Here is the link to Part One:
Part II- The Reception
One of my sisters, my nephew, and my daughter were in the car with me as we drove back to the our home for the reception. My parents were right behind us and there were three cars following them. I?m kicking myself for not putting driving directions on the map. ?You?ll be fine, V you?ll be fine? I silently thought to myself. It?s ok It?s ok. Don?t freak out. As I pull out of the funeral home, my sister shreaks ?Wait for Mom and Dad V! They don?t know how to get to your house!?
I sharply retort ?Do you see me turning yet?? Do you? Just let me drive!? Jesus!? My sister promptly shuts up. I feel extremely guilty but don?t say anything. I didn?t mean to snap at her. Before we even get on the freeway my cell phone rings. It?s my Dad.
?V, will you please not drive so fast??, we can?t keep up.?
It didn?t help that it was dark, and my dad was a slow driver.
?Ok sorry, I?ll go slower.? I say. I didn?t realize how difficult it can be to drive slowly,deliberately. I look in my rearview mirror and can clearly see my parents.
?Ok everything is cool? I think. I look ahead again and realize I just went through the light as it was turning yellow. My parents and whoever was following them were stuck at the red light. (looking back I probably wasn?t In the right frame of mind to be driving that night) Directly ahead is the Northbound On-Ramp, and I get in the express lane.
My cell rings again.
?V! are you taking the express lanes???!?
?Please drive slow so we can catch up!?
?Ok dad, sorry!?
I?m driving as slow as I possible can and cars are speeding pass us left and right, some of them honking.
My cell rings again.
?V! where are you??
?Dad, I?m headed north bound, I?m in the carpool lane?
?Ok we see you!?
?What did Dad say?? My sister asks.
?He said he thinks he sees us?
I continue driving for about 15 minutes.
Silence. I know my sister is pissed because I yelled at her.
?Sigh?. Look.? I say. I?m sorry about earlier, I was just stressed out you know and?.sigh? I dunno I?m just sorry I yelled you ok??
My sister looked down and nodded.
I look ahead and keep driving. My thoughts drift back to that night again.
The Call ?He?s dead?
That Night we were on our way to the hospital when we got The Call. I had gasped and dropped the phone at my feet and sobbed? and sobbed? what could I do? What could I do? I should?ve been there. I should?ve been there. I should?ve? Why? Why? I should?ve went there more often? I should?ve? I could?ve talked to him...... Why? He pulled through once before, why not now?? I should?ve been there. We get in the elevator and J hugs me as I collect myself. The elevator opens and I see my sister, my parents. I break down again. My mom holds me and whispers ?He?s not in pain anymore honey, he?s not in pain anymore.? I choke through the sobs, ?mom he didn?t have to? he didn?t have to?? I couldn?t finish and I don?t think she heard. She whispers ?We?ll get to see him again soon? We?ll see him again soon?.? My moms blouse is soaked with my tears. I look up and glance around the waiting room. My brother?s fiancé and her parents are sitting in a corner. Two women I don?t know get up and give me a hug. ?Go say goodbye to your brother? my mom whispers. I slowly walk down the hall, the room is dark. The No Blood Sign outside of his room catches my attention. Anger wells up inside me along with the urge to rip that f***ing sign off his window. My dad is in his hospital gown as he had been admitted the week before for chest pains, and I see him in the room in a wheelchair next to my brother, holding his hand and staring blankly ahead. The room is silent. All the machines have been turned off. No thoughts go through my head at this moment as I look at my poor brother lying there dead. I hold my brother?s other hand and kiss him on the forhead. He?s no longer warm. ?It?s not him really?, I think. That?s his body but it?s not him.?
A sharp pain stabs my chest even now every time I drive by that hospital.
I?m snatched back to the present by the ring of my cell phone. It?s my Dad.
?V, what exit are you taking??
I take the exit and and home is just 10 minutes away. I?m wondering if I should change clothes once I get home when my cellphone rings again.
?V, where are you??
?Dad, what exit did you take??
?187a like you said!?
?no, I said 187b?
?Should I get back on the freeway??
?What do you see in front of you??
?Well there?s a Wallmart up ahead??
