As Corey and I were leaving the funeral home last month after paying respects to our Grandpa Kelly, the idea of having a family dinner with our dad and Grandma Kelly was tossed around. She has never met Chooch and expressed an interest in doing so. It seemed like it would be a nice idea, since she had just lost her husband of 60+ years. Sometimes kids can do wonders for the grieving process.
And I’ll be honest, seeing her that day made me realize that I had missed her, and that I was kind of an asshole for not trying harder to stay in contact with someone who lives in the same neighborhood as me.
Jesus, what the fuck is wrong with me.
I made sure Corey kept reminding our dad to set something up, and finally the date of September 26th was set. I was under the impression it would be me and Chooch, Corey, our dad and our Grandma Kelly. But yesterday afternoon, Corey sent a text informing me that our Uncle Bruce and his awkward wife had been added to the guest list, along with our other brother Ryan. I was “eh” about Bruce and Judy, but happy that Ryan would be able to attend. I barely get to see him and we used to be pretty close when we were younger.
Chooch and I arrived at the Galleria promptly at 5:15 and I immediately cursed myself for being punctual to something my dad, who suffers from chronic tardiness, was attending. We sat on a bench waiting for my dad to arrive.
A minivan parked nearby and I casually watched the backdoor open and a young guy emerge. Then a tall, model-skinny girl. Then it dawned on me that this was my dad’s younger brother Kevin’s family.
“Motherfucker,” I mumbled as I watched my Uncle Kevin, Aunt Joyce, cousins Brian (14 maybe?) and Kristen (21), and Kristen’s boyfriend Joey approach.
“Katie’s on her way!” Kevin announced to me after I introduced Chooch to everyone, who was so overwhelmed he was practically trying to re-enter my uterus.
I barely know my cousins, but Kevin and Joyce were around a lot when I was younger, so I’m not too uncomfortable around them. Still, it would have been nice to know the whole brood was coming. Apparently this was such a Big Deal that Katie came home from college to attend.
My Grandma Kelly, Bruce and Judy were already inside Mitchell’s Fish Market, so I reluctantly followed Kevin and his herd into the restaurant.. We had a private room with one long table in the middle, and I was faced with the torturous task of finding the least awkward chair to claim. I settled for one next to my Aunt Joyce, who has always struck me as the most laid back of the Kellys. Thankfully Corey arrived soon after with my dad and Ryan, who sat across from me. I was happy to have familiar faces to look at.
Under the table, I read a text from Corey that asked, “What the fuck, is this like a family reunion??”
Poor Chooch was practically eaten alive by Grandma Kelly and Bruce’s wife Judy. He was gifted with a large Tonka truck and some Halloween witch thing that is super obnoxious and kitschy, which has always been Grandma Kelly’s m.o. When I was a kid, there was a store near her house called Labamba’s Variety or something, but we all called it the junk store. She would take Ryan and I there and we would go crazy, loading up our baskets with pure, unadulterated crap. I had quite the snow globe collection thanks to the junk store.
Now it’s some shitty car detailing shop.
Chooch got his own private booth to play in, and I was sort of surprised when Kristen joined him. Her boyfriend Joey also really took to Chooch, and I was glad that people were paying attention to him so I could enjoy a meal in peace.
Grandma Kelly brought some old pictures with her to pass around, including what appeared to be a page out of a scrapbook full of old photos of Ryan and me.
“Sorry Corey, you’re not in any of these,” I said snidely as I passed it over to him. This prompted him to vocalize his ages-old concern that he was adopted.
Apparently, there was a little article about my Grandpa Kelly in one of the papers after he died; Kevin had the foresight to make copies for everyone.
I wasn’t very close to the guy, but the fact that someone took the time to write this for the paper makes me realize he must have been pretty cool.
Meanwhile, Chooch had quickly found himself on a first name basis with our waitress, barking demands for chocolate milk and haughtily asking, “Do they at least have chicken?” Everyone at the table kept laughing at his charm, but I was praying that he wouldn’t start swearing. Especially after my dad was encouraging him to say, “Where the hell is my chocolate milk?”
He did talk candidly about zombies and Michael Myers, though. That was awesome.
I can’t remember what Corey was saying here, but it wasn’t anything that called for as much intensity as he’s providing here. I feel like we were just talking about some kind of cheese?
Always good to see Ryan. Corey calls him “The Other.” Ryan was my horror movie buddy growing up. I can’t watch “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” without thinking of him.
Yeah, it was a little awkward at first, and I was overwhelmed that every single person in the family showed up, but overall it was a really nice evening and it kind of felt good to feel like I was a part of a family, since my mom’s side clearly could give or take me. And they all freaking loved Chooch, so that negated some of my black sheepness.
Sucks that it took someone dying to get us all together.