Memorial Day weekend is traditionally a time for warm weather, barbeques, and family gatherings. As we come (hopefully) to the end of the COVID age I was able to indulge in all three this past weekend.
After the long winter of COVID, hot weather and full vaccinations brought my younger son and his fiancée up from their Los Angeles homestead. It was the first time the wife (Cruella) and I have actually held them in our arms in over 15 months. In a bit of symmetry, it was they who we were visiting when we got the word that shelter in place was about to be implemented and had to skedaddle out of LA and back to NorCal.
Thus they are, at least to my way of thinking, the Alpha and the Omega of the COVID era.
Knowing they were coming up I arranged to have as many of our extended family come to our house for a Sunday barbeque. My older son, my brother and his wife, his son and family, my brother in law, my sister in law, my other sister in law, a few other odds and ends brought our total to 17.
Seventeen people all in one place, blithely transitioning from the house to the porch, the backyard, and back again. No masks. No worries.
In other words, normal.
Though they talk and Zoom pretty consistently, my sons haven’t been physically in the same place since Thanksgiving 2019. The elder’s plans to visit the younger in April of 2020 were of necessity scuttled. Get them together and it doesn’t matter that they already have the full picture of each other’s lives, all stories must be retold with the personal embellishment of a hug or a brotherly punch in the arm. And the soon to be sister-in-law got in on the action as well, adding a sarcastic jab or a roll of the eyes.
She’ll fit into the family just fine.
The two sides of the family hadn’t seen each other in nearly two years. All plans for any other get together were victims of the pandemic. Survival stories were in abundance, stories that I may have known from my side but Cruella’s family hadn’t heard or vice versa.
This is a pretty interesting group of folks. A lawyer, a judge, a retired doctor, a retired nurse, a marketing maven, a movie and TV props professional, two teachers, a computer guru, a hedge fund manager, a therapist, a travel and tourism professional, and your humble correspondent. Not to mention several kids ranging from 5 to 11. A house filled with noise and talk and gossip and music and kids running around and a table groaning with smoked meats and fresh salads, an ice chest filled with local wines and Russian River’s Pliny The Elder beer. And for dessert, freshly picked strawberries that the lawyer said eating one changed her life.
Conversations flew so fast and furious that to lose attention to another conversation left you far behind in the first conversation. Were there political arguments? Of course, it’s a part of being family. But no matter if you are a conservative never Trump Republican (fortunately no Repugnicants) or dedicated flaming liberal Democrat, when the stances have been stated and the opinions made known it’s time to move on to talk of if the Giants can keep up their current winning ways for the remainder of the season.
The elementary school teacher told me of the difficulties of distance teaching and how her school is allowing students still to get instruction via video. She also voiced her frustration about fellow teachers who refuse to return to school, claiming various reasons but knowing it’s really about the convenience, for them, of distance learning. As well she told me of the number of parents who didn’t want to send their kids back to school because kids haven’t been vaccinated and they can’t be certain that a kid’s parents weren’t anti-vaxxers potentially exposing their own kid to the virus and that kid spreading it to their kids.
Yeah, Repugnicants you did a great job of spreading fear and suspicion of our fellow Americans.
One moment will stand out for me. My nephew’s son, who is five, was astounded when I showed him a picture of myself at about his age standing with his grandfather, my brother, who is ten years my senior. His is the age when family relationships are sometimes difficult to comprehend, the idea that you can be both a grandfather AND a brother (let alone also a father) befuddles the young mind. Also in the picture is his great-grandfather, my father, who died during the pandemic. A simple question from this five year old, “he just died?”, clutched at my heart. “Yes”, I answered, remembering that though he didn’t die of COVID he died alone in a hospital room, none of his family there to ease him into eternity.
For all of our struggles and victories over the past fifteen months that will always be the overwhelming memory of this age for me.
But this was a day to breath deep the heady fragrance of family, to gather together and toast our survival. Like a platoon of soldiers scattered behind enemy lines and at long last reunited, we found joy in each other’s survival while also having a chance to memorialize those we lost.
In other words, a true Memorial Day.
“Leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past.”