By David DeWitt
After Christmas we made an overdue trip down south to visit my parents. As it turned out, my brothers and sisters, most of whom had been there for Thanksgiving when we were unable to attend, returned for an afternoon—creating a gathering that we hadn’t seen for over 10 years. My Dad suffered a small stroke in the Summer and he’ll be 90 this year, so having more frequent gatherings is on our minds now.
It’s a 16-hour drive but Finn is a trooper. He only asked if we “were there yet” a few hundred times.
My nieces and nephews who, in past gatherings were running amuck, are now teenage or early twenties, intelligent, witty and well spoken. Not all of them were there so Finn was the lone little one which meant he got lots of attention.
There was a moment where my Dad stood holding onto his walker (which he hates) and offered a blessing before our meal. “This is truly a rare gathering,” he said. “Our hearts feel so good.”
It was an unusually warm day for December, almost 70 degrees, so we could hang around outside for much of the time.
We all kind of migrated throughout the yard and the house reconnecting with each other, pockets of laughter echoing sporadically.
The “greatest hits” stories from our childhood were being retold. Like how my oldest brother once woke me at 4am to milk the cows by pulling my mattress off the bed and throwing it down the stairs (so I wouldn’t crawl back in bed as I was prone to do). Or how my youngest brother and I used to terrorize our youngest sister by dressing as mummies or aliens in the middle of the night.
We were storytelling, the way humans have done it for eons—sometimes each remembering the details in a slightly different way but the basic story remaining the same.
The next day a few of us made a surprise visit to my cousin Judy, the kind of soul who lives in the moment and relishes the spontaneous drop in. Finn was meeting her for the first time and she did not disappoint. Her house was once the home of an accomplished sculptor and many pieces remained in the basement. Judy took us downstairs and turned on the strands of white lights that wound through the numerous busts and unfinished studies. At one point she called Finn over and held up a few lights to the head of one of the busts. “Look into his eyes,” she said to Finn. He was transfixed.
Back at my parents’, it was late in the evening and out of the corner of my eye I caught Finn and MawMaw having a heart to heart in whispered tones. He may have been recounting his adventures of hunting for the Hobgoblin that he’s fond of doing these days. No matter, he had a captive and appreciative audience and with every reaction he was spurred on to further embellishment.
The next day would be a long ride home but a little easier this time. We had more stories to tell.