Monday, November 02, 2009


sur-re-al –adjective
having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic

'Surreal' is the perfect word to describe the experience of attending my cousin's wedding on Sat.

Spouse & I picked up my aunt Mary on our way to the wedding, which was held at a country club. The itinerary called for a 30-minute ceremony, followed by cocktail hour on the veranda, followed by the dinner/reception.

As we entered the foyer Spouse whispered "I see your parents". I could feel my heart rate increase immediately. As aunt Mary finished signing the guest book my mother greeted her with a hug and they began to chat a bit. In the meantime I quickly wrote mine and Spouse's names in the guestbook and then busied myself with asking the young woman handing out programs where the ceremony was being held. She pointed to the area and Spouse & I walked that way immediately.

We ran into a couple named Fran & Dolph who were old family friends and stopped to chat with them for several minutes. Before we could get to the safety of our seats, I saw 3 of my cousins (brothers of the bride) and we greeted each other and chatted for a few minutes. Next thing I knew, an usher was asking us to take our seats as the wedding was to begin shortly. We caught up with aunt Mary at the entrance to the ceremony room and the 3 of us took seats on the bride's side, 2 rows behind my parents and my middle sister and her husband.

Fear of rejection kept me from daring to make eye contact with them, so I pretended to adjust my camera for several minutes, then read the entire wedding program twice over. Finally the music changed and the procession began.

My cousin was stunningly beautiful and radiant. As she and her fiance repeated their vows I secretly wished it were me and Spouse taking wedding vows. The traditional "You may kiss your bride" moment, which has always puzzled me.

After the ceremony ended everyone was escorted to the veranda while the club employees moved the chairs from the ceremony room to the tables in the dining/reception room. Mary, Spouse & I had lovely passed hors d'oeuvres as we waited for the bar line to subside. My cousin Ashley's mother-in-law agreed to take a picture of us.

Mary was talking with some people I didn't know so Spouse suggested I get in the bar line and bring us back drinks, so I did. After introducing myself to two young women in front me in line, I was caught off-guard when my parents appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, drinks in hand. I had not seen them at the bar ahead of me.

Silently reminding myself to relax and be myself, I smiled slightly as they approached. My father smiled and called me by a childhood nickname, which caused my smile to widen. We shook hands and he told me I was looking good. Then in his characteristically quirky way, he gestured toward my mother and said "You remember your mother..." to which I responded evenly "Of course". I kissed her on the cheek and hugged her. I'd forgotten how short they were.

My father shocked me with his next question: "Is that Joe (Spouse) over there?" I turned to confirm it was him, then replied "Yes, that's him." It was amazing enough that my parents were speaking to me and being so friendly, but to then inquire about Spouse? It was almost too much to believe!

"Do you think he'd mind if I said hello to him?" my father asked. Okay, seriously. Who ARE these nice people parading around in my estranged parents' bodies? Describing the situation as 'unbelievable' hardly seems adequate. "No, he wouldn't mind at all" I responded. "Would you like me to call him over?" I offered. "No," my father said nonchalantly, "I know which one he is now". My head was spinning.

Just then, Fran happened to be passing by as my father asked for Spouse. Without missing a beat Fran told Spouse that my father had asked about him, so Spouse walked over and joined our conversation. (I still can hardly believe we were having a "conversation". After 16 years.) My parents shook hands with him and greeted him sincerely. My head was about to explode, or I was having a stroke. There had to be an explanation.

Then my father said "So you moved to Delaware. What prompted that? Were you following a job?" Grateful for the shift to a less emotionally charged subject, I explained our years of visiting the Delaware shore on weekends which lead to our desire to live there. "So, do you still like it?" he asked, to which we both replied affirmatively.

My parents' attention was then stolen by someone else who stopped to chat with them, obviously unaware of the landmark moment they were interrupting. I told Spouse "I'm getting back into the bar line" with added gusto.

A moment later I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to find my middle sister. We smiled at each other in that way a parent does when they send their child off to school for the first time, both happy and sad at the same time. We hugged each other longer than normal, and when we pulled apart she said "Man, its good to see you!"

I just knew that any second the alarm clock would sound and I would be woken from this crazy but pleasant dream. My sister and I talked for a few minutes, but I can not remember what about. It was just so surreal. Spouse saw the reunion and came over to meet my sister, who greeted him sincerely.

It seemed I'd never get to that bar, but eventually I did and I didn't even have time to finish my cocktail before the ushers swooshed us off the veranda and into the dining/reception room. The time just seemed to be flashing by at an abnormally fast pace.

Dinner began with a spicy Thai peanut soup that was so good I could have been happy with a gallon or 2 of it. Next came our entrees. We'd been given a choice when we RSVP'd of beef or crab cakes and Spouse & I had both chose the crab cakes. They were delicious and the presentation of them with the mashed potatoes and autumn veggies was so pretty I took a picture.
After dinner, as the traditional father/daughter dance and bouquet toss occurred, my sister found her way over to our table to hug me again and tell me how much she'd missed me. And while I was happy with such a warm reception from her and my parents, a tiny voice inside me wanted to banish all the happiness and shout at them in anger. I knew their religious beliefs forbid associating with me and others who leave or are kicked out of the religion, and their strict adherence to that was never a surprise to me. But as the hugs and smiles kept coming, part of me wanted to shake them by the shoulders and say "This is how things could be for us all the time!!!"

But I knew they couldn't. I knew that when the festivities were over they would return home and return to the shunning behavior they'd been forced into for the last 16 years. I could scream and I could shake them by the shoulders but it wouldn't help. I knew the night would end and so would this fantasy. There really was no point in ruining it for anyone, including myself.

The wedding cake, in the shape of the Eiffel Tower where the happy couple became engaged, was cut and served.
Everyone danced to the DJ's terrific song selections until he encouraged everyone to surround the newlyweds as they danced their last dance of the night.

Spouse & I made our rounds to all the friends and relatives to say goodnight and bid everyone a safe drive home. As I shook my father's hand and kissed my mother's cheek, there were no invitations to come and visit, just as I had predicted to myself. The night was almost over and my carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin.

Spouse & I had a very nice time at the wedding and reception. I felt grateful to my cousin for inviting us. It was nice to reconnect with my cousins and other non-JW family members. My uncle came all the way from CA. It was even nice to spend that time with my parents and sister. Had they not been so friendly it could have been a long, uncomfortable night of trying to avoid one another.

But as it was, everyone enjoyed themselves and I felt as if I'd been in a fairy tale for 6 hours.

Crush du Jour: Aurelio Marks


Jim-The Gaudy Garden said...

Hooray! I've been holding my breath for two days! I'm so glad it was pleasant for you guys.

A Lewis said...

wow wow wow! Who would have thought! I'm very happy for you guys. That it all came off as it should -- that they spoke to you politely and that you guys made the choice to actually go. Big smile here.

Java said...

Ah, the post I've been waiting for!
Interesting situation, eh? Good on the surface, which translates to generally good for that day, but underneath is that WTF thing. I am really glad that the wedding was pleasant, without any ugly scene or anything.

As for the WTF, that might haunt you for a little while. Hopefully it won't be a big long scary haunt. Good luck, honey!

Sean said...

I'm so happy for you. Wow. I don't know if I could have been so graceful and strong.

Reunion with the family and a successful renovation/addition - what a week!

Zombie Mom said...

Wow!! That is such an amazing story. BTW you two look stunning. Is spouse slimming?

Thanks for sharing it = I have been thinking of you a lot and wondering how it went.

You are utterly graceful and gracious and courageous.

Love to you.

Bob said...

What a lovely day and surprise. The "You remember your mother" line killed me.
And, while they may not have invited you to visit, this was a huge step on their part, and yours, and hopefully it might lead to more. If it does, fabulous, if it doesn't you still had a lovely day.
And that's nice.

Beth said...

Oh Baby!!!! How freakin wonderful is this???!!!! WOWOWOWOWOW! Makes my heart so happy to hear you so happy. You so deserve it Mark and two are a fantastic people and a fantastc couple. I'm so happy for you!

and ya, the line, "you rememebr your mother" cracked me up!!! ;)

tornwordo said...

I don't understand how a parent can shun a child, but I'm glad that the night was pleasant. Major whew.

David Dust said...

I am so glad that your family allowed themselves to break the rules just a little bit, even for a few hours, for their son and brother. In the end, I think it exceeded expectations, which is a good thing.

"Bittersweet" is much better than just "bitter".


behrmark said...

At my 10-year high school reunion, a former classmate said - very wisely - "Time is the greatest equalizer." So true and your story certainly affirms that statement. Whenever the fine line between family and faith gets crossed the outcome - as you're well aware - can have a lifelong impact. I cannot tell you how happy I am for you. You handled the situation beautifully. Kudos to Spouse for being his supportive self. And kudos to your family for realizing that love conquers all. Behr Hugs!

Michael Rivers said...

I felt anxiety reading this because I didn't know what was coming next. I can't imagine this after 16 years. Any chance they will reach out for further communication?

The photos were beautiful. I'm glad the event went so well.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it worked out well for you. It's weird how religious strictures separate families. But even with those strictures you can't stop people from seeing each other. That's what the religions don't get.

With me it's just distance and the fact that my father and I are too much alike though in different ways. We're both stubborn bastards, except he's off on the god trip, and I'm in the full blown atheist trip.

cosign said...

I honestly was thinking about you this weekend wondering if there was drama to be had. I'm glad things went reasonably well with your family. There may be some hope for the future with them. Don't give up hoping, but don't let thinking about it eat you up. It should be one of those "...if it happens, it happens..." situations.

Take care...

Larry Ohio said...

Mark, I'm so happy for you and relieved that things went so well. Could this be but the beginning?

Anonymous said...

Dealing with my mother on a daily basis, I was a bit hesitant to read this post but am glad I did.

I can tell you from experience that sometimes parents can come around to accepting...on their own terms and at their own glacial pace.

Big hugs to you and the spouse and may this be the beginning of a new relationship with your folks.

Kyle said...

Mark, I'm really happy that you two had your fairy tale night. I had hoped the reunion would turn out swell, but you never know how people will act. Savor the moments you had like a rare, fine wine. You deserved every moment.

Jeff said...

What a great tale! You handled the situation admirably, and yoru parents didn't do too bad either! Congrats!

Bugsy said...

Wow. This almost had me in tears.

Just a bit of advice, you can't change the past, you can only change the future. Don't dwell on what could have been as that gets you nowhere!

Glad the wedding went well. Hopefully, more familial interactions will occur. One can hope!

Steven said...

I recall a previous post and how you were a bit nervous how things would pan out...and if you should attend at all. So great to hear of the great time that you had and the cordial relationship with Mom and Dad.

Kevin said...

What an incredible 6 hour moment. I had a little lump in my throat while reading that.

Not sure what to say about any of it except thank you for sharing it with the world.

I can't wait for the time when your "backstory" becomes a thing of the past.