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STEVE FLORES: Monthly sibling dinner keeps brothers and sisters connected

Defying the new world order of Facebook, texting, Instagram, Twitter and other interactive computer-mediated non-personal technologies, all seven of my brothers and sisters, along with their better halves, have dinner once a month. Our ages range from 58 to 75 years young. That’s 14 people who meet in-person, have face-to-face conversation, with hugs and kisses for everyone, with great conversation … all while enjoying a great dinner.

We are blessed we all live in Bakersfield. The only one missing is my brother Andy, who passed several years ago, and his wife Sandy, who lives in Henderson, Nevada.

We credit the original idea of our sibling dinners to our brother-from-another-mother Steve “Flash” Mendez. He first suggested the sibling dinner a year ago to my brothers but offered the idea of a men-only breakfast. My smart brother’s collective years of marriage and intuitive nature of their husband/wife relationship quickly recognized gender inequality and the browbeating and counseling to follow if it were men only.

Flash’s motive stemmed from a sense of family separation. All our individual families were now having families of their own. As life happens and as it should be, we were spending time with our own individual families.

When we do get together for family events, it can be up to 147 of our nieces, nephews, cousins and grandkids. At those times, we are aunts, uncles, grandma and great grandparent. Our alone brother-sister time was disappearing.

Life changes us but memories of our youth growing up generally don’t. I bet my brothers and sisters all have a different version of how my young sister Espie got the scar on her forehead while playing baseball in our backyard. But we all remember playing baseball together.

Each month and in chronological order of our birthdates, one of us picks a new restaurant for our sibling dinner. And the choices vary from Woolgrowers and their spectacular lobster tails and secret sauce to Grandma’s Tamales self-service counter and their delicious homemade Mexican food.

The “organ” recital begins a few minutes after we all sit. How did your appointment go with your heart doctor? What did the doctor say about your sciatic nerve? How is the pain in your shoulder? When is your follow-up for the knee replacement?

No matter how big or small it may seem, family announcements are proudly made. “My grandson just got an offer to play football at Ottawa University in Arizona. Stay tuned for upcoming road trips!” “My 13-year-old granddaughter surfed for the first time last week.” “My high school straight-A granddaughter is already receiving interest from colleges.” “My grandson just got his driver’s license.”

It’s also where we pray together to celebrate being a family. Like all families, we have our blemishes and bruises. In the end, we are brothers and sisters whose once-a-month sibling dinners are a blessing.

My sister Espie said, “I love my brothers and sisters. I want to see them more than once a year and these dinners help us stay connected. It’s time where we can really talk.”

My sister Nancy agrees, “We are brothers and sisters but it’s like we are friends and we keep up more with what’s happening to our kids.” She adds, “Someone once commented that it’s not how large you are that is so impressive but it’s how close you are as a family that is even more impressive.”

How much fun do we have when we get together? The Woolgrowers staff was very patient with us as we were the last customers to leave their restaurant at our last dinner.

I know I am old fashioned in many ways, but to those of you who use interactive computer-mediated technologies as your first choice of communicating with your family, join us for dinner one night and see what you may be missing.

If you are out having dinner next month and you see 14 grown adults laughing, having fun and enjoying each other’s company, it will probably be us. We will probably be the last to leave.

The best gift my mom and dad gave us was each other. I know I am lucky. I love my brothers and sisters and the higher power which continues to bless our family.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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