Yesterday my sister flew in from in England. She was coming all the way around the world to be at the bedside of her ex-stepfather, a man who was married to her natural birth mother, who she never knew until she was twenty eight.
Yesterday I met a stepsister for the first time (well, technically the second: the first was when we were about three and our respective parents behaved very badly in the seventies when most people were doing it, before reconnecting and marrying and living happily ever after or, in this case 17 years) and her lovely partner and little girl. They had come from Adelaide for three days.
Sounds complicated? Even my own family gives up trying to work out relationships within it. My sister and I very seldom explain the half sister/adopted out thing, especially in context of my father. The fact that my mother and father are now divorced means nothing: once you are in my family, you stay there if you are a decent person. Also, unfortunately, if you are blood, regardless of the decency clause. Remarriages added a skew of new members. It is lovely but it is difficult to classify, especially after wine.
We tried last night, down my end of the table, shrugged and gave it up. I think we numbered twelve and there were all sorts of things pressed into service as chairs, including a Pilates ball and a stepladder with a cushion on it. Our youngest member was seven and our oldest was approximately seventy. We ate gifts, what I call ‘grief casseroles’, those kind food offerings of friends and neighbours who want to do something to help and we drank wine left behind by the younger brother In Hong Kong who is so indifferent to his dying father.
We ignored the hospital meetings looming in the morn, the ones that will hopefully find a way for us to bring our so much loved wreck of a man back for his final days. We trusted that we would somehow find a path that manages his need for more nursing care that we can practically or emotionally handle now in this extremely delineated time with his desire to be at home.
Instead, we drank way too much wine, we played consequences and we howled with laughter in this strange, disjointed and talented family that propinquity formed and that love now keeps together.