The family gathered, and as always it was a dicey event. So many personalities and so many skeletons to be uncovered.
Cousins Hugo and Nessa came dressed in their best gothic black, both looking their usual vacuous selves, staring ahead as if trying hard not to be noticed.
Aunt Sally, with the voluminous red hair and eccentric personality, came swanning into the room, making sure she made the necessary noise to attract everyone’s attention.
Grandad in his bow tie, always askew, sat at the end of the table scowling in his particular way as the lunch was being served watching the small ones, his great-grandchildren run around the room as if it was a playground. Not like in his day where children and seen and not heard.
Uncle Albert, Antarctic explorer, and earthly wanderer had turned up this year to grace us with his presence and regale us with stories that were so far-fetched we were convinced they could not be possibly true.
This year mum’s sister Agnes Mary had prepared the lunch. Agnes Mary was an introverted woman, given to bouts of high anxiety and today was no different. She’d taken on the job of preparing the food as a way of her to deal with her anxiety issues, but sadly the task did little more than exacerbate everything for her. As a result, we were constantly subjected to her apologizing for every little thing. In truth, we were all pleased someone else was doing the prep as it was a big job and I’d seen mum, usually a confident and in control woman reduced to a mumbling mess by the time everyone arrived.
Agnes Mary asked Grandad to say grace which was not the wisest thing to ask as by the time lunch was ready grandad had had more than his fair share of beer and so took on the role of saying grace with a gusto that left all of us embarrassed, to say the least. In a family who prided itself on its Christian morals, hearing Grandad boisterously announce: “Around the gums and through the teeth, look out guts here it comes” was hardly what his sisters, the very reserved Aunts, Ethel and Maud, were expecting to hear from their brother. Both rolled their eyes but refrained from comment, mumbling their own grace before sitting down.
Despite everything the lunch went well, conversation was polite until my older sister’s husband, the business man, Randolph, raised the question of inheritance and who was handling Grandmother’s estate as there was a considerable amount of money tied up in it.
There was a silence around the table, then Grandad spoke up, sounding soberer than at any earlier time, “None of your business, it’s all being taken care of.”
With that, silence descended once again. It was broken by a whinging child who announced he didn’t like broccoli and was placated by his mother who promised him dessert if he ate one mouthful.
Cousins Hugo and Nessa picked at their food, as if afraid it might attack them if they didn’t, they said nothing more and once finished left the table.
Grandad watched them go and remarked, “Families are funny things, they never say anything, but we’d miss them if they weren’t here.”
With that said, he reached for the wine and poured himself a generous amount.