for a while, the family reunion was last night. The sense of relief is huge. There is so much that happened and yet, so little. The thing that is fascinating to me was my physical reaction. And that it was so out of my control that it is scary and yet, now that I am aware, it is in my control or at least in my awareness bucket. That to me is powerful. Yesterday morning, when I went to get out of the bed, I could not stand up on my feet. I had charlie horses in the night and the previous night. The spider bit was flaring like someone had taken a hot poker to the toe and was shoving it in and hitting the plantar nerve. But my other foot was awful too and for no reason. It was all in my head. I was creating my own pain and even though I thought I had things under my control in my emotional state, it was festering and brewing all on its own. This all was a powerful lesson. I learned a lot about expectations, and forgiveness yesterday. And I learned about love.
I was a mess yesterday, but I went to work for the morning. I was in a state of what I call Flat. NO emotions, I had pretty much shut down everything. We left early to get to my brothers so we would not be the last ones there. We arrived five minutes before the expected time to an empty house. As we sat outside, I realized how much control this people had over me and I released it. I told my husband we would give them fifteen minutes and the leave if they were not back. They arrive within one minute of my deadline. It set the tone for me for the rest of the night.
My second oldest brother got out of the car and I felt my breath catch. He was totally white from skin to hair and was using a cane. He had lost significant weight and looked like walking death. I felt so sad for him. He is only ten years older than I am. Then my closest brother stepped out and my heart skipped again. He had not changed much at all and I would recognize him anywhere. As he approached, the sadness in his eyes met mine and my heart broke. I did not understand why he was giving off that feeling to me as he did not stop talking and smiling the whole time. We embraced and all that had been was forgiven. I did not remember until that moment that this was the sibling who was so much a part of me. Time had put a distance between us but seeing each other erased it and for the rest of the night we were next to each other…when they were there.
My oldest brother announced that the boys were going to go visit someone and they would be back and off they went. My husband and I stayed behind to help my sweet sister-in-law get dinner ready. Except it was already done so we sat and talked. It was lovely to chat and she filled us in on a lot about conversations that had occurred the night before. I was miffed when the brothers did not return for an hour and half. And then at once, my sister and her mate arrived and the brothers returned. I had no desire to see, talk or for that fact, be near my sister, so I stayed and helped my SIL. My closest brother kept coming into the kitchen and telling me to come out and sit. But my oldest brother wanted to talk to just me and so he and my SIL went into the living room to have a talk. I was uncertain what this was all about. My brother had been the executor for my Aunt and Uncle estate and he told me about the final accounting of the estate. Then he produced a document and told me they had designated me as their executrix. I was a bit surprised. But he told me about the disappointment he had with my brothers and sister. They both had wanted their wishes to be executed without a hitch. He then said there was a significant monetary designation in there for me to do with as I chose and that they implied, wanted to go to no one else. There was nothing for any other family member and everything else was to go to charities as designated. It was something I had not expected and what they said after had nothing to do with the money but washed away all the years of feeling like I was the bottom of the pile in my family. My brother is not one for saying anything emotional and you really have to pay attention when he is giving a compliment. I cannot explain it other than it was the greatest gift I had received from anyone in the family. It was that validation I had sought when I decided to come to this reunion.
I finally went out to the circle where the other siblings were sitting and my middle brother was droning on about something. His voice crackled and had a tone of arrogance that was very repugnant to me. My closest brother was tossing in a barb in every once in a while so I stayed to listen. Finally I asked what the brothers were doing and got a synopsis of their most recent adventures. The middle brother was retiring and he spent more time talking about the success of his junior-in-age wife and what she was doing in her career. He mentioned that they might move to Florida to be with her family. He never mentioned his own sons, who both live there as does their mother. I said nothing as this was something I would never understand about him. Instead of being mad, I felt so sad that my brother had alienated his children is such a stupid manner and that he still did not realize the value of his own children and now grandchildren who he still had never seen. My closest brother spoke very little about what he was doing but admitted he was going through a divorce after a short marriage and would have to move. He spoke with such pride about his children and grandchildren and their successes. He was on his way to visit the one son and his two children after he leaves the reunion. My sister-in-law had told us the story of what had happened to his marriage and I understood the pain in his eyes. But he understood the value of his children and they had always been extremely important to his life. There was something in what he said that made me think he was contemplating moving back east to be closer to his one son and grandchildren and maybe even live in our hometown again. I would be ecstatic if that happened. His life was a series of extremes and I think he was just tired of it and wanted stability. It was finally my turn to speak and with great pride I answered my current position and a bit about the agency. You could have heard a pin drop. I looked at my closest brother and saw the pride for me in his eyes and he then starting to talk non stop about home health care being one of the biggest growing industries. I just smiled and went to help my SIL. It did not matter anymore.
We sat for dinner and it was my sister’s turn to tell about her world. My feelings for her had not changed and her presence only validated why I will keep it that way. The whole time my SIL and I were setting the table and preparing the food, she sat. Not a finger did she lift. She was the first one to serve herself and took the chairs that I put out for my husband and I to sit in. She started in this voice that sounded very much like Queen Elizabeth and I knew we were in for a pack of crap from her. I sat next to my closest brother and we kept smiling and looking at each other in a private joke. Our bond had not gone at all. My other siblings even commented on it. My sister started to talk about her horse. She said that the poor thing was twenty-three years old and my brother could not help himself anymore. He asked her if she had to give the horse crutches when she rode the horse. And we were off. Someone asked the name of the horse and he replied, “Alpo.” The one thing my father gave some of us was an incredible sense of humor and a gift of words. My brother excels at the one liner. I started to laugh my non-stop giggle and my next oldest brother lost it. He was laughing so hard, half at my brother’s comments and half with me at my laughter that he was crying. I released all the pain and hurt and we all laughed together for about five minutes, being stoked by my brothers one liners and his giggle, which is the male version of mine. There was not a dry eye, except my poor sister who was incensed, which only made it even funnier. I received the second gift of the night which was the bond of our humor and the love of a good joke. Growing up, a lot of humor was at the mercy of someone’s ego, or at the weakest link and often me. I was no longer the target and as bad as that sounds, it was necessary for me to realize my brothers felt the same way. I will remember forever the look of my middle brother as he looked at me in mirth and love and released his laugh. I felt he had not done that in a very long time. I do not think that any of the brothers had laughed that hard and that long in a while. It was truly a blessed moment.
The evening ended with them leaving for a concert. My husband and I had declined and we stayed to clean up. This was a gift to my sister-in-law who had felt ostracized with the brother arrival and was tired. I had whispered to her when we did a family portrait that she was more a sister to me than the birth one. She needed to hear that and I meant it. As we headed home, I filled my husband in with only the history he needed to know, I realized that I finally closed a chapter of my life. I felt that if I physically could, I would go home and dance in the garden with the abandonment of a young child. It was the little girl that got lost a long time ago and she was finally free. Instead I sat in my garden chair and gave thanks, and fell asleep in painless peace.