(Follow up to Aggressive Ambivalence. More to come)
I embarked on this trip to Minnesota because of a wedding.
Over the years many of my (our)trips have been because of wedding, funerals…big life events. Thats pretty natural I guess; when someone goes away, in this case Tom, the reasons for returning have to be pretty good.
This wedding was a pretty good reason for me. The groom was Tom’s younger brother’s son, and his (my, our) favorite nephew. The kid is hysterical, really, always has been, and Tom took particular delight in him.
So when his brother called and told me the wedding was coming I began to make plans. My son was originally coming with me, and it was disappointing to me, to everyone, when his new job kept him from the trip (Life!). But I was determined to go, and when I found out it was the weekend before the 4th of July I immediately emailed my sister-in-law. She hosts the 4th at her lake cabin (read:mansion. The place should have it’s own gift shop). I am writing from there now.
(Digression: the house just refilled with a bunch of people back from town, a lot of children waking from naps….this started in quiet and now it’s havoc. And you know..I love it!)
Anyway. I invited myself up to stay for the weekend and my little trip turned into almost 2 weeks, with lots of plans and fun.
OK, so let’s talk about the wedding.
The couple did that wonderful thing of getting a block of rooms at a local hotel and so when I got there, and the whole weekend, I was in the midst of family. There were 7 new children who I had not ever met (big Catholic family-ville!) and so it was lively.
The wedding was lovely. I had never met the bride and I am enamored. She has the personality to put up with my crazy nephew, to love him, and they will be very happy…I can just tell.
The wedding was LONG! god….Catholic weddings. About everything BUT the wedding couple, but I digress.
Let’s talk about the reception.
It was going swimmingly, except for the part where I couldn’t eat any of the food (seriously, fried foods, bread; thank god for the Whole Foods in the area that I could buy from and hide for my own personal consumption.)
Another digression: on the first night here at the cabin I was very grateful that I had brought the remains of a salad I had made the night before I left Minneapolis. Because I was a dick about it, and at least I had that while the rest of them chowed down on garlic bread, pasta and ranch dressing staples)
OK, no more digressing. This one was hard…. beauty and terror (remember that Rilke quote?:
“LET EVERYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU.
BEAUTY AND TERROR.
JUST KEEP GOING.
NO FEELING IS FINAL.”
So, dinner is done, toasts have been made, glasses constantly tinkling to get the happy couple to kiss and it’s time for the first dance.
Now, for the last half hour I had been talking to Tom’s sister’s husband, my bro-in-law. He just celebrated 5 years of sobriety. I knew this because no one else is sober and knows anything about anonymity. Anyway, I outed myself to him and we were just waxing poetic about how good the sober life is. You’ve all heard it before and so many of you are experiencing it, right? It was great to have that commonality of language. I had no desire to drink, and haven’t this entire time. Grateful. But it was a really nice conversation.
Just as we are talking, my nephew rises. He starts with a special toast to all of those who could not be at the wedding for various reasons. Now, I’m not stupid, I knew what was coming, and I braced myself, which is what I do. And when he talked about the dead grandparents I stayed braced. Then he turned to Tom. Just Tom. Gotta say the bracing was loosening fast. He spoke of how much he and the whole family loved and missed him, he talked about how awesome he was, how he wrote and acted and sang and really went on.
I digress: You know, I hate surprises. Everyone knows that about me. I mean a sweet little surprise is ok, but do not catch me off guard. The idea of a surprise was ruined for me when my husband dropped dead….no more surprises!. Seriously.
At this point I was a little teary. My Bro-in-law reached over and grabbed my hand, and that was so sweet. And then my nephew announced a “surprise” that no one knew about except for his bride, and my heart stopped. And the next thing I knew, piping through the DJ’s sound system (I’m seriously tearing up right now), was the sound of my beloved’s voice, loud and strong and gorgeous, singing a mash up of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and “NeverNeverLand” from Peter Pan. (Yeah, I’m teary…).
Beauty and Terror. Did I mention I hate surprises? And did I mention that just prior to the song coming on, my nephew pointed me out in the crowd, so I had no where to go, no escape. And did you know that I always tend to go for a joke? Because I leaned in to my bro-in-law, sobbing at this point and said “You know, I could really use a drink right now!”.
I stuck it out. Even when the couple got up and danced their first dance to his singing. I sucked it up and sat there.
When the song was over I excused myself and went to the ladies room and locked myself in a stall. And cried a lot.
When I composed myself and emerged from the stall the females of the family were all in the bathroom looking for me, and it was so sweet and comforting and I was so grateful. By this time the terror had switched to the beautiful, because it really was. Such a loving gesture, such a testament to the bond that those two had and such a wonderful reminder of, and introduction to, the person who’s presence was the most missed in that room by so many of us.
Ambivalent, aggressively or no, I am not. But I still, and always, will hate surprises.