Holiday meals with my family usually include an empty setting at the table. That place is not there to honor someone who has passed away or a member of the military who is stationed overseas and couldn’t make it home for the holidays. It is reserved for a family member, my brother, who comes to all our family celebrations, usually bearing gifts he made himself. He actively participates in most of the festivities and is full of spirit for whatever occasion we happen to be celebrating. But he never sits down to eat with us.
My brother has a thought disorder which makes it hard for him to express himself clearly. For years we encouraged him to join us at the table, but he always declines, sitting out the meal in an adjoining room. Sometimes we are tempted to skip the family tradition of the empty place setting. The table can get crowded, and chairs are at a premium. But my mother insists on setting the place, and rightly so.
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