Saturday, November 24, 2001

It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I haven't posted since Wednesday. It's been an emotional and important few days with my in-laws, and I'm going to see if I can describe some of what's been going on, without invading their privacy too much.

My sister-in-law (my wife's younger sister) has been estranged from their parents for about six or seven years. Until this last Wednesday, it had been nearly three years since they'd even been in the same room. She lives about half-an-hour from us, in Santa Cruz. The parents live down in Malibu (about 400 miles). We (Leslie & I) have been in touch with her sister all along, and have in some situations been stuck in the middle, messenger, position.

The sister and parents began communicating again by letter only a few months ago (before 9/11). After 9/11, Leslie and I decided to try inviting all of them to have Thanksgiving with us, just to see if we could get them altogether.

The sister declined the Thanksgiving invitation, but it led to two invitations from her: For us all to have brunch in Santa Cruz with her on Wednesday, before Thanksgiving, and for the parents to join her at her counseling session on Friday (yesterday) to discuss their problems.

We were all nervous going into Wednesday's brunch, but it went very well, and by the end everybody seemed genuinely relaxed and pleased to be with each other. This was the first time the sister and the parents had been together in nearly three years, and their first communication that wasn't by short, written notes. As we left the cafe, the sister sounded very sincere as she apologized for not being able to join us on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Leslie, her parents, one of friends with no local family, and I all had a great Thanksgiving dinner with much laughter, but the Friday session was, of course, on our collective minds.

Leslie & I drove her parents back to Santa Cruz on Friday and dropped them off at the counseling session. We drove out to West Cliff, overlooking the beach, and spent that very long hour watching the surfers. When we met them again, outside the counselor's, the three of them looked like a family again, and were continuing to talk, and even smile.

We first all went to the sister's house (the parents had never seen it), then to the Saturn Cafe, where we sat, talked, laughed, had a small snack, and just hung out together, as a family, for a couple of hours beyond the scheduled meeting.

Today's plan was for the sister to come over here, to Los Gatos, to meet us all for brunch - an additional meeting, not in the original plan. Right now, however the rain is coming down in buckets and there's a powerful wind, so I'm not sure if she'll make it. It's only 25 miles from here to Santa Cruz, but the mountainous stretch of Highway 17 that separates us earned its nickname "The Haunted Highway" from people crossing it in weather like this. Hopefully, it will let up in the next hour or two and allow this reunion to continue.

Whether or not we do all get together today, the last few days have been an historic event for the family. It doesn't solve all the problems, but it makes broad steps towards a reconciliation that has, at times, seemed an impossible dream. And that's my Thanksgiving story.

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