Dearest Rachel –
I hadn’t anticipated writing a third part to this, but the way certain parts of my life have come full circle – and so many all at once – it’s a wonder I don’t get dizzy. The folks even pointed it out to me as they extended the invite last night. Even as we acknowledge that nothing can ever come back to what we used to think of as ‘normal,’ some things are actually trying to at least replicate what we used to call normal.
I’m specifically referring to the fact that the family got together after today’s church service to eat out at a restaurant. Specifically, the same one we went to as a family (along with the girls and Lars) right after the funeral fifty-two weeks ago.
Of course, there would be fewer of us to get together. Not only is it just the family this time around, but what with Joanna being at university, it’s not just your absence that renders this less than normal. But it’s still a big enough crowd that dad was hard-pressed to find anywhere else that would take us – apparently, a number of restaurants are limiting parties to no more than six.
Still, there’s a certain congruence to coming back to Toscana in particular on this day, of all days. Even though it wasn’t a restaurant the three of us patronized with any regularity, it’s probably the nearest to our house. The fact that the folks have been going there regularly for years probably makes up for it, though. Evidently, dad still picks up stuff from there for mom on a regular basis, despite the fact that he can’t eat anything from there (at least, not yet).
I will admit that, for a brief moment, I found myself panicking about the possibility that Daniel would be turned away. After my experience at the Station, and their strict adherence to the ordinance, it did cross my mind that his defiance would pose problems in getting in. But no; I barely had time to get my mask put on before they showed me to the table where everybody else was waiting already (I deliberately made a point of not arriving until the very moment our reservation was scheduled, so that I would not be required to keep my mask on for too long before being seated with everyone else, thus effectively sneaking Daniel in surreptitiously behind me. It worked better than I expected, in any event).
It’s still strange to be here as a family, in a place where the nine of us used to gather, now reduced to only seven. It suddenly doesn’t seem that long ago, either.
There’s talk about the future. What with the passing of another cousin over the weekend (I’ll fill you in on what few details I know about that in a separate letter later on; although for all I know, you’ve already met up with him days ago), there’s mention of the one remaining plot in our family’s section of the cemetery in which several generations have been buried. For some reason, Mom and Dad have an extra space; and I make my case to request it. I also mention that I’m taking a piece of you with me when that time comes, and they remind me of the jeweler I should talk to about creating a proper setting. On a lighter note – and for the (hopefully) more immediate future – we arrange our next family dining experience. Between everybody’s schedules and the fact that there might be issues with certain restaurants (although based on our discussion, I seem to have been the only one at the table who’s had to actually deal with being carded thus far – clearly, the county is nowhere near as strict as the city proper – which is you ask me, is the city’s loss, and they deserve ever bit of it), we actually have to schedule these things in advance nowadays, rather than just assume we’re going out together afterwards every week like we used to.
There’s talk about the past. Jenn mentions the first time she met you when the family stopped by Bloomington to pay me a visit. She remembered the blue sailor-style outfit you wore, and how you seemed so quiet and shy that night. Is it possible you were actually intimidated about meeting my parents? It wasn’t as if you had any need to impress them at that point in time, because we weren’t an item back then. I mention another time she came by campus; I think you were wearing a grey sweater with various colorful stripes on it, but what I remember best was that Jenn had to point out to me how, ah, form-fitting it was. She didn’t remember that particular incident, but she agreed you tended to value comfort over fashion, and weren’t always conscious when you were showing more than you should. Of course, I admitted that I wouldn’t object when you did; the more I got to see of you, the better, after all.
I miss those days, honey. I miss not being able to all gather together and talk and laugh over things like this. And as close as we’ve come this afternoon, it’s still not quite the same. Maybe it will be more like it was once we’re all together for the marriage supper of the Lamb, but until then, everything is stuck being a pale shadow of both what was and what will be.
Still, I guess it’s something to look forward to.
Until then, honey, keep and eye out for us, and wish us luck. We’re gonna need it, as always.