The cast of characters - Back Row: Mark (my nephew), Jerry (my oldest brother), Steve (my youngest brother), Wayne, John (my cousin), Judy (John's wife). Front row: Carol (Jerry's wife), Dad and me.
One of the best things about family get-togethers is the stories that get told. There are the favorites; you know...the ones someone is sure to tell every time the family gathers together. It's like a legend and everyone knows all the details but still loves to hear it anyway. We had a few of those make an appearance in the days we were all together.
And there are old-but-new stories, as in the events are old but the stories are new to at least a few in the group, me included. For instance, I learned my cousin John, who I always thought lived his entire childhood in Illinois, spent a year or so in El Dorado. We figured he was in the fifth grade at Lincoln school when Wayne was in kindergarten there. And that my Grandpa would bet with his grandsons on just about anything but my brother Jerry was one of the few to collect on those bets. I loved seeing a new side of some family members in those old-but-new stories I heard on this trip.
And sometimes the stars align to offer up a new story or two destined to fall into one of the two categories above. Clearly, Dad bowling his 298 game/748 series is one such story and it's destined to become part of the family lore. It's easily my favorite story of the trip.
There's another, however, that won't soon be forgotten...I'll see to that.
In terms of background, I should tell you that my dad's side of the family is known for their good-natured harassment. Teasing is just another way of saying I love you and apparently they love me a lot. Or it could be that I'm the only girl in the lot, at least in my generation. So I deeply appreciate any event that give me a chance to return the favor and heap the harassment on one of the guys.
My dad has breakfast at McDonald's with his cronies five or six days a week. Besides the fact that the camaraderie is good for all of them, it's a safety net too. If someone doesn't show up for two days in a row, one of the other guys calls to make sure the missing fellow is alright. It's a great way for them to watch over one another since many now live alone.
On Friday we all joined the breakfast group. It was Dad's actual birthday and they were having cake with their coffee and sausage biscuits. Well, that was the public explanation; we really hoped they'd dish and tell stories on Dad. They, however, kept the brotherhood code of silence.
We were gathered as a group in one corner of the restaurant but within that group multiple conversations where going on between the family members and the guys of the breakfast club. I could hear my older brother Jerry pointing out who was who of us visitors. He motioned towards me, gave my name and said I was from Florida.
Then the guy said "Is she your daughter?" Daughter! I think Jerry and I said it both at the same time, although not with the same inflection and emotion. Obviously, I loved this comment and immediately jumped up and went over to give this fine gentlemen a hug. Off and on the rest of the day I referred to Jerry as Dad, much to his dismay.
Later than afternoon, we were all hanging out at Dad's house when his good friends and neighbors, Bob and Marowin, came over. Marowin was quizzing my cousin John about who was who and where were they from, trying to put faces with names she'd heard my dad mention over the years. Suddenly, she looked at John and said, "Are you Jerry's son or are you Mildred's son (my dad's deceased sister)?"
The hoots and hollers started immediately. It's one thing for me (2.5 years younger) to be mistaken as Jerry's daughter but it's another when John (five years older) is thought to be his son. It didn't take long for Jerry to announce he'd be late for dinner that night because he had to stop at the drugstore and pick up some Just for Men hair dye. Now there were two of us harassing Jerry by calling him Dad.
When it came time for pictures on Saturday morning, I wanted one of Jerry, John and me together. Just a minute, Jerry called as he headed into the house. He emerged with a piece of paper and this is the resulting photo:
That piece of paper says "Not My Kids" with arrows pointing both directions. I, however, get the last laugh; I can make that "Not" disappear.
Dad's 90th birthday celebration was memorable on many levels, and this story in particular has a long and laugh-filled future ahead of it. And that's just one of the things that makes family get-togethers so special.