Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Wedding Invitation

G'ma and I are going to a family wedding. She's met the groom, my first cousin's son, but she doesn't remember where or when. Actually, to say that she's met him is an exaggeration. What she actually said was, “I must have met him sometime, don't you think?” Ah, yes, welcome to our world.

A Save the Date card arrived in the spring; it had no last names anywhere. The picture of the happy couple afforded us no clues, either. TBG and I were stumped. Visiting G'ma and finding a similar card on her coffee table helped my synapses to snap together and make the family connection. We laughed about it for a long time. The invitations followed in due course, one to each of our homes. It was decision time – should we go?

It's an easy flight from Tucson's tiny airport to LAX's long concourses, but Southwest will push G'ma in style while I follow dutifully behind, toting the walker and the carry-ons and the medicine. We're arriving a few hours before the ceremony and we're only staying overnight, so there shouldn't be too much to carry. Of course, I am packing for a woman who managed to fill the trunk of the car with necessities for an afternoon at the beach, so we may well be checking a valise. Time will tell.

For now, I'm enjoying the tumult the event is creating within my family of origin. My cousin, the groom's father, is divorced from the groom's mother. It was an amicable separation to those of us on the outside; she even returned to the family fold to nurse his father during a difficult death. Why?
I always liked Ob; in fact, I liked him more than I liked your cousin."  All that changed when she reopened the alimony issue long after they broke up and the kids were grown. It was ugly and expensive, as these things are, and my cousin can't bring himself to say her name aloud these days. All this was made clear to me over the phone, in response to my email that I would be attending the wedding, G'ma in tow.

The phone call itself is a notable event. We've exchanged emails and seen each other at other family gatherings, but our lives don't intersect beyond that. He's not an easy man, though I think his intentions are good. After thanking me for coming he told me that G'ma and I had chosen the nicest hotel, but that he couldn't stay there because the ex-wife might be there and he had almost decided to avoid the whole thing rather than see her.... but he loves his son..... but she is evil and …..he hadn't spoken to his sister in 10 months because her husband had been much too nice to the ex-wife at their other son's wedding. I was there representing
his side of the family, wasn't I? He just wanted me to remember that fact.

The outpouring of venom, of pain, the vitriol of barely controlled rage was remarkable even from this man who is angry or aggravated or peeved most every day. But this is supposed to be a happy time, isn't it? A time of joining, of enlarging the family circle, of expanding the boundaries of love and devotion. Okay......
"I'm not promising to be rude to anyone, Cuz," was my somewhat tentative reply.

My family has a tendency to forget warm and loving piece of these kinds of celebrations. The whole scene reminded me of my own grandmother's reaction to the news that I was marrying TBG, a Protestant by birth. With a scowl and a grimace and several extremely loud grunts, she announced that she would never acknowledge the marriage, nor would she attend the ceremony. In a moment of stunning clarity, I realized that it made no difference to me. I was making a wise choice, and she was in no position to deny my happiness. So, I had Daddooooo drive me to her apartment. I locked us in her bedroom, with Daddooooo on the other side of the door, and I told her that she was welcome but not required to attend. The wedding was happening with or without her. And, by the way, did she think that my grandfather, her husband, who'd loved me better than all the other grandchildren combined (it's true, and fodder for another post) was looking down from heaven and feeling glad that his wife was trying to ruin my big day? I doubted that very much. “And so, Grandma, come, don't come, whatever you want to do is fine with me. But I'm getting married on Sunday. I know Daddy would love to have you join us. Let him know if he should pick you up.”

My father had been pounding on the door, screaming at me that my words were going to kill her, but the old broad was tougher than that. She scowled when I left the room, but she showed up for the party. I wish I could find my wedding album so that you could see her, wrinkled face scrunched up into a walnut, displeasure oozing out of every pore, but there. I was glad, for my father's sake, and for the opportunity to avoid the drama her absence would have occasioned. I wish she could have smiled, but that just wasn't her style.

Nor, it seems, is it my cousin's style. There's a need to put one's own drama at the center of another's celebration that is vaguely unseemly. Attention should be focused on the couple......who have the same initials ….. jAm ….. it's a nice monogram, don't you think? We should be smiling at the fact that people are flying in from all over America, just to see them wed. The black and shiny hot pink invitations were as unusual as any I've seen; why weren't we talking about that?

When I told G'ma about the phone call, she looked at me out of the corner of her face (it's more than just the corner of her eyes.... the entire musculature moves.... if she weren't so camera shy it'd be viral on YouTube) and asked me to remind her when we got there because she knew she'd never remember it on her own.  And then we both laughed. It's a family thing.