Familial feeling

I saw my sister for the first time since the holidays. She and her husband have rented a house in Connecticut that’s a two-minute walk from a lake. The place came with kayaks and a canoe. It was her birthday, and my nephew was there with his girlfriend. It felt strange spending the first ten minutes together with masks on. But it also felt strange being maskless afterwards.

Everyone clicked elbows. We caught each other up on life this year, as well as on what we’ve all been planning.

We were all inching apart before Covid. The husband’s new since last September. The nephew and his girlfriend are beginning careers, leading adult lives that make my being an uncle no longer as important as it once was. My sister and I reacted to the passing of our parents in different ways, and we’re still reacting to that.


The best moments may have come after the visit, while driving home. We compared notes on our conversations, observations. That multiplied the experience, but also left regrets. I hadn’t spoken to my sister or my brother-in-law as extensively as my wife had. We seemed to have all been compulsively watching our dogs get along. as they always have.

I keep wondering about the bruised knuckles on my sister’s husband’s hand. Or why there were so many photo albums out of previous visits.

Yet it all felt warm and right. My son had that glow he gets being around family. The dog had this look we figured must be a smile. It was nice all talking for two plus hours driving home.

It was strange hugging my baby sister goodbye, our arms around each other. I could remember the skinny runt she once was in the woman she now is. Ditto Sam, her son, now sporting a beard where I still see his grin on the bungee jump at the Ulster County Fair 20 years back.

That body memory is family. It’s why we had to unmask ourselves. No matter how far apart life may pull us, we’ll keep driving hours to hang out as we did. It matters to all of us.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.