?Ok, just pull into the Wallmart.? I figure it would be easier to give him directions from there.
I give J a call. He?s already at home cooking up a storm.
?J, my parents are lost?
?Where are they?? He asks. I can here the buzz of people in the background.
?They are at the Walmart but I?m not sure myself how to get there from here.?
?Don?t worry about it V, I?ll go get them.?
?You sure hon? But you?re cooking!?
?It?s ok V, just when you get here cut some tomatoes for me ok??
?ok, thank you?
I pull into the driveway and see that J?s already gone, and several cars parked in front of the house already.
I walk in the door and see several of my brother?s high school friends gathered in the living room. There are several others checking out the spread J prepared in the dining room. One of my brothers high school friends walks over. Hey, nice house! She says, along with a few other questions admittedly now I can?t remember exactly what they were. We chat for a few minutes and I ask a couple of other people if I can get them some coffee. I take my coat off and walk in the kitchen, when the phone rings.
?Hey V, it?s J, I found your parents.?
?Oh thank you so much hon.?
?K, I?ll see ya in a few minutes.? He says and hangs up.
?V, do you need some help with anything?? It?s a sister from my old cong.
?oh, sure, can you help me cut some tomatoes?? I ask.
?Sure, she says, so what congregation are you going to now?? she asks
?None. Excuse me for a minute? I say and walk out of the kitchen.
?Hey V, whats this?? One of my parents friends asks me pointing to the caprese J made.
?It?s caprese. It?s fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil with olive oil and basalmic vinegar.
?wow, it tastes great!?
?Thanks, J made it. You want some wine?? I pour him a glass then pour myself one.
?And what?s this right here?? he asks, pointing to the bruschetta.
?It?s bruschetta. It?s tomatoes, capers, olive oil, onions, basil and of course balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Put it on top of the bread.? I say.
This is really good. J made all this?
?wow, what a guy.?
?Yes he is quite a guy.?
?My name is L, by the way. I play cards with your parents. We play bid whist and your brother, he sure could play boy!?
?I know! Him and my dad? I could never beat. I can never seem to keep track of what cards have been played!?
?Yeah, boy your brother he was somethin else! He?d bid even when he had a lousy hand just to out bid me!?
I laugh and just then my two nephews run by and knock over a bowl of chips.
?Don?t worry, I got it. L says and picks it up. Hey hand me the garbage bag, I?ll go around and pick up peoples trash for you.?
?Thank you so much?
?Just call me the garbage man!? He says and tips his hat. For the first time I get a good look at his outfit. His suit was double breasted, pure white and he had a red shirt underneath. The kerchief in his breast pocket was bright red. I had forgotten how distinctly different congregations could be. In my parent?s old congregation everyone always dressed to the nines. The men wore neatly pressed suits and hats. The women wore fancy hats as well and their purses always matched their shoes. Not that they all had a ton of money. They didn?t, they just knew how to dress well.
I walk into the living room where my brother?s old high school friends are gathered. All girls.
?I?m glad you guys were able to make it.? I say. ?I?m sorry the map was so lousy. I meant to have driving directions attached to it.?
?V, it?s no big deal we found it ok.? A girl named M says.
?Ok, well cool.? I say.
?Oh I love that photo!? she says pointing to the photo on the wall above the bookcase of two tastefully nude acrobats, a man and a woman. The female is balancing herself on her hands, legs outstretched and her body is parallel with the floor. The man is balancing himself on top of her, holding her waist with his legs stretched in the opposite direction.
?wow that is soo sexy?, she says.
?Thank you, we got it at the Cirque du Soleil last summer.?
We chat for a bit more about the Cirque and a few moments later J walks in the door. My parents come in shortly afterwards along with about ten other people. All old friends of my parents.
J comes up to me and whispers in my ear. ?everything ok??
?Yeah everything is fine so far.?
I take everyone?s coat and show my parents around our home. As I take my moms coat I see her glance at the photo above the bookcase. She says nothing but I see her lips purse together for brief moment. When my parents walk into the dining room my mom and my dad exclaim together how nice it was for J to cook. My mom walks into the kitchen and gives J a big hug.
?Thank you so much. This is wonderful? She says with tears welling up in her eyes.
?J hugs her back. Over her shoulder he winks at me as if to say ?see I told you she?d come around.?
?Mom, why don?t you sit and relax and I?ll get you a plate.? I say and show her to a seat in the den.
?Honey, oh my goodness gracious this is just so wonderful, my goodness this turned out better than I could have imagined!?
?It was the least I could do.? I?m glad you guys made it here; I was worried when you accidentally took the wrong exit.
?Well J came to our rescue, yes he did!? She exclaimed.
?oh yes, honey, you certainly got a good man there!? exclaimed a friend of my parents who just happened to walk by and hear us. ?oh girl, AND he can COOK!!!?
I laugh and feel myself start to relax for the first time that day. I walk around the house and make sure everyone is ok. My sister helps clear empty bowls from the table. I notice the crowd had broken up into small groups. All of my brothers highschool friends are in the living room. The JW men are in the hallway and the JW women are in the den. On my way to kitchen I here someone ask J ?so are you and V happy?? I stop cold and think what kind of question is that???
?Well yes, we?re really happy.? I hear J say. ?We have a great relationship, she?s my best friend.?
?So have you read the bible??
I recognize the man?s voice. It?s Brother Elder. I wonder to myself if he has some hidden agenda or if he?s just using this as an ?opportunity? to get in some service hours.
?Yes, I have. Actually I?ve read the entire bible and I have several different versions of it.?
?Well, a lot of people read the bible but only a few can really understand it.?
?It?s pretty cut and dry really, I mean, it doesn?t seem all that hard to understand if you ask me.? J says nonchalantly and I hear him banging pots and pans around. The conversation ends there as J takes more food out of the oven and wipes up spills off the kitchen floor.
I smile to myself and wonder if Brother Elder will count that ten minute conversation as an hour of service time.
I pour myself a glass of wine and I here Sister Elder in the kitchen exclaim ?Boy I sure am glad I?m a Jehovah?s Witness!?
?Whatcha snort?n at?? I hear a voice say. I turn around and see R. She?s the daughter of my mom?s best friend and it had been almost ten years since I had seen her last. She had been disfellowshipped for several years, married ?out the troof? and then reinstated not to long ago.
?awww nothin? I say. Just something funny I heard in the kitchen.?
?I see. Things like this are tough I know, but alcohol sure does help!?
?I heard that!? I laugh. And say ?Cheers!?
?shhhh!? she says through her laughter Brother Elder will here you!?
?I giggle even louder? What do I care? It?s my house!?
?J is really cool, he?s great to be doing all of this.? She says. He ain?t all that religious is he??
?no not really, we just try to be the best people we can be and live a good life.?
?Wow, she says, That?s cool. I don?t really buy all this Jehovah nonsense either.? She whispers. Someone asked me what congregation I go to and I just said, uhmm none.?
I nod and we exchange knowing glances.
I walk into the living room and chat some more with my brothers highschool friends. The evening slowly starts to wind down as the food and wine is polished off. I get up a few times to make sure my parents are ok or if they need anything. They seemed pretty content and my mom kept exclaiming ?oh this is just so wonderful.? J and I packed up some food for them to take with them. Two of my sisters decided to stay overnight, and they help J and I put the rest of the food away.
Once the house is finally quiet J and I head upstairs to bed. I just sit there on the bed and stare into space.
?You look exhausted.? He says.
?You should be the one exhausted! All that cooking you did!? I exclaim.
?Well I love to do it, did?ya see how your mom gave me a hug??
?Well yeah of course, that was great. Did you hear all the elderettes talking about how great you are??
?Huh, yeah for a WORDLY person!? he laughs.
?That was classic, I overheard Brother Elder try to corner you?
J nods, ?Yeah I was so busy in the kitchen I just didn?t have time to get into a big discussion.
?I knew it was coming though?
?Me too! I was preparing myself all day.? He says
I laugh and then let out a heavy sigh. ?Ohhhh I?m just so glad its over. I don?t think we?ll ever have that many dubs gathered in our house again. Well hopefully not for a very long time anyway.?
Thanks for reading