A Wake, a Funeral, a Family Reunion

My relatives on both sides of my family are scattered throughout the country, from Long Island, New York, on the East Coast to Las Vegas, Nevada, on the West.  With family members stretched financially, our visits are clustered not around the holidays anymore, for not everyone can afford to travel, but at weddings and funerals, events that are considered can’t-miss.

This weekend, my son, who proudly proclaims that he is “four and three-quarters” to anyone who asks, and I traveled to Long Island, where my grandmother, who died last Monday, had lived for the majority of her 92 years. 

While my grandmother’s life made most of our lives possible, her death brought us back together.  For her wake and funeral, my son and I joined my parents and younger brother #1, whom we hadn’t seen in seven months; my younger brother #3, whom we hadn’t seen since my wedding three years ago; and younger brother #3’s girlfriend and 14-month-old daughter, whom we’d never met.  We saw my two cousins, whom I hadn’t seen since one got married 11 years ago, and my aunt and uncle, whom we hadn’t seen since my younger brother #4’s wedding two summers ago. 

One of my brothers quipped that he knew what one of our cousins would look like only because they are Facebook friends.  They later determined that they hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years.

For my son, visits with everyone on my side of the family are rare.  As far as my husband’s family, my son’s paternal grandparents spend seven months of the year in Florida, and my son’s aunt, uncle and cousin live on the East Coast, so visits are limited also. 

As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, the amount of time my son is able to spend with his brothers, who divide their time between our home and their mother’s, is restricted.  And, in the past few weeks, my husband’s work schedule is the worst it’s ever been, with him away three nights per week because of travel, evening business dinners, and conference activities.  Last week, for the first time, my son cried because he misses his Daddy and because Daddy was too busy with work to come on the trip with us.

My son, thankfully, is super-social, so there is no warm-up period in which he is shy and needs to adjust to those he hasn’t seen recently.  He bonds immediately, as if he sees these family members regularly.  He started wrestling matches and pillow fights with my brother #3, although he couldn’t possibly remember the one and only other time he’d seen him, for he was only 21 months old when my husband and I got married.   He’d never seen his 14-month-old cousin, but he insisted on sitting next to her at every single meal, picking up every toy she dropped and dropped and dropped, and demanding that she be able to visit us in our hotel room.  The final night of our trip, he announced that he is her big brother.  I clarified that he is her older cousin, and he said absolutely not:  He is her big brother… 

But, the downside of my son’s tendency to instantly bond is his inability to turn off his feelings when the visits end, because he knows that they occur rarely.  He is very close with his 5-year-old cousin in Cincinnati whom he hasn’t seen in seven months, yet talks about him regularly—and gets teary-eyed when doing so.  When his older brothers are with us, he literally loses it, refusing to go to bed because “Mama, I don’t get to see the boys very often,” and crying every time I drop my stepsons off at school or their mother’s house.  Three weeks ago, he even held his 13-year-old brother’s framed 5×7 picture and sobbed because we couldn’t see him that weekend.

Since my son was a year and a half old, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom.  Actually, I’ve always been a stay-at-home mom, but I worked full-time—from home—for the first year and a half of his life.  My point is that at least I am a daily constant in his life, able to give him not only quality time, but also huge quantities of it, which hopefully helps offset the other losses.  While my husband doesn’t see his work responsibilities easing up anytime soon, he is dedicated to spending quality time with our son when he is home.  And, by the end of April, if all continues to go well with my pregnancy, my son will have another daily constant in his life—his baby brother.

Now that I think about it, his baby brother is already a constant.  My son listens to my stomach every night, announcing news, such as, “The baby just had gas,” followed by giggles, then “The baby didn’t even say, ‘Excuse me,’” followed by more laughing.  And, “I think the baby just ate a caramel,” and “The baby is blowing bubbles.” 

He thinks about what soft foods we’ll be able to feed the baby and how we’ll give the baby a bath.  He’s proclaimed that he is going to decide the baby’s name, and that it will not be “Vlad,” the name suggested by his 15-year-old brother, who had consulted with his teenage, female friends and determined “Vlad” to be a sexy vampire name.

I know, based on how sweet my son is with the younger kids who live in our neighborhood—and now his cousin—that he will be a phenomenal big brother. 

While we will continue to do our best, considering financial, work and school issues, to visit with our far-away relatives as often as possible, we will focus on making our nuclear family as stable, loving and accepting as it can be.  And, within the next five months, God willing, we’ll have another family member to love—and to love us back.  We’ll have yet another life made possible because my grandmother lived. 

Now she can watch over all of us from Heaven. 

Thank you, Grandma.

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