Eight twenty Sunday morning, I shout down the hall. “We have to leave now.” Julie responds, “I’m ready.” We get into the Flex and make the 10 minute trip to Butterfield’s breakfast restaurant. We arrive exactly on time, 8:30 AM.
We enter and are met by the vanilla sweet smell of pancakes and the hellos of my sister Nancy and my brother-in-law Mike. Mike offers a funny comment, which I only half hear due to the clatter of plates and my less-than-perfect hearing. I smile and nod.
The host arrives and I instruct her that we need a quiet table for 6. She leads us to a round table towards the back of the restaurant. Strong coffee is poured, and we all start to sip.
In a few minutes my sister Carol arrives smiling. She apologizes for being late, she was up late babysitting. We all nod and welcome her. We wait for my sister-in-law Kathy to arrive until someone remembers that she wasn’t coming due to a previous engagement, in this case a date. My brother Dave passed away a few years ago and Kathy is dating again. We all comment how happy we are that she is getting out and enjoying her life.
The waitress arrives and passes out laminated menus. We take them and scan them in earnest. I find the process amusing, as we always order the same thing. Swedish pancakes for Mike, scrambled eggs for Nancy, omelets for Carol and Julie. I always get the Lox and bagel plate, and I always order a styrofoam carrier to bring half of it back home.
Our chatting continues. My family has never learned the fine art of conversation, and it is perfectly acceptable to interrupt each other as we build and add to our conversation streams. Of course, it is also OK to tell the interrupter to, “Wait, I’m not done talking!”
Nancy and Mike talk about their new, and at this point nameless dog. As Nancy recollects the sudden loss of Toby (their last dog) she tears up. “I don’t know if we can handle this dog. He is so active. Jeannine said she would take him if we can’t.” I know my sister, nameless has entered their home, never to leave.
Carol recounts events from her recent life. Time with her kids, talk of her grandkids, and her lifelong desire to become more organized and to simplify her life. Julie talks about our kids and updates the family about the grandkids. She reflects on her psychotherapy business, now pretty successful. I focus on my latest obsession, my upcoming retirement. Lately, I have been pondering my next step. I feel compelled to write, to take photos, to be creative. I anguish, “Will anyone care about what I have to say?” Carol reassures me that I write in an engaging style. She ends by saying, “Mike I would comment on your post if I could figure out how to do it.” I nod, as I know that she would. My brilliant sister Carol does many things well, but she still has trouble with the simplest computer task. “When I get organized I’m going to learn how to do it.” A statement that I have heard many times through the years.
I was the youngest child in our family of five siblings. My two brothers are now gone. In their place are my wife Julie, my brother-in-law Mike, and my sister-in-law Kathy. After decades together we are all siblings, with no distinction based on biology.
Our sibling breakfasts have become a tradition that happens every 6 weeks or so. The format varies slightly from time to time, but their overall significance remains. Sibling breakfast is a way for us to connect and celebrate our bonds with each other. The meetings can sometimes be a vehicle for support or advice, but its main purpose of one of connection.
The waitress comes by and picks up our plates. She offers more coffee, but we all decline. Despite our lack of food and drink, we linger. Our conversation continues until I finally say, “We need to set up a time for the next breakfast.” Participants pull out their appointment books or smartphones as we negotiate our next get together. We ask the waitress to take our picture, stand, and put on our coats. Hugs and goodbyes follow.
It is still early in the morning, enough time for Julie and I to make to church. During the service I utter a silent prayer, “God, thank you for my siblings and sibling breakfast.”