At one of our family reunions, all ten of us “kids” got together for the first time in six years. My dad cleared his throat a few times and then proposed a toast to the family. He looked around at the crowded table and spread his arms in a loving, albeit theatrical, gesture.
“Look at this family,” he said. “Which of these wonderful children could we have done without?” Silence followed his words . . . for about a minute. Then Moe said “Jonnie.” Chris said “Mike.” Pat said, “Ginger.” And on and on it went. We named every member of the family, all of our pets and a few of the kids who lived with us until we realized we weren’t related.
We all teased my dad. No matter how many of us gathered together, if one child, and I use the word loosely, was absent, he missed him.
That year, my daughter, Gretchen, went to Colorado to visit her best buddies there. At first, we all reveled in the silence. (The phone refused to eat it missed her so much) Steph spread her things all over the room they usually share, and her brother Jim became the only teen “in residence”.
Then Paul began to suffer. He had no one to “ground” for giving him “the look.” No one argued with him over important matters like “make up and fourteen-year-old girls, skirts and their various uses,” or “curfews and the twentieth century teen”.
Jim began yelling up the stairs at Gretchen for taking his CDs, U-2 vest, etc., only to realize she hadn’t been home for three days. “Guess I’ll have to blame Steph for taking my stuff ‘till Gretch gets home again”, he muttered. Steph, the one who fights with Gretchen nonstop all day, every day, missed her immediately and was very vocal about it. “I miss Gretchen,” she said. “It feels funny without her. When is she coming home”?
As for me, I didn’t miss her at all. I didn’t go into her room and think how empty it seemed. I didn’t sit on her bed or play her awful tunes or read the funny sayings on her schoolbook covers. I didn’t do these things because mothers are tough.
I’m not like my dad at all.