If I had to guess, I’d say it had been approximately twenty years since that many siblings of us actually managed to get together at once. Seven out of eight…that’s pretty impressive. In Spain, this is inconceivable and I have engaged in many a conversation with perplexed citizens of this countries who just can’t quite fathom how a family doesn’t manage to be together more often…like four or five times a year. I often use the excuse of the size of the country as a major factor. It kind of works, but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Another brother, the oldest, and another sister, the youngest arrived late on the day before and we gathered in the hospital room next to our father. I knew this happen. We did. Someone once said something like this would have to happen before we finally convened. I guess you kind of wished it wouldn’t be that way, but it shouldn’t be that surprising. What surprises me is how surprised people are. Personally I find cutting off the head and hands of a twelve-year-old girl so that she can’t be identified to be rather astonishing. My situation was relatively innocuous in comparison.
My sister, mother and I started the day with some oatmeal and some waffles. The latter was another favorite of my father’s. Waffles are originally from Belgium, and the Brussels style was brought to that country mainly through a man named Maurice Vermersch. It was back in 1964, though Americans had already come up with their own version decades before. I don’t know how Vermersch died…probably like all the rest of us did, do and will.
It was a Sunday and I dropped my sister and Mom off at the door and then went to park without leaving it off at the valet service, figuring that I could save us the $15 plus the $5 tip you pay the guy for performing his job correctly, the way he’s supposed to, the way he’s paid to. Anyway, I received a little flak for that because I guess you’re not supposed to complain about these things when your father is deathly ill. Incapacitated.
We were all there with Dad telling stories about how badly we would behave, and how our poor father would have to put up with it or give into the pressure. Dad was a lawyer and he didn’t always have a chance to disconnect when home. Litigation was an ever-present possibility.
One time I had a party in the wintertime and the cars parked up and down the driveway. The next day when I woke up, I saw the tire tracks all over the lawn as if a car rally had been there. I shoveled in the tracks and said a prayer and, lo and behold, from through the wicked, naked branches of the trees came gust after gust of wind that erased every last vestige of vehicles. The interior of the home was cleared of any evidence; swept, mopped, wiped and sanitized to the best of my abilities, and under imperfect circumstances known as a hangover. With nothing broken and the absence of a CSI crew on the property, we managed to get away with it.
Not so three years later when we attempted to repeat the act, but this time you could say that we had pushed our luckto beyond its limits. It happens to most good delinquents. Pride and cockiness got the best of us. It was summer and with it came one of those dense rainy summer days where the air becomes so thick and the vegetation so waxy dark green and laden with atmosphere that you would half expect reptiles to appear from amid their leaves at any minute. The precipitation left the ground so soaked in moisture that inches of soil gave beneath the weight of your average teenager, and even more land ceded to the pressure of the sum of many. Before two hours were up, our enormous gathering had managed to establish a well-trodden footpath around the backyard which, under normal circumstances, would have required a hundred years and several generations of feet to form.
Dad’s face got all red as stared out at the backyard and fought to contain his anger. He felt we had violated the law flagrantly though we did have an argument to hang on to. Mom had mentioned we could have a few friends over, which we took advantage of to such an extreme that we essentially raped the very spirit of her intentions.
“Did you really give them permission?”
“Yes,” admitted Mom almost sheepishly. “But I didn’t mean it that way.”
“But don’t you see, Sheila? You left a loophole?”
Oh, don’t you know that you are a superstar…don’t you know.