|My Dad and kids pretending to hold up a tree. August, 2008.|
Yesterday I dragged Dave and the kids to my sister's house.
Under normal circumstances, Dave would groan a little, maybe ask if he could sit this one out (which, of course, would be met with a glare that could melt arctic glaciers). But he smiled and said absolutely nothing. I know that I should feel guilty for playing the grief card, but it so rarely comes in handy. So we spent the day at Elle's house, eating Totonno's pizza and watching the World Cup.
It usually happens in the kitchen. The girl talk, I mean. My two sisters and I always hang out in the kitchen during these gatherings, and yesterday it was the same. My sisters Liza and Elle sat at the table with me, and we joked and laughed. But it was a little different this time, the first time we gathered at my sister's house since my Mom died.
My Mom would usually sit quietly in the mix, smiling as she listened to the three of us, the sound of our voices building to a crescendo until it exploded into laughter. Sometimes she would interject, especially if one of us needed someone to corroborate a story from the past. "Yes, Elle, you DID wear your slippers to school. Don't you remember?" or "No, Rish, I didn't drop you on your head when you were a baby. That was someone else...Mom?"
Instead of Mom being in the kitchen, my Dad was there. Before yesterday, my Dad never ventured into the kitchen during a family gathering. I suppose he felt that it was my Mom's territory. But he wandered in, looking for a drink, found a spot at the table, and didn't leave. He stayed and listened to us. And I dare say he even smiled.
I hope this was not a one time deal, that my Dad finds his way back to the kitchen at the next family gathering. Because there shouldn't be an empty chair at the table. He should enjoy what my Mom so often did: his three children, talking, laughing, remembering, making plans for the future, and cherishing every moment we spend together.
My Mom passed away on Father's Day, which was pretty ironic, I think. Or maybe it was her way of telling us to take care of our Dad.
When I gave the eulogy at my Mom's funeral, and I said that one of the greatest gifts she gave us was each other. And when I said this, I was looking my sisters who were sitting next to my Dad in the front row. I hope he understands now that I was including him.