We begin the Family Reunion In Pieces, not that we are in pieces, though I discover I have lost ten pounds and nearly cry when my brother Aaron assists me in getting Michelle from the bus. But we hope to see pretty much everyone over the next couple of weeks that has been coming to our bi-annual family reunions over the years.
Six people I love deeply and dearly are there to greet us—my brother, his wife Julie, their daughter Emily, my step-sister Noreen (Gigi) and her husband Pat and, last here but first in my heart, one of my many mothers, my step-mother Mary Ann—and we hug quickly because Michelle is pretty wound up from a long day on her keister.
Cousin Jeff Oleson—how’s that for a Norwegian name—joins us the next day and details his barndominium project. 23 acres of fun just a few miles away. I hope to visit and get the tour but the weather turns cold and wet and we never make it. Next time, Jeff!
It’s fifty or so feet from the bus to the inside and NO STEPS! and then a quick change with Gigi’s assistance and we get about the business of being a family. It’s easy here because we are comfortable with one another even if we don’t see one another often enough. Surprises do abound, however, such as the wonder that Pat is now the mayor of their hometown down in Iowa. He doesn’t talk like a politician—I’ve known a few—but like a man who sees the town as his personal responsibility and wants to make it better for everyone. His agenda is new employers and new sidewalks and some other very sensible things. Ah, that it should be so easy on a grander scale.
Emily sings to us and Michelle walks, getting her legs back after that long week of horrid weather and non-stop driving. I knew it would be hard, this trip, and it has been but in just a few hours she is moving well and back to more of a normal response to things. I see some smiles!
I am developing a theory about Alzheimer’s. It’s not so much routine that is needed, though that is certainly helpful in some cases, it’s how to handle the transitions from place to place, from activity to activity. Transitions deftly handled, allow a routine to be set aside for a bit.
Mo is Mo which is to say that their older pup welcomes him easily and he is happy and loved. He watches me to see if I begin the “packing thing” but other than that he too relaxes.
Emily sings to us, her voice an operatic wonder, and Michelle somewhat harmonizes to all our delights. Lots of laughter and conversation and good food. Mary Ann, about to turn 91, is still very active and sharp. She relates the loss she felt when we were separated by family circumstance when I was 8 or 9. She held me and I cried, wanting to stay home with her as she had become the mother I knew. Tough decisions all around in those days. Aaron is beginning a job search but isn’t in a hurry and Emily heads out for her first post-graduation interview as a school teacher. Julie goes to work at the nearby Armory, which I believe is a community venue for the arts, etc.
I feel instantly like I am part of these flows. I merge into the stream of their daily lives and feel… included. Aaron, Julie, Emily and her boyfriend are going to Greece in a week or so. Perhaps I can fit in the luggage.
An oil change and all too soon we are packed up and ready once again for the road. Aaron guides me to the local grocery store. Michelle had a rough night the night before we leave and I’m concerned for the first time. “How is this going to work out for her?” “Can I handle this?”
But the day is beyond lovely and Aaron sits with a quiet Michelle while I clear the shelves in a Walmart.
And then we are off to meet the other Peter Kjenaas.