Or, at least, my family does. Now that I'm finally old enough to appreciate them.
My papa (grandfather), who is deaf with hearing aids, has close to a liter of fluid in his lungs, but can't get them drained again until he has 1.5 liters, and had to walk very slowly from his hotel to the restaurant in the same parking lot. However, he found the strength to fiercely grab my arm as we sat at the dinner table and quietly yelled at me, "Papa is getting this check." Right. No arguments here. You'd think I hadn't seen this argument a million times by the look in his eyes. Besides, why would I make a fuss when my dad is going to make one before he lets papa get it. Clearly, my place would be to make a fuss to my father, not to papa. I've fought that fight enough times. I know the rules. Birthdays and father's day are the only days where it's appropriate. And, if there are non-family members around, then even pretending that I might want to contribute is some weird insult.
So yeah, in our family, the oldest man at the table gets the check. Or, the person with the most respected power. I'm not certain how it'll work when the oldest or most respected person is a female. The older generations are certainly sexist, or more entrenched in their gender roles. Or, something like that. Anyways, I'm not really sure I get of all of the cultural crap that goes with the check-getting, but it's there, and I've accepted it. Free dinner. I'm a law student. It's cool papa, you can fight with dad (who's also the oldest son) about it. But not me.
My brother, the father of my adorable niece, the smartest most wonderful 22-month old on the planet, also happens to be one of the funniest guys you've ever met. He's my reality check. He embodies so much of Zen without trying that it's frustrating. I doubt I'll ever have his serene laughter in a seemingly unfunny but actually hilarious moment.
He's a young father, a high-school dropout, a construction worker, and one of the least stressed people I've ever met. He's got to support a whole additional life-form while working in a notoriously undependable field (a few months ago, his boss at the time decided to get married, so he gave him 3 hours notice that there would be no work for 3 weeks, and after that, well, he just wasn't sure). And yet, he's way less stressed than I am, living this ridiculously cush life where the governement gives me cheap money to learn cool shit. Sure, I try to keep myself relatively chill, and do a fairly decent job when compared against law students. But really, that's like saying I'm doing a good job of keeping my carnal urges in check when compared with John Holmes.
So, tonight, my brother told work stories about fires, missing fingers, tearing things down, and what-do-you know, turns out he's the only English speaker on his crew, and his Spanish is pretty damn good. I never even knew. I knew he could affect accents pretty well. I knew he took a couple years of spanish in high school. But, dude, the guy actually speaks Spanish really well. He's so different from most of the people in school. He's brilliantly intelligent but doesn't care. He feels no need to show how bright he is, what he's accomplished, or where he's headed. He just wants to chill, have a few beers, tell jokes, trade stories, and have a good time. He really is the epitome of cool. He's a great dad, a good boyfriend to his baby-mama, and an awesome brother who turned down a free (dad's paying, same principal) hotel room at the Sheraton to stay at our house so the siblings could all bond.
My sis, as I mentioned, is having fun and figuring out who/what she wants to be. She showed up early, helped with food prep for tomorrow, and gave up her ridiculous architecture student schedule for a full two days to be here. Given that she often pulls multiple all-nighters in a row and will be paying for this holiday with her sleep, I'm honored and impressed.
My gran, bless her heart, made my papa stop at the Madonna Inn on their way here for pies (mmm...dutch apple crunch, you have NO idea!). She also pulled at my brother's hair and complained that it was too long. She corrected the hilarious stories my aunt told about my dad to be sure that the details were exactly true and not exaggerated. She's cranky and stubborn and sharp and hiding parkinson's in a fiercely brave way. (Much like the check thing, the hiding ugly truths thing is another weird family issue. Used to piss me off. Now it's quaint and endearing.)
My aunt sat in 3 hours of traffic to meet us at the restaurant and made hilarious jokes at my father's expense which is always a fabulous thing. Earlier, she made the hotel reservations, got the directions to my grandparents, called them every 4 hours to make sure they were cool, and generally, made it possible for them to be here.
My dad sat in traffic for 4 hours and showed up with a case of eye of the hawk for the "kids" to take back to our house after dinner.
More people arrive tomorrow and the feast will be wonderful. On the day for giving thanks, I can't believe how much I have to give. Because, like I said, my family rocks.