When I was a girl, we spent every weekend hanging out with our family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins...the whole clan. In the summertime we would go fishing and picnicing below the dam or on the creek where us kids would swim in lifejackets and tennis shoes and down ice cold Orange Crush from the cooler. When the weather turned colder we would usually meet at my grandparents house. The adults gathered round the dining room table and played some raucous games of Rook and dominos. My cousins and I played with the rusty, metal cars and trucks Grandma bought at a garage sale for us. What wonderful, happy memories for me.
Several years ago my parents moved in across the street from my sister. Hubby and I would go down almost every weekend. My sister, her husband and children, my brother, my parents...we would cook and play and eat and take naps and play games. It was a bonding ritual patterned after those sweet childhood memories.
But things changed. My sister's husband got very sick and we all watched him wither away and die. It left a giant hole in our family. And because none of us handled it well, that giant hole became a chasm. The relationships suffered. And I have hated it. I have wanted the closeness for my own family. Children should know their grandparents. They should know their aunts and uncles. They should have those wonderful memories to comfort them and bring them a smile in life.
I have wanted it for myself, too. I need the support of my mother and older sister, who have gone this way before me. I want the relationship we can have now that I am an adult. My soul has been empty of that. And I have suffered because of it.
But today was like old times.
I took the day off from church and went to my sister's house. Mom and Dad came. My brother, too. We cooked together. We ate together. We laughed and reminisced together. My children ate too much dessert. Today all the walls were down and we just spent the day complaining about the heat, snapping at each other now and then, and doing nothing, but doing something. It was like rain on my parched heart.
Just before I started home, my sister helped me bathe my kids in her big, whirlpool bathtub, which the kids loved. As she dried Baby, she said, "It's been almost like normal today. I haven't really thought about it."
And I hadn't either.
But now I am. Tonight I play pictures of today in my mind. I see my sister holding my children, kissing their little cheeks and saying, "I love you. You know that, right?" more than once...more than twice. I see her stealing a kiss from her new husband and exchanging a knowing glance. I see her tapping her foot and humming a hymn. I see her joking with her boys and laughing around the table.
I feel her embrace, which feels so true and so overwhelmingly full. I hear her words in my ear about how much she loves me and my heart breaks. And I feel myself pull away inside. I want so much to be close to her, but now I fear the ending.