Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Family bond invisible but strong

May 14, 2008

On a weekend in late April when the daffodils were open and the yellow tulips were budding, one of my nieces, now living in Boston, was home for the weekend. It was one of those bittersweet visits when we had been pulled together by my sister's lengthy illness, rewoven into that familiar and comforting fabric we call family.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. The coffee itself had become a subject of discussion some weeks previously. I had made a traditional pot of coffee, poured her a cup and placed it along with a scored grapefruit on the placemat before her.

A silence enveloped the kitchen and kind of wafted around the room and settled between us. I turned from the counter where I was preparing something or other and saw her looking down into the coffee cup.

"What?" I asked. To which she responded, without looking up, "What is this?" It was a WHAT IS THIS kind of question.

"Coffee", I said somewhat astonished. What did she think I was serving her? "Looks like muddy water to me," she mumbled.

"Are you kidding me?" I said, "It's the way I always fix it." "Hasn't anybody ever said anything?" she retorted. In my family, we don't let anything go for very long without commenting on it, unsolicited or not.

I explained that there was a woman in my reading group who had commented that my coffee was the weakest she had ever drunk. I was still thinking about that conversation when I became aware of my niece bustling around the kitchen. She brewed a pot of coffee that would, I kid you not, put hair on my chest or something like that.

The next shopping trip, I bought a new fangled coffee press, a Bonjour Monet French Press. I watched her fingering it. She said that a friend had one and she'd seen it but never used it. I said that it was up to her to figure it out. It took us longer to measure water for it than it did to brew the coffee, which laced with cream, pleased her to no end.

"We think by acting," she said that particular morning, trying to figure out the plan of medical care for her mother. It is a typical family trait; thinking our way through something, lead first by behavior, from which an idea flows. We do not think well meditating in chairs. She and my brother particularly share that trait.

Family is a mirror in which we see ourselves. It is more than eye color and skin tone; it is a way of thinking and being that is stored and passed in the genetic code; skipping generations, reappearing in unexpected and astonishing ways. I watched her leave that morning, walking her way into a new idea, held by an invisible bond that sustains us.

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