Saturday, November 25, 2006

Two Brothers and My Apologies

How fitting that the Torah portion at today’s Shabbat service was the story of Jacob and Esau and their sibling rivalry resulting in Esau’s disinheritance. It was good to think about how brothers relate prior to a meeting of my husband and his brother at our house this afternoon.

We’ve seen his brother just a few of times in the past decade even though both brothers and their families live in the DC area. As with many families, it's a complicated story. Not exactly the big happy family I as an only child thought I was marrying into.

Suddenly a couple of months ago my husband proposed to invite his brother and his family to Thanksgiving dinner. They had other plans but said they could come for a visit the Saturday following. That would be today.

Our plan was to put out simple deli food and just let people eat whatever they felt like eating – sort of a late brunch. I went off to services this morning, leaving my husband to go shopping and do a little sweeping up of dog hair and general picking up.

I really intended to be home to help with any last minute things. But after a wonderful intellectual exchange over the Jacob and Esau story and the general feeling of being in slow motion that Shabbat inflicts on me, as I drove up Barracks Row in SE Washington to drop off my friend, I just felt compelled to stop off and join her in a quick lunch before heading home.

We sat outside at Belga and feasted on egg dishes, crisp white wine, banana crepes, and rich coffee. What a perfect way to spend Shabbat.

But then as I reached my car, I realized it was just 5 minutes before our guests were to arrive. I really had screwed this up royally. I only took comfort in the fact that I was pretty sure not all 4 of them would come and they would be late, as seems to be a trait of many in my husband’s family. I called ahead and was surprised at not being yelled at.

It turns out that only my brother-in-law responded to the olive branch, and he was running a half hour late. His wife woke up with food poisoning. Our nephew had a date with his girlfriend. Our niece had too much school work to do.

We stood around in the kitchen for an hour and a half making small talk. Our daughter took off to join friends and dig up a time capsule they had buried 10 years ago when she was in the 7th grade. Hope to be able to tell you more about this later.

Then he was gone. On his way out the door, I wished his wife a speedy recovery and suggested that the 4 of us get together for dinner sometime.

My husband and I finally had a chance to talk about my truancy. When he said, “You would have been incredibly pissed if I had done this to you,” I realized he was right. But instead of nursing his anger, he simply dismissed it with “It really didn’t matter since they didn’t all come and he was late.” WHEW! I was so relieved. I told him to file this away to be used in the future when he does something I deserve to be pissed about. I will instantly forgive him – that’s a promise.

So as for the brothers, I don’t know if this was a perfunctory visit or if there is a strong desire on both of their parts to mend the past and unify the family. What a shame that our children hardly even know their cousins who live just 30 minutes away. Time will tell what happens. The olive branch was at least offered.

There is no birthright here. It’s not a question of parental blessing. It really shouldn’t be about past right and wrong, but about future relationships. I hope for their sakes they don’t wait too long to figure this out.


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Yes, time marches on a little faster now that we're all older and we all need to mend the fences that separate us.

I'm lucky to have close relationships on both sides. We stay in very good touch, especially with my 2 older sisters...even more so since I've been sick.

I hope they take you up on your dinner invitation.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I'm so sorry you were late, so relieved it didn't turn out to be a problem. Lunch was sublime for me as was the rest of the day. I'm so glad I didn't try to talk you into having lunch with me - thank god.

Food poisoning? Wow. That is definitely a good excuse; hope it wasn't actually true because I've had food poisoning and it's AWFuL!

As for the story of Jacob and Esau, I've been thinking about it. I believe it's the story of evolution told in the weird style of Torah. More on that later, much later!

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since this is between the 2 brothers, it would have been approprite for you to be late. They would have needed the time together with no insulation.

9:50 AM  

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