Tonight we went to a family gathering at my Grampa’s house. Almost all of my aunts and uncles were there, along with a bunch of my cousins. We had a feast of Chinese food, wine, pop, fruit and dessert. We shared stories, laughs and teased each other. We got caught up on each others lives and spent time enjoying each others company. It was awesome. It was also the first time since my Grama’s death a year and a half ago.
We used to have large family get togethers several times a year. Every holiday for sure, and sometimes just because. We usually had them at my grandparents house, as it was big enough to hold everyone at once. the house would be filled with the sounds of dishes clanking, footsteps up and down the stairs, an always serious debate going on, and the laughter. That was always my favorite part. The roaring, gut busting laughter. We would play games late into the night, sharing snacks of cheese, crackers and smoked oysters, especially at Christmas time. Be it Scrabble, dominos or Balderdash, the games always became more competitive than they really should, and almost always ended with the challenge of “just wait till next time!”. Family stories were shared, jokes were told ( although they were usually ones we’d heard before), and the bonds of our family were strengthened.
When my Grama got sick, we tried to have a few more gatherings with her. We did a hugs family picture with all her children and grandchildren together. Family was always so important to her. When she died, though, it felt like the heart and soul of the family went with her. We got together one last time after her memorial service, to have a big barbecue in her honour. My Grampa said that it was their way of thanking everyone for all of the love they showed her during that horrible time. After that, though, the gatherings stopped. No more Thanksgivings, no more Christmas dinner. It was tough. My Grampa didn’t want to be around anyone, and no one wanted to celebrate without her. It was as though the heartbeat of the family stopped beating when she died. Gone was the house filled with games and laughter. In it’s place was one filled with sadness, such unbearable sadness that no one even wanted to be there.
When I got the invitation to go there tonight, I honestly did not know what to expect. I went with an open mind, and was thrilled with what I found. Once again, life had been breathed into the family. My aunts and uncles were there, all but one of them. Most of my cousins were there. Although there were no games tonight, there were lots of stories and laughter. People joking and teasing, and kids running through the house. I had know that I missed them, but I don’t think that I had realized just how much until we walked in the door. It no longer felt like a house, and a family, in mourning, but rather one who had begun to accept that this was the new reality, and was finally moving on. It was almost as if everyone had realized that life, and the family, would be okay without her. I know that’s what she wanted, because she told me that the last time we talked. For us to stick together, to be there’d to celebrate the good times as well as the bad, and remember how important we all are to each other.
I hope that this was not the last of the family dinners. It was good for my soul, and I would venture a guess that I was not the only one who felt that way. I think, for the first time in a long time, my Grama would be smiling. At least I’d like to think that she is.