Closets

This past weekend was another weekend of going through Mom’s numerous closets deciding what stays and what goes. Every decision seems monumental. Every forgotten discovery the latest adventure. Discussion, ponder, story, discussion, more pondering, another story. Decision made? I’m not sure. Will this go to another closet or out into the already cluttered garage of second opinions? Her post-storied opinion, for later. Repeat.

See, Mom is