“That’s what you call an old six-pack.” Tyler Bushman, in reference to his aunt baring her stomach, in an obviously ill advised moment of weakness.
It was an amazingly relaxed evening considering it was the first time since my mother-in-law’s funeral that we had all gotten together. The stress of Barb’s sudden illness, death and funeral arrangements had only been lessened in the few weeks since we had seen each other. And tonight we were to discuss her wishes made only known, so far, to her executor.
My brother-in-law Jimmy brought all of his four kids up from North Hollywood. The eldest, Tyler, had stayed many weekends in my home throughout the years and I always had a special fondness for him. In fact, when he had called us earlier that day to ask if he could bring a friend I was pleased that he was willing to let a friend of his meet us. Well, later, I did become more concerned with what he would make of the Eve of Destruction. I mean in every movie with a teenager there is always that moment when the mother looks ridiculous. Whether it’s meeting their friends, boyfriends, teachers-just about anyone anywhere in public. And I wasn’t ready to feel that stupid. Yet.
Ed’s sister Ann and husband Jake were on time considering their long commute from Rancho Cucamonga. And, for the first time in a very long time, wanted wine. In fact Ann made a beeline for Ed’s new wine locker in the garage and started a little self-service removal before Ed thwarted her. He quickly presented his computerized list and smoothly retrieved the two bottles tucked under her two arms, replaced them in their original nests and made a few other suggestions. (It was never clarified whether Ed took out something more valuable then her choices…I think he may have been in shock at his sister’s sudden interest in anything other than what had been on the forefront of all of our minds.)
The two teenaged boys did some decent damage to the salsa and chips before I showed them my abdomen that prompted Tyler’s “praise”. It was after that fearful meeting with my old stomach muscles that they retired to our office to play Ed’s favorite computer game “Counter Strike”. My one embarrassing moment had come and gone, at least I had hoped!
Jimmy spent much of his evening assisting his remaining three youngsters, which seemed to promote their better than normal behavior. The kids then sat at the counter in the kitchen while adults and teenagers sat in the dining room readying themselves for dinner.
We made some kind of beef, candied carrots and the only thing I can make well every time: Fettuccini Alfredo. It wasn’t even an old Italian recipe handed down from my mother’s side of the family. It was the tried and true recipe on the side of the Cremette’s box. The only additional ingredient to their recipe was the cut garlic I smeared all over the inside of the serving bowl.
Jake, my arch nemesis in-law, always making me feel inadequate with his degree in history, had sat next to me. If that wasn’t enough we had finished one bottle of Pinot Noir and were fixed on the decanter of Cabernet. I was in for a shocker as Jake and I, for the first time, matched glass for glass against bowl for bowl of MY fettuccini. He said it was the best pasta he ever had. He even forgo Ed’s homemade Bernaise sauce for the fat grams in my pasta! We took a photograph, the first I’ve known of in twenty years, of the two of us “cavorting”!
The boys told us about how they were doing in basketball, school and dance clubs. The kid’s ate their vegetables. Jimmy continued to watch over and care for his brood. Then Ann brought out a birthday cake (I am planning to have the last slice in a minute as I did my 300 crunches this A.M., thank you very much.) as it happened to be her baby brother Jimmy’s fortieth birthday. We sang.
One voice was missing. I was afraid that our moods had irrevocably changed. After that I felt compelled to pull out some of the items that had been adorning my home as of late. Photo albums of Barbara’s father in World War I, a metal tray with a map of her home state Minnesota, a Hummel statuette that had been salvaged from the fire in her house several years back, a music box and several sets of Snow White and the seven dwarfs figurines.
It was time to discuss the will. The middle child, the new Chief, my husband, was you guessed it, the executor. Jake and I hung out at the dining table to support anyone that needed it. I rubbed Jimmy’s back in circles while Eddie told him what their equal inheritance was. I was about to receive another shock. Ann said she is planning on saving the entirety for her only son Drew in case he would want to go to a private college. Eddie and I had already decided the same for Samantha. Jimmy didn’t want any of his either and opted to save it to divide among his kids for their future.
Now I’m not going to say that all three siblings were rich, or poor, before this or that they were now. But I will say that I was amazed at their feelings about the money their “mother had worked her life for”. No one wanted it for themselves. But each one, to some degree or another, could have used it for themselves. But they were fixated on making the same arrangements for their children that their mother had made for them. And it was nice.
We made plans to meet again, close to Mother’s Day, to visit Barb’s grave. We all wondered, some silently, why the evening was so stress free. Was it the wine? Was it the superb pasta? Or was it the weight of Barbara’s presence calming us for the first time in a long time?
I sent Ann an e-mail card the next day. I was still feeling pretty good about the evening and wanted to thank her for coming. Our e-mails must have crossed each other as I got one from her at the same moment. Of course she was wondering how my abs felt after being so far stretched the night before. I was wondering what Barb had made of it all looking down on us. I hoped that she felt that she had “done good!”