She came to visit, bravely dealing with South Florida traffic and making the almost one hour trek to our home.
There she was in our driveway, in all of her splendor – the lady in red – wearing that bold color on those tresses better than anyone I’ve ever met in my entire life.
She was here for dinner, vacationing from Brooklyn, taking a night to see the family. We were having a few cousins over, all of us in the late forty, early fifty age range (my mother, a septuagenarian was also in the mix) and she, our guest of honor: the twenty-seven year old offspring of another older cousin.
The night was certain to be memorable for her.
I can’t tell which topic at dinner moved her more: Yvonne’s end of year cold that prompted her to sound like a wounded seal, or was it the conversation about arthritis, loss of hair, loose teeth or acid reflux? Perhaps she was equally enthralled when we started discussing the various medical procedures we have all scheduled for this upcoming year? I know that when the talk turned to bunions she went into a virtual reality world all her own, putting on a brave smile and going with the flow.
As we dined on appetizers consisting of bacon-wrapped, maple syrup-dotted brussels sprouts (Yvonne spends way too much time on Pinterest – and her recent cold affected her culinary sensibilities) a simple cheese tray and crusty bread dipped in herb infused olive oil, the lady in red kept her look of amusement consistent, partaking in the conversation as the bottles of red wine kept pouring (note to parental units who may be reading; the child consumed two small glasses before dinner and one during, supplementing with Sprite Zero the entire evening and ending her meal with a cup of coffee).
We jumped from story to story, recounting family history, reliving memories and trashing just a few relatives not present (but always coming from a place of love and concern). She got to see the more biting side of me as I sparred with one of my heart sisters (my cousin Ulises’ wife, who truly should have been related to me since she takes my verbal jabs and handles them with more class than most). I kept reminding Red throughout the night that she was with a pre-geriatric crowd and how exciting it must be for her to be a part of this evening. Again, she shrugged me off and smiled, courageously and resolutely optimistic that this night would soon be over.
She dismissed my self deprecating comments, laughing it off and reminding us that she had an early start and needed to get back, having borrowed a friend’s car to make the visit to our home.
We ended our Rigatoni with Meat Sauce (pronounced sawce) entree with Dulce de Leche Smothered New York Style Cheesecake which Red politely declined, saying she had enough.
I questioned whether the enough was the food, fun and merriment or if the enough was the feeling of sitting in a hospital waiting room listening to the people one up each other on their maladies, prompting her stomach to turn with the anticipation that she would need to hear yet another health woe from one in our crowd. Meanwhile, in between stories, Yvonne kept coughing.
Regardless of where her level of satiation ended, she left us with warm hugs and her contagious laughter. Saying her goodbyes we ended the night and off she went.
Somewhere in the distance I heard a loud noise, akin to a primal, guttural scream.
At first I thought it was the incessant ringing in my ears that has been bothering me lately (must speak with the Doctor about this) but then I realized that it was Red, breathing a loud sigh of relief as she made her way out of our neighborhood, a trooper to the end, she had survived the night and she had survived the night with the future cast of the Cocoon remake.
In fact, for her valiant efforts she deserves to wear a badge of courage over her heart; in her case, a Red badge of courage.