I measure the distance between extended family in states rather than miles. The lone exception, my brother Ned, lives in another part of Indiana.
A year apart, we played together like twins until I started school, where he acknowledged my existence only by a raised eyebrow.
Fortunately, he no longer regards sisters as threats to his manhood. We phone occasionally, but not often enough. I recall several years ago when we met halfway between our homes for breakfast.
We chose a mom-and-pop establishment, where we could indulge in illegal eggs over easy, crispy bacon and infinite cups of curl-your-hair coffee. Or the mortal sin of biscuits with gravy.
Entering, I saw no sign of Ned. As I walked toward a vinyl booth, I expected — and received — the who-are-you-stranger? once-over.
Homeland Security should catch onto this resource, one that could revolutionize national safety procedures. We don’t need metal detectors or X-rays. If the government would pay a tableful of these locals to drink coffee at security points, no terrorist in his right mind would try to get past their scrutiny.
Born and raised in rural Indiana, I knew I’d broken the rules. No woman eats breakfast alone in a strange town. As a sweet-faced waitress brought me blessed coffee, I pulled out my Bible and read while I waited. Eye-lasers clicked off one by one. Their owners swiveled back to their breakfasts. They gave Congress and the weather their morning cussing and analyzed high school basketball with an expertise that would put ESPN out of business.
Until my brother walked in. Immediately, the force field returned. As Ned headed toward my booth, question marks formed in the air, visible as if smokers had blown them.
“Good to see ya, Sis!” Ned trumpeted. He knew the rules, too.
The diners returned to their vivisection of basketball referees, as the waitress took our order. She brought us waffles, eggs and ham. Biscuits and gravy.
With bowed heads, we asked God to bless the cholesterol. Our words filled and warmed us as much as the steaming, delicious food. We solved our kids’ problems (if they would just listen!). We cheered the utter perfection of our grandchildren.
All too soon, our separate worlds called to us. We promised to connect sooner next time.
Before we separated, I demanded a hug, just to give the town conversation material for the next few weeks.
Ned’s eyebrow went up. But the hug happened.
It can’t happen today, in 2020.
But after this blasted COVID crisis ends, I’ll collect every one of those hugs that have piled up in the meantime.
Even if he raises the other eyebrow.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom do you want to hug post-COVID?