A Man really likes Barbra Streisand. We watch or listen to part of "The Concert" almost everyday.
It's not just her song about the luckiest people in the world that has me thinking about family life and relationships these days. Those thougths are prompted more by my daily time in A Man's home and our daily routines together.
I pick him up at 3 PM each weekday afternoon and we drive home to fix some hot tea. Then we sit at the kitchen table and drink together. Usually his grandson is home from school, doing homework, outside skateboarding or playing video games with his friends. After tea, we talk some more, play cards or watch part of "The Concert" on DVD. I fix dinner at 5 PM, following a menu on the fridge which is consistently planned out and well-rounded by A Man's daughter-in-law: a main item such as soup, sandwich or some other main dish, salad, bread and butter, sliced fruit and a glass of water.
The rituals of home life remind me of my childhood. Not just that I was impacted by them, but that the whole family was affected by each other and each other's lives together.
Daily life at home with others is something I haven't had now for over half of my life. I lived with family for 18 years, but at almost 40 now, I have been living alone for almost 22 years. (Wow! That's amazing to realize.)
A friend commented the other day that as we grow older, our family consists of persons we choose, not necessarily of our nuclear family. That is true, but there is also something substantially different about the experience of chosen family whom I may see every week or so and that of having daily contact and negotiating life together with the same people living under the same roof.
My life is directed by whatever choice I make at the moment. In making those choices, I seldom if ever have to consider things like putting dishes away for the next meal, getting up at a certain time to see someone off to work, getting home on time to drive someone to the store, or helping to set out flowers in the house so everyone can enjoy them. In fact, I can go a week or two without checking in with anyone. I have no real relational demands that exist outside of work obligations. There is no one to help mull over decisions in life, to vent emotions with, or to keep a simple daily structure in place. It can be quite freeing and a burden. It can be like a long, extended vacation of fun; and it can be overwhelming not to have that familial companionship to keep all of my personal concerns in perspective.
A-Man's granddaughter is home on spring break from college this week. She has two other first-year college friends with her, so the house is filled with laughter and lots of activity. The plumbers were there yesterday at the same time as both granddaughter and her friends and grandson and his friend. It made my time clearing away dinner and doing the dishes more satisfying and meaningful, listening to all of the sounds of home life.