First, from our friends at xkcd, a comment on complicated parties:
On Sunday I had the joy of adding a brother-in-law to my family, watching my kid sing karaoke, being conveniently available to assist in a variety of last-minute emergencies, and watching a ceremony with equal parts levity and warmth, packed with the love of family and friends. Zoe and Eric, you guys have been married in all but name for years, and everyone in attendance was well aware of that; in fact my brief scans of the crowd from my back-row vantage (I was an usher) showed no expressions of "good luck", "I hope they make it" or any form of anxiety, but rather "it's about time", "I'm looking at the perfect couple", things like that.
I spent my downtime over the weekend swimming, holding babies, climbing on the park's big-toy with Scout, painting a section of a mural, playing badminton, escorting a stray preschooler back to his mom, and scoring an invite to the final theme party at Ashley's (July 25th, I believe it was). The emergencies were varied, including carrying a helium tank and boxes full of glass jars, pushing in thumbtacks, and driving around a lot to get food, drink, cups, and a pair of shoes. Somewhere in there I found time to snag a card at a gas station with which to write a quick note and include our meager wedding present. My ushering was informal, consisting of scooting the balloon guy over a couple feet, clearing a lane for Grandma Lois, and some psychological urgings to the back-row types that they should sit closer to the front.
By the end of the night, I found myself physically and emotionally drained. I downed a few beers and a glass of the local spodi (or "hooch", where I come from), made some idle conversation, threw some wood on the fire, played with a very hyper 2 year old obsessed with having me help her reorganize the log pile, and at midnight parted with my wife, who was still having a good time, to go crash.
Only, I didn't crash. I alternated between staring at the ceiling and tossing and turning for the next three hours, angry and sad for reasons that don't make sense now, but were very clear at the time. Eventually little Scout, asleep beside me, started to stir, meaning I was probably flopping around or sighing too much, or something, so I got back up. I walked back out to the campfire, where only a few people remained, including my wife, Eric, Ashley, a stand-up comic vehemently complaining about "wizard's sleeve" in profane terms, and a very stoned man stoically devouring a hamburger.
I didn't really feel any emotion then, it was very odd, very surreal. I wasn't at peace, nor was I depressed, disgusted or enraged, I just felt nothing - a condition I was accused of often when I was younger. I just stood there staring at the fire, unmoving, not reacting to the jokes or banter. Liberty saw that something was off, and, loving wife that she is, came to my side to support me. She took me back to bed, nestled between me and Scout, and after a few minutes I felt better. I put my arm around them both; Liberty sleepily grinned, and Scout grabbed one of my fingers with her hand, and let out a little contented sigh. All was right with the world.
The next morning we stopped at the diner up the street from the campgrounds and I had breakfast with my wife and daughters, the bride, her new son-in-law Gabe, her mom, her sister Dominique and the other family from Vermont: strong and supportive Willie, a fellow martyr, lovely Sequoia, a songbird's voice, with smiles for everyone she sees, and frisky Arlo, all boy. We dined and talked, and bid our farewells, and as I did a final re-organizing of our luggage, I thought about staring at the campfire when I was feeling empty, and what I said when Liberty walked over to me, lovingly held my arm, and asked me if all the noise was keeping me up.
I answered "No, I just..." and then 100 vicious replies danced through my head. I wanted to complain about my hatred of being an outsider, about my jealousy of the affection everyone has for Eric, about being lonely in the cabin, the usual injured little boy complaints on the unfairness of it all. But here was my wife, who just went through a bigger ordeal than I did, who was involved with much of the wedding's planning and setup, who as maid-of-honor just had 150 people staring at her, her personal nightmare, who had to manage getting her self, her sister, and 4 year old Scout all dressed and made up before the ceremony, who, despite loving her sister enough to stay up until 3am in celebration, who despite all that saw me looking a little out of sorts, and came to me. "No, I just..." and then I found I had no complaints, and my sentence just trailed off.
So as I re-packed, I thought about how lucky I was to have found this family, how well they've all treated me, how thoroughly they've tried to include me and how welcome they've tried to make me. Thanks for the love, guys, I feel it now. My inner injured little boy has picked himself up and dusted off his skinned knee, and is ready to go play again - for the first time in years.
So, Zoe and Eric, enjoy your continued life together. I hope the only thing that changes is that you'll manage to find a way to grow even closer... and I leave you with this, as I punned at the reception and posted as a Facebook thought of the day:
All the Allerding girls now have the correct husbands, and there are three men ready to mess your shit up if you cross any of them. So watch your step.
The Last Bridge.
13 hours ago