19 October 2007

No time this time

This morning, I didn't get up on the wrong side of the bed. I never do. There is frequently a cat there, looking at me querulously, querying something along the lines of "Are you dead?" This morning, I simply didn't want to get up. After hours of fighting HTML on the blog template, I finally went to bed way too late (early this morning), and then, couldn't fall asleep. The children were home from school because parent/teacher conferences were scheduled instead, and the spouse left at an ungodly hour to go supervise drill rigs at a landslide down south. My brother called last night, proposing an impromptu breakfast visit with his two young ones and wife, as they were having a barely scheduled vacation to the north of us, and we hadn't seen each other in three years when we were having a barely scheduled vacation where they live.

"I have to leave at 10:30," I warned him. "Parent/teacher conferences."

"We'll bring breakfast," he enthused.

I love my brother. Actually, in some ways, I adore my brother. He is only 18 months younger than I am, and he was very much my personal plaything as a baby, and my personal punching bag in our later years. He couldn't wait to grow taller than me, which he finally did in his sophomore year of high school.

"I'm taller than you!" he crowed in triumph from a lofty height of one inch above the top of my head.

"So?" I replied crushingly. I believe I broke his heart that day because I wouldn't let him pick a fight.

(He's now a good five inches taller than I am, of course, but we've long since stopped trying to bury the hatchet in one another's head. We do, however, wage a war of escalation in seeing who can hand out the most godawful toys at Christmas. I am definitely winning.)

Anyway, knowing what Friday morning traffic would be like, I dragged my sorry carcass out from under the covers, and made muffins and hard boiled eggs and brewed more coffee. The phone began ringing around 8, my sister-in-law, looking for directions.

I hid the muffins from the cat, took a fast shower, and fielded another phone call, this time from my brother.

Wiggling into my jeans, I took another call from my sister-in-law. They'd gotten off the freeway precisely where I told them not to. Five minutes of tense negotiation and I got them headed back in the right direction.

"We'll have time for a glass of water and cigarette with you," my brother mourned. None of us smoke, of course.

"Not to worry," I told him, "I've got breakfast ready here."

I hadn't seen my little nephews in three years. They are now six and four, solemn and sweet and a little shy.

"Let's go eat muffins!" I said when they hopped out of the car, and that was a sufficient ice breaker, leading to the consumption of many hard boiled eggs and juice, and a fall from one of the bar stools which was made better with a trip to the Lego bin.

Forty minutes and we had to say our goodbyes. My visits with my brother are frequently of such short duration, and always this scattered. When he was in the military, I never knew when he might show up, or with which buddy, or what kind of nasty gear last washed in a river in Bahrain he might try to sneak into my washing machine before I caught him. He and his friends knew I would produce a meal for anyone who came to the door, and would lend a sympathetic ear when someone's dog died or girlfriend cheated. Sometimes, they got clean flight suits out of the deal, too. In return, my house was frequently buzzed by various military aircraft, wings waggling in friendly fashion, perhaps most memorably the night of September 11, 2001, an old friend letting me know that he was my watcher in the skies.

So muffins and hard boiled eggs, bruised dignity eased with Legos--really nothing has changed. I don't know when we will next meet up or how; it may be a brief telephone call from a foreign airport during a long layover, or a barbecue in someone's backyard. However it happens, though, we take the time to make these connections. And we feel blessed that we can.

Go listen to some good music: "No Time This Time" from the album Regatta de Blanc by The Police.

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