Eight hours from now, a family which has sustained me for more than two decades will join a half-dozen others in a last holiday celebration in my home. The Taggarts, now with sons-in-law, plus grandchildren, initially came into our lives when Patrick started at Purple Dragon Pre-school in 1994 and became best friends with son Chris. I’ve contrived not to lose them since then, though I have sorely challenged their loyalty on more than one occasion.
Penny will be here too; and it must be said, I have known that woman for the entirety of my son’s transplanted life in Kansas City. She taught him to draw, and to dream, and to luxuriate in a darn good movie lounging in the family room surrounded by people who love you. No wonder his MFA is in screenwriting.
Along with them, the Kenyon-Vogt household will be represented, with their oldest grandchild whose birth I nearly attended, arriving only moments after mother Abbey and son Chaska returned to her hospital room from the birthing center. Abbey, like Patrick and Chris Taggart, is a Purple Dragoner. Suffice it to say that their roots run deep and intertwined.
With a few other friendly faces — the effervescent Jenny Rosen, farmer Steve, the stalwart Brenda — these are the usual suspects, and today is the briefly delayed Gathering of the Usual Suspects.
Minus one: the prodigal son himself, decamped to Evanston and absent for the first time in all these years.
He’s here in spirit, though. He lives in his digital drawings on the mantle; in the clay hand-print hanging beside that of my brother Stephen on the wall of the keeping shelf; in the box of Legos with which children and adults alike will no doubt play as the afternoon wends its way to evening. He’s in the fiber of the gathering itself, originally started so long ago in order to give my son a solid sense of family.
My family by choice sustains me so deftly. All the comings and goings in this old airplane bungalow have challenged my resolve. Without these wily ones who gather here today, I might not have endured.
So here I am — early to rise, with chores still to do and food to prepare. Human Kind talks of forgiveness on the radio. I stop to listen for a moment. Robin Casarjian tells me that “forgiveness is a favor that we do for ourselves. . . an act of self-interest. . . something which we do to free ourselves. . . Forgiveness is a choice and a decision to see the situation in a different way.”
I smile. Exactly.
It’s the eighth day of the thirty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.