I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it had been 14 years since all of my siblings and I were together in the same place.
Until last weekend that is. That was when we all got together for a siblings reunion in Duluth.
We have seen each other in twos or threes in the intervening years, but this was the first time we have all been together since our mother’s interment in October 2000.
That event took place at the cemetery on the hill overlooking West Duluth. We shared some laughs and happy memories. Nine months had passed since Ma’s funeral, so it was more a celebration of life than a somber occasion.
I would never have guessed on that sunny autumn afternoon that it would be more than a decade before we were all together again.
It is especially strange since there is no animosity among us. We have not been feuding. We have simply been busy with our own lives, and never quite managed to get together as a group.
Then, in early September, our eldest brother contacted all of us and proposed a siblings reunion. None of us are getting any younger, he observed, and suggested we should get together while we are all still alive and able to travel.
There was instant agreement among my three brothers and sister. A date was set, and the five of us began to look forward to the event.
It was exciting to think we would all be together again.
My eldest brother and my sister, both of whom now live in Rochester, picked me up at the bachelor pad, and we travelled to Duluth together. It was a treat to have the journey on which to chat and make plans for the weekend ahead.
We checked into our hotel on Canal Park, and phoned the other two brothers, who soon joined us.
When they entered the room, it was as if the years dropped away, and the intervening decade and a half had never happened. There was much hugging and back slapping and general merriment.
It was a surreal experience. We all look a little older (except my sister, of course). We are heavier, grayer, and have less hair, but if one closed one’s eyes and just listened to the jokes and laughter, we could very well have all been back in the postage-stamp sized living room where we spent our childhood.
There were times during the reunion when I felt I was talking to boys in old men’s bodies. They talked more about their health and their jobs than about the future, but in many ways, they were the guys I knew as a kid.
We began by looking at photos of our younger days, then walked to a nearby establishment for dinner and some refreshing adult beverages.
The evening was an unqualified success.
Time flew by as we laughed, told stories, and caught up on the latest news. We talked about family, friends music, theater, and our lives.
There’s something special about spending time with people with whom one grew up. They know a lot about us, and we about them.
The five of us and our parents lived in the upper half of a tiny duplex, in less space than the bachelor pad where I now live alone.
We have all taken very different paths in life, but we will never lose the memories we share.
After leaving the restaurant, we continued our revelry back at the hotel. There’s a lot to talk about when people haven’t seen each other for years.
In the morning, we continued our reunion. After brunch, we toured the studio where one of the brothers has lived for decades. The walls of the former school, converted to an artists’ cooperative, are lined with his paintings. It was as much fun for us to see them as it was for him to show them to us.
All good things come to an end, and eventually those of us who no longer live in Duluth had to get back on the road.
There is no point in lamenting the years we did not see one another. Doing so would serve no purpose.
It struck me that despite the fact we haven’t all been together for years, these people have been part of my life all along.
My three older brothers tormented me mercilessly until I grew big enough to pound on them, and yet I have always loved them. They are odd, but they are the kind of odd to which I have grown accustomed.
I see my sister most often, so there was less of a feeling of a time warp with her during the reunion. She is peculiar in her own way, but arguably less odd than the rest of the family. It was a strange gathering with all of us together.
The reunion accomplished two important things. One, it re-established communication between people who had fallen out of the habit of staying in touch, and for that, I am grateful.
Two, and perhaps more importantly, it reminded us that time is moving on, and we can’t afford to waste any opportunities to spend time with people we care about. This seems like a simple lesson, but it is an important one.
I’ll do a better job of staying in touch with my siblings, partly because I genuinely enjoy their company, but also because I don’t want to wake up some day and wish I had made more of an effort to keep them in my life. We can’t go back and change the past, but we can make the most of today, and that’s what I intend to do.