Disruptive Juxtaposition

Sunday, February 19, 2006

One missing

Yesterday was Nadia "Baba" Lobko's 80th birthday. Today was the celebration. Held at the Newport House in Rochester, NY, it (the celebration) overlooked Irondequoit Bay, which today was a dazzling vista with bald hills across the cool blue water.

Here's the birthday girl. The "surprise" portion of the brunch wasn't the way it is in movies - with the one exception of Big Daddy. Baba seems to be making a Pshaw motion here. It's pretty widely assumed that she knew in advance about the whole family coming in. It wouldn't be the first time. For her 50th anniversary with Pa, she arrived at our house in Camillus - everyone hidden inside, all of the cars parked out of view - in full Russian regalia. Pa was in his Cossack's uniform. Anyone remember how they got wind of that?

Baba's on her way to lay a smooch on you! As Pa, hmmm, does the foxtrot?

I was struck today, as I am increasingly struck, by the fact that my grandparents as individuals are as sharp as they are; also that they as a couple are as much of a functional human unit as it's easy to believe they were on the day they were married...

...but then again I confess that Baba's conspiracy here was to replace Pa's face with the smiley balloon face. I don't know why she'd do that - look at that handsome mug.

This shot is a nice little meeting of the generations. The B&W photo that's been scanned onto the frosting is of Baba circa age 20, and the cake is for the occasion of Baba's 80th birthday, and propped up to examine the confectionary achievement is Alec, one of Baba & Pa's many great-grandkids. Phrases like "many great-grandkids", when they crop up, are good examples of why I experience the aforementioned sensation of being struck.

Further evidence of the amazing ongoing narratives of my grandparents. Clockwise from Alec, who's right above the cake: Max, Shane, Brandon, Kalee, Pa, Aiden, and Baba in the center. (Apologies if there are spelling errors - there shouldn't be, but it's too late in the evening for me to trust myself.)

The original Lobko family.


There's not a photo, as I thought there was, to segue cleanly into the anecdote regarding the title of this post. Tasha presented Baba with a scrapbook she's been working on. It's not finished, although the section with the Lobkos' photographs seems pretty close. Naturally, this section was rife with some excellent pictures of Jon, Jon with Melissa and myself, some with all five of us - excellent if standard family portraiture and event-capture type snapshots. Those of us gathered around Baba seemed hyper-attuned to each other as we flipped through these pages: kind of like a high-noon standoff, everyone kept an eye on the other to see if the other would make a move, i.e. begin to cry. But this isn't about who started crying at what picture, or who's killed whom at the big festival in the castle (Monty Python reference). I will say that the more poignant moment was authored by Baba, who touched one of the photos of Jon and said, after awwwing as we all do over baby and little kid photos, "One missing..." And then sort of... trailed off. I had to get some air after that.


Also. It was around 2:30 pm, during the longwinded standing-around period of departure preparation: everybody putting on coats and gathering keys and diaper bags in some cases. Doesn't it always seem as though this is the period at which conversations become involved and plans for the future become most clarified? This is where I always find myself doing my greater portion of exchanging biography updates and swapping stories: at the end of the occasion. So someone asked me whether or not we - meaning Mom, Dad, myself, Melissa, and Melissa's fiance Adam - would be staying in Rochester for the night. (Melissa and Adam go to school in Rochester.) "No," I said, "Mom and Dad and I came in with Missy and Jon... er, with Missy and Adam... and we'll go back to their school where we dropped off their car..." Et cetera. When I said "Jon," there was a minor downshifted sort of gasp - I don't know whose gasp it was, but it sounded more like surprise than a spontaneous eruption of sadness. And, you know, it's funny. Because I realized exactly what I'd done accidentally, but didn't want to acknowledge it - didn't want to see the verbal slip reflected in the faces of my cousins and therefore made more real. Everyone heard the mistake. I find it very interesting that I made it. The thought occurred to me, also, that I'd been looking / gesturing at Missy and Adam when I said "Missy and Jon." It's not as though Jon's being replaced in any sense of the word. Still, time brings new members into the family's ken, and once again it's not as though they fill in the whole Jon left when he did what he did, but rather these new people help define the shape of that absence by being present for the rest of us.