Kinfolk (Dedicated to Uncle Bud)

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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“I’ve already got six grandchildren and y’all don’t have any? What’s wrong with you California people?” asks my Cousin Sandy from Texas. “And your son’s 30 and not even fixin’ to marry his girlfriend? How long they”ve been together, seven years?” I try to explain that many young people, Millennials and Generation Zs are not having children, at least not for now, and that a wedding doesn’t hold the milestone caché it once did. This difference in the matter of prodigious procreation is one of the divides between us, although I must admit to a slight pang when I see cute baby clothes. Another of our disconnect is, of course, POLITICS. A subject we agree not to touch upon. Cousin Sandy is coming to attend the memorial of our Swingin’ Uncle Bud. I’m picking her up at the airport. Being, shall we say, challenged behind the wheel, I announce, “This is something I would only do for you.” I don’t warn her of impending calamity. Cousin Sandy is a big-hearted, friendly, opinionated pistol of a Texas gal who has been married four times and might not be averse to number five, God help him. And I can’t help but love her as I did her mother. Sandy and her lovely, successful daughter and family have visited before and all went well enough, including the requisite visits to Universal Studios, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Venice Boardwalk, Malibu, and even a spin past Hef’s Playboy Mansion. The Beleaguered Husband and I are nothing if not gracious hosts. Naturally the airport is a disaster, the sun blinds my eyes so I can’t read any of the signage. I have to negotiate the crowded loop over and over again like a bad dream, trying to connect on cell phone and muttering aloud things like, “Now what?” “Please, bus, let me over.” and “Dear God where is she???” Finally, as if a miracle, I see her; bright red, long hair, gleaming like a spitfire angel. I’m about to congratulate myself. Mission Accomplished. But upon exiting the airport I take a wrong turn and we’re lost in a sketchy part of town. Sandy’s GPS guides us home but by the time we finally get to Topanga I feel as if we’ve passed through some great trial together. Uncle Bud received a fine send-off. We had a chance to get reacquainted with his children and their families. Sandy wore cowboy boots. A moving playing of “Taps” was followed appropriately by Sinatra’s, “I Did It My Way.” We all went to lunch after and judging by the cars driven by our cousins, identified by my envious and Beleaguered Husband as a Lamborghini Urus and an Audi R8 racing car, it was obvious as my brother and I concurred, some Gibboneys have done better than others. Over the week of Sandy’s visit, in addition to her long rainbow-colored nails, a fondness for frozen margaritas and a tendency to become queasy on our winding Topanga roads, I note something else. It might be a Texas “thang” but she will talk to anyone, especially if they have a dog. She shares that she’s from Texas and proudly speaks of her daughter and announces how many grandchildren she has, even listing their ages and months they were born. She explains that we’re cousins and that her mother was my father’s youngest sister from Pennsylvania. I wonder if this might be more information then needs to be shared but I see people seem intrigued. Sandy and a stranger at the mall stand talking for a good twenty minutes about their love lives then exchange cell phone numbers and the young lady thanks my cousin for talking to her just when she needed someone. The woman she sat next to on the plane has become a dear friend. Also, Cousin Sandy has no compulsion about walking right into the Gucci store, a place I’ve never even entered, and asking the bemused salesman, “Well what’s the least expensive item y’all sell?” I admire her candor, gumption, and trust in humanity. Wish I had filmed it. We take Sandy to Ventura to join our son and his charming, artistic girlfriend for lunch. Cousin Sandy is delighted with Riley and Karen and graciously invites them to visit Texas to which they favorably reply, “We”d love to!” being far from the answer she got when inviting us. I believe Michael’s response to her kind invitation to come to Texas was, “Ain”t gonna happen.” Toward the end of the lunch, my son nonchalantly hands me a large envelope that evidently comes from a photo shop. I assume it’s a cute picture of their dachshund, whom I consider as close as I’ll get to a grandchild. As I open the packet and begin to pull up the photo I am taken by surprise. I am stunned and overwhelmed. I am elated and excited. I sit frozen in a euphoric state, just staring at what I am holding. There in my hands is an ultra-scan of a baby in utero. I can only say, “Really???” My son is proudly beaming across the table at me and Sandy seeing the photo, asks, “Are y”all pregnant?” I pull out the complete photo in wonder and then see printed across the bottom, ‘April Fools!” A dozen different feelings baffle and bombard me at once, yet as the great joy of thinking a little one was coming dissipates, I start to laugh. Once, I told a young Riley and little Miranda that they were going to have a baby brother or sister. My daughter seemed to think it fine, but Riley scowled and pronounced, “No! We don’t want that! We’re the children!” Soon Miranda also said, “We don”t want that.” Then began to cry. “April Fools!” I told them. I guess my son has gotten even with me but I’m glad Cousin Sandy was there to share my almost Grandmotherhood. Maybe someday. In the meantime, our house seems a bit empty without Sandy’s presence. One can appreciate a blood connection shared by relatives, something that bridges divides and effects an open smile. I’ve heard Sandy has tamed the length of her rainbow nails and even has a new hairdo, as per my suggestions. Now I’ll have to work on her politics.
Kathie Gibboney

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