There had been no compelling reason to host a barbecue in our spacious yard for the last five years. Though some branches of the family tree had been fractured and grafted multiple times, only two months after our Labor Day Sunday 2006 barbecue, the tree trunk fractured permanently by a lightning bolt of revelation. We found out that an important member of the family had been hiding the vile secret of incest and our nieces were his victims.
It rocked everyone to the core of their beings. For a few months, the remaining members of the family gathered often to lick the collective wounds left by this perpetrator. The family unit was never stronger, but that was fleeting. Something happened between nephews which caused a huge rift and left fractures so splintering that the family tree branches could no longer be grafted, but instead peeled and hung before falling off.
And so it has been for the last four years. Being ever sensitive, I felt punished. I’d been there for baby showers and birthdays and Jim had bought Happy Meals, pizzas, Halloween candy, and proudly assembled everyone to the local amusement park for his annual union picnic, but suddenly we were cut off from the lives of our grandnieces and nephews. I let it hurt too long, until finally I had to let it go. It wasn’t my fault. For the record, the picnic lost a big appeal in the subsequent years they didn’t attend.
Last Saturday, some of us were together again after the four year rift. One grandnephew went from being nine to thirteen in the blink of my memory’s eye. It made me choke up inside at the realization that so much time had been lost. And really, what do we have in life that is any more precious then time? I felt like a stranger to these kids who didn’t remember me as I did them.
Jim’s brother was among us again. He’d had a heart problem two weeks previously and almost died in his sleep had it not been for an internal defibrillator. It was nice to be able to have this time rather than a lump of regrets and not having had a wistful summer day together. And while the family will never be fully as one due to the sex offender, at least it was a big step in the bounty known as family togetherness.