Friday, July 25, 2008

A Grey Wedding

Walking down Michigan Avenue, my father’s fiancée comments that she may come up to Chicago to buy her wedding dress. “Don’t worry,” she whispers to me, “I’m not going to wear white.”

“At least you’re honest.” What else can I say to a sixty-four-year-old retired school teacher? A born-again Christian who told my father, a never-born Christian, to be baptized or she wouldn’t say Yes, Sarah is a woman who screams Middle America Grandma in the knickknack, homemade sweater kind of way.

I look at her and, though my parents have been divorced and ignoring each other for the past twenty-two years, I feel like screaming, “You’ll never replace my mother!”

Sarah knows that, though. She knows other things as well. She knows that there are family grudges and pains that she will never be able to smooth. She knows that I have siblings who don’t talk to other siblings and cousins I’ve never met. Sarah is joining our family and I fear “For Better or Worse” is in bold print on the marriage vows.

My father, a man who will probably be found dead at his desk, seems to have calmed down over the few years I’ve know him. I assume, like other members of my family, that it’s directly because of the death of his own father last year. Sixty-five is an age when mortality really begins to sink its teeth into your neck. Especially when you’re now the oldest member of the clan.

Dad is someone who shouldn’t be called Dad by his own admission. I decided to slap him with the olive branch when I was eighteen and what has developed is a friendship between two adults. Two adults with a forty-year age gap. We find each other amusingly bizarre. He is the youngest member of his district’s Lions Club (average age is 76) and volunteers to park cars in people’s yards during the Indy 500. When I showed up to his office with a barbell in my eyebrow, he actually sneered. We now have calmed down to pleasant, honest conversation and no longer try to antagonize one another.

But, Dad is getting married. In the year they’ve been dating, he has actually left his desk for longer than a day. He’s gone on trips out of state and laughs constantly, baring his upper teeth like a hungry man in front of a hamburger.

Sarah has asked me to stand with her at the wedding. Sarah is the one who convinced my dad to visit me in Chicago, allowing a chance to accept my live-in boyfriend and his tattoos. Dad can now deal with my irrational work schedule and short hair and city bicycling because, hell, I’m still going to do it anyway.

“He’s gone crazy,” is how my brother puts it. Which is the greatest of compliments--this change of a man who swore he never would. Mostly, we just can’t figure him out anymore. Which is awesome.

I look forward to the wedding. Forward to standing at the altar beside his new bride and trying not to imagine the honeymoon.

“We’re going to Aruba,” Sarah whispers to me, continuing our walk through the busy city. The sun has set and we’re headed back to my place. I settle into the back of the car and, again, try not to imagine the honeymoon. Or my dad’s bathing suit choice. I’m just glad he’s swimming.

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