Who will enjoy? self-manage? be hospitalized? at the next family event…

The we-really-are-a-family moment.

A Weekend for Family:

That is an aligning-adjusting-processing time:

  • Aligning with partner’s siblings and their offspring;
  • Adjusting to expanding generations; or
  • Processing the unexpected events.

My partner’s family gathered for a wedding in a suburb of Chicago. It was an emotional event for all. We remembered those in the family who had died and celebrated those who helped it expand. As importantly, it was a process — a family process.

I’ve been gradually included by this family over the last 16 years. I feel as much a part of this group as to any I’ve belonged. But such mass events are not easy for an only child . Each meet up takes me time to position and adjust and accept.

Day 1

My partner Mike’s siblings and their spouses arrived on Thursday. They were exhausted from the expressway drive and the siege of the orange construction cones. We had options for dinner. But, in the overly-polite stage no one will direct, no one will lead, we only defer. It took time to sort through all of our wants and needs. Finally, we acquiesced to the point we could acquiesce no more and motored to a local restaurant. I hoped my frustration did not show.

Day 2

Next morning, we moved into the I’ve-always-heard-about-and-would-love-to-eat phase. I dropped Mike’s niece and her husband at the train to Millennium Park and then picked up his sons and partners at O’Hare. While one set sought Chicago dogs and deep-dish pizza, the other was in the “hangry” stage — anything would do — from Portillo’s Italian beef to Culver’s cheese curds. I calmed my pampered stomach with hidden organic carrots and raw almonds.

As newly added family members entered the weekend, they brought diversity to the Tracy family with exotic tattoos, precocious children, and fascination with digital immediacy. Mike and I had aged to the great-uncle-and-aunt lexicon without an official proclamation. My white skin looked pale and empty; my body felt tired from lifting tiny bodies; my mind fought exhaustion from sorting out who played World of Warcraft and who didn’t.

We agreed on the family-oriented Medieval Times experience for dinner and reached the let’s-be-silly-together evening. Our group of seven donned paper crowns, adopted English accents, and cheered for our jousting knight dressed in red and yellow. We ate dinner without utensils. The next morning I found bits of broiled chicken under my nails.

Day 3

By Saturday, the entire family had arrived at the wedding — beautiful, fragrant and well-choreographed. Could the 18-month-old ring bearer navigate the length of the aisle on his own? No matter. Three of us didn’t see the step outside the church and tripped, Mike landing on his keister. We gathered on the steps for a family photo and officially documented the we-really-are-a-family moment.

The reception afterward became a dancing frenzy. During it, Mike’s brother noted Mike’s left eye and corner of his mouth were drooping. Fearing a stroke, he directed us immediately to the emergency clinic.

We didn’t hesitate. Mike walked quickly to the car and we drove in silence til we arrived seven minutes later. By the time I parked and walked through the doors, I could watch Mike’s back side, seated into a wheel chair, whisk down the hall to attendants and tests. I felt reassurance from his handling by medical professionals.

In the examination room, two nurses danced around Mike without ever bumping. They asked questions associated with stroke and put him through coordination tests.“Do you feel this? And this?” “Put your finger on your nose, move it to my finger; again.” “Repeat these words: mama mama fifty fifty.”

My phone dinged with a text; Mike’s sons and their partners had left the wedding and were heading to the ER.

My phone dinged again; Mike’s brother was bringing his family and my son.

The waiting room buzzed with family. They enveloped me with hugs and questions and, despite Mike’s conveyed wishes, they sat down, determined to wait this out with me.

The first CT scan returned. The doctor confirmed the initial diagnoses — not stroke, but Bell’s Palsy — a treatable condition. There was a collective sigh and, two-by-two, the family saw Mike in the examination room before heading back to the hotel.

He and I waited til 2 a.m. for the physician to return with the second and reassuring scan. In the examination room, I tucked myself into the space between Mike and the gurney’s side rail. I covered us with the shawl borrowed for the wedding reception from Mike’s Aunt Helen.

Mike and I both fell asleep. We were in the loved-by-family stage.

Have a memory of your event with family? Are they endearing or ?

Your thoughts and opinion are always welcome by emoticon or emailing johaselhoef@gmail.com.

Judy O Haselhoef, a social artist, story-teller, and author of “GIVE & TAKE: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti,” blogs regularly at her website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.

Copyright @2016: If you’d like to use any part of it (up to 200 words), please give full attribution and this website, www.JOHaselhoef.

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