07:28:56 pm on
Sunday 21 Oct 2018

The Family Gathering
AJ Robinson

This past Memorial Day Weekend was a special time for my in-laws. It wasn’t Memorial Day in the usual sense of the holiday. It was a memorial, but not for a veteran, this year.


This weekend was for family.

We, the family, gathered in Port Charlotte, Florida, at the home of my mother-in-law, Penny, to remember her son, Dan. My wife, Jo Ann, my daughter, Alexa, and I attended other gatherings of his friends. The rest of the family had not been part of the earlier celebrations for Dan. This day was for the family.

My wife and I drove from Orlando. Alexa, my daughter, wasn’t able to attend; she was spending that weekend in north Florida, with friends of Dan. The carried out his final wish: scattering his ashes at Suwannee River State Park; it was one of his favourite places to go camping.

We stayed in a motel near Penny, with our two foster boys, and went to the house to help Penny prepare for the gathering. Penny had made meatloaf, as she knew how much I loved it, but her cooking was unnecessary. Every member of the family brought something to share; there was more than enough food for everybody. There was enough to feed double the people there!


Let the stories of Dan flow.

We ate and drank, well, until it was time to regale Dan. As Penny lived alone, she often left the television on for a simple background noise. As it was Memorial Day Weekend, Turner Classic Movies was showing a war movie marathon.

We turned off the television, as we gathered to talk of Dan. We could forgo having the television on as we talked. We simply went around the room and shared stories of the life of Dan.

Most of the stories made us roar with laughter. Dan was quite the card, quite the jokester; he was forever coming up with ways of causing trouble and having fun. It made Jo Ann and me happy to see Penny enjoying herself. These were the golden memories of her son, Dan, which meant they were special to her.

Jo Ann and I noticed how often people spoke of Dan as good-natured. How he was always there when someone needed help. How caring and concerned he was for others.

This stood in stark contrast to some members of the family that seemed more concerned with the “Bottom Line.” It made me feel good to know that Dan was not like them. He that helps others helps himself tenfold.

Penny was happy when we talked of the people that had attended the other gatherings for Dan; how devoted they were to her son. What more could any mother ask for when remembering her child? Well, there was one thing.

Later, after the leftovers were stored and the family left, we also said our goodbyes and headed to the motel. Jo Ann knew that once her mom was alone the tears would flow. Yes, she might have enjoyed hearing such wonderful stories of her son; they made her smile and laugh, but there was a critical factor to all of these memories. Dan was not there.


If we could turn back time.

I know Penny would have gladly given all that she possessed to have her boy back. Yet, Jo Ann knew our Memorial Day Weekend gathering certainly had been good for her mom, Penny. It was not the end of the grieving process, but it was an important step. I’m glad we were there to help.

May we not have any more such events anytime soon.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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