Loud breakfast

I don't do Christmas any more, so I missed the family gathering over what's tragically called the holidays. My guess is, that's why several folks who rarely come to the bi-weekly breakfast showed up this morning.

The count was 14, an all-time breakfast record. Love 'em all, but we took up two tables and it was too many people, too loud, too much.

I made an effort to be sociable, but spoke almost only with the people at my table. The other table was out of my hard-of-hearing earshot, so Mom, my sister Katrina, and one of my adult nephews and his kids were barely part of my breakfast.

To my left was my old pal Leon. We never talk politics or religion, and he's a big sports fan and I'm not, but we have a lot of history and a shared sense of humor, and he's probably my best friend who's still alive. Sorry, Bruno and especially Joe, but being alive is important to a friendship.

To Leon's left was my brother Clay. For several days he'd been peppering me with texts and second-hand messages via Leon and my mom, trying to arrange a conference call with him, Leon, me, and Mom.

Which is weird. Everyone in the family knows — or should know — that I hate the phone, keep the ringer off, never check messages, and use my phone only for texting. To be sure, I've explained this to Clay over and over. Plus, he hadn't answered when I texted back, "What is it we need to talk about?"

To Clay's left was Katrina's lifelong friend, Adelle, and she and I were able to trade a few sentences via long distance. Fifty years ago, Adelle was Katrina's very pretty friend in high school, and I had a crush on her, of course. But I was just Katrina's annoying kid brother, never stood a chance, and Adelle wanted nothing to do with me. Since I moved back to Seattle in 2022, she's been coming to the family breakfasts, and we've become kinda-pals, which feels like an accomplishment. All these years later, my sister's pretty friend is finally willing to smile at me, and talk to me.

To my right sat my brother Dick, who's always full of inanities, sports talk, and dumbass politics. "My brother-in-law had to move back to Korea, because he couldn't survive in Sleepy Joe Biden's starvation economy." And he told me everything about the Seahawks and Huskies and the bowl games and quarterback rankings, though I've told him before and told him again that football bores me.

Dick's talky, so Dick talked, and because of our large crowd, he talked very, very loudly — even when he was speaking to me, seated perhaps 24 inches from his mouth.

And as always, he was borderline rude to the waitstaff. He didn't order off the menu, instead creating special and quite complicated orders for him and his wife, then asked five minutes later to change their orders, and never said please or thanks. He also, in what was at least his fifth visit to Mrs Rigby's Diner, forgot again that they only take cash, and complained about "their stupid cash-only rule" after borrowing funds from family around the table, same as the last time he showed up for breakfast.

To Dick's right was his wife Young-sook, who's strange and also Korean, and speaks about a dozen words of English. We high-fived a few times — something new she's recently picked up — and smiled at each other, and that's about it.

Clay, Leon, and I spoke of baseball, old times, old friends, and dead friends, and it was a nice conversation. I asked Clay what he'd wanted to have a conference call about, and he said, "Nothing in particular, and now we've had the conference call in person."

And Dick, man. He's the person in my immediate family I find hardest to connect with, but it's not because of his sports talk and dumbass politics. It's the inanities — to almost anything anyone says, Dick tells jokes and puns that were stale in grade school.

He recently saw the Vienna Boys' Choir, and told us all about it, but referred to them as the Vienna Sausage Choir every time. He plays the trombone so he says he's a tromboner — a joke he's been telling for fifty years, and he has a hundred old jokes just as funny. He told them all at breakfast, loudly, while sitting close enough to tap my shoulder, which he did whenever I spoke with anyone else.

To the people at our family's second table, I occasionally waved, occasionally shouted. But after we'd all eaten breakfast, a few Hollands said goodbye, and the diner lost half its decibels when Dick and Young-sook left. Six of us consolidated at one table, and there came a sweet moment with my mom.

She of course wanted to know all about my new job, so I said a few sentences about it, but it's taking forty hours plus twenty bus rides every week, so it's the very last thing I want to talk about on the weekend.

And bizarrely, when I said this to Mom, she changed the subject. I wanted to hug her, and I did.


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