Been a while since I've been around. I decided that some things I wanted to write about required discretion, lest some haters decide to hate. Maybe next time.
Anyway, last week I had to pass off some prized tickets to the Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Revue to Marcus, as I received the proverbial invitation I couldn't refuse. My Uncle Stu turned 70 and his son Tom just retired from military service after 30 years of cumulative active and National Guard service. Somehow, in the planning for celebrating the dual milestones, this turned into an ad hoc family reunion that made me very nervous.
Not only would I be seeing aunts, uncles and cousins that I haven't seen in ages, but my brother and sister-in-law were driving Mom into the area from Wisconsin. I had originally planned to ask Mom if she wanted me to drive her in, then stay the night at my place so she wouldn't have to rely on Chris to drive her back. When Mom informed me that Chris beat me to the punch, I tried to mask my disappointment.
This was the second time in a month that Mom surprised me. A couple weeks earlier she was in town to celebrate Aunt Debbie's birthday and didn't call me to let me know she was in town. When we talked the next day, she said she didn't call because she thought I was busy. After we ended the conversation I thought to myself, "This must be what it feels like when I go weeks between phone calls to her." My stepfather's passing has made it clear that now we need each other more than ever, but trying to find common ground besides shared DNA can be frustrating.
The dichotomy between my brother and I can be best described as "city mouse, country mouse." I love living in the city and sometimes the 110-mile distance between Chicago and Mom's home in rural Wisconsin can be as wide as an ocean. The reasons my brother chooses to live near Mom are his and his alone, but I suspect they aren't entirely as altruistic. There's also the perceptions each of us has about the other. I'm fairly certain he wonders if I look down on him, and there is some truth to that. I question some of his decisions. Alright, all of them. But it's because I feel he can make better ones.
I blame Mom. As kids, she liked to play up the stereotypes of me as the "smart one" and Chris as the "cute one." As we each near 40, she still does that to some extent, even though - on a superficial level - calling my brother "cute" these days is a stretch. I was describing a lecture I was at before the party that day and Uncle Red was understandably tuning me out. Mom just patted me on the shoulder and said, "This is my intellectual one." Suddenly I was a 10-year-old with horn rimmed glasses for astigmatism again.
Mom seems to have put aside the grieving and really opened up. I can't remember the last time I saw her so vibrant and enjoying life. Maybe it took realizing the end is closer than it seems to do that, but she was a ball of fire at that party. If anyone would have brought up the story about how Uncle Jack was born on the kitchen table at the family's home on the West Side, I would have placed smart money on Uncle Stu or Uncle Red. That it came from her, and that she then started to work blue after in describing her love for buttery nipple shooters, came as a total shock.
Part of my one resolution for this year is to try and re-forge those ties to my family that I let slip away over the years. Last Saturday was a very good start.