Dinner for 100?

Readers of this blog know that I have a very large family. In honor of our parents and a long tradition, our family — siblings, their spouses, children, and children’s children — who live in the general geographic area where I live get together every Friday evening for dinner.

With busy schedules, vacation and other travel, occasional time conflicts, the usual number of people who gather for our Friday meal comes to an average of about 35, which is about 1/3 of the “local fam.” But last night…

…when I showed up with my twin brother, there were over 100 people there. Claiming it was to celebrate our “milestone birthday,” the crowd was really gathered to see my elusive twin, “J”, and show him some well-deserved love.

J has not been back to visit in several years. He had a near-death experience while on a volunteer assignment in a war-torn part of the world. He lost two very good friends when their tent, next to his, was blown up with a bomb. He is still affected by terrible memories of that tragic event.

As a result, he “nested” with his wife at their home in Rome, Italy, while he recovered from the shock and PTSD. He kept asking me to visit him, but my schedule and caregiving needs for my spouse held me back. We did, however, speak on the phone via VOiP connection about twice each week.

J has “been there” for me during the worst times of my spouse’s illness. When 1000% of my time was occupied with caregiving, J would be here and care for me. I cannot express how deeply grateful I am for having such a caring and loving brother.

Anyway, J will only be here for a short time. He arrived on our birthday, Wednesday, and will be leaving to fly back home on Monday. So last night’s Friday Family dinner was “it.”

In speaking with our sister whose turn it was to host the dinner, she said, “no problem. Like Mom always said, ‘there’s room for one more’.” Man, one more and one more and one more grew to more than 100.

To make matters worse, the weather was uncooperative with off-the-charts humidity and strong thunderstorms. So we couldn’t spill outside to the deck or yard.

But like really old times when our family gathered, we made the best of being confined indoors. Fortunately, while this sister’s seven children have left the nest, she and her husband haven’t sold their big house, so we managed to fit, graze (buffet style), and mingle.

My sister, her husband, and six of her children & their spouses were excellent hosts. From the minute we arrived until being the last out the door, we were treated like kings. Sister knows that I don’t drink alcohol, so my cup was constantly refilled with lemonade (and later, just water.)

J, living it Italy, has become quite the wine connoisseur, and sister had that covered. She had gone to extra effort to find wines that she knew that J would love.

She set out a very grand table with pastas, salads, meats and vegetables, and baked five (count ’em) cakes to share (including J’s favorite — chocolate — and my favorite — spice.)

We laughed, sang, rolled with the kiddos, and had a tremendous time with all of our family (and a few very close family friends). We stayed out way too late, but no way would we end this fun. As I write this, I am preparing to go back to bed for a nap. (I always awaken at 0400, regardless of when I went to bed. But now at 0600, I am really dragging. Time for a nap!)

The only thing we regretted is that J’s wife couldn’t be with us. Her father back in Rome is in the hospital, and she needs to be near. And I regretted that my spouse wouldn’t join us, but my family is so loud and large, it exhausts him just to be around all that noise and confusion. Plus, his illness robbed him of his ability to withstand the challenges of driving a car, so it wasn’t like he could come for dinner and then drive home by himself while J and I stayed later.

We indeed had a great birthday and family celebration. I am truly grateful to have J back home — even for a short while — and a family who loves us so.

Life is short: love the fam.