On my wife’s side of the family there are 9 ‘kids’ including our three. Every even number year we trundle out to Kansas (this year we flew*) to be with the ‘Ownby’ side. We play board games, we go to movies, we watch football and mostly tell stories (many of which I can repeat verbatim despite the fact I wasn’t a known quantity at the time the stories took place and didn’t even know anyone named Ownby).
This year there were two empty seats. My nephew is in the Army and is about to be deployed to Iraq and was unable to make it to Kansas for Christmas. I have had lots of family in the military. I am firmly against the war in Iraq. I firmly support our troops. Anyone who says otherwise about me can kiss my asterisk, firmly and completely.
The other empty seat was my daughter’s. She is in Peru (sorry to be repetitive, but this is kind of an emotional thing for me) and enjoyed Christmas in the Peruvian manner (this involves eating a great deal of food, drinking a great deal of the local ‘shine’, and attending mass, hopefully in some coherent fashion).
When we said the grace for the big Christmas meal, my brother-in-law mentioned the two who weren’t there for Christmas. After the prayer, the father of the Iraqi-bound nephew, and the father of the young woman in Peru went off in two separate directions (away from the food). We both returned with rather reddish eyes.
You don’t have to be as old as me to appreciate the joys, the anguish, the warmth and the grace of family. You don’t have to have kids to enjoy the season. But, you really do have to have an empty seat to understand this deal. Many people outside of my family had empty seats this Christmas. I pray that in two years when we return to Kansas that those seats will be filled and that the empty condition for many others is temporary, as well.
*I am not scared of flying. I hate the hassle. I hate the idiots that used footware and thought about using liquids as incendiary devices. I hate feeling guilty for no reason when I go through the security lines. I hate that friends and family can no longer be at the gate to greet you eagerly. I hate the damn narrow seats and the lack of legroom for those of us who fly ‘cattle’. I hate the prices of the concessions once you’ve passed through the security. Flying used to be something I really looked forward to, because I am not a frequent flyer. In my mind, flying is hardly worth it unless you are traveling many many many miles. I’m shutting up now, but I’m still bitter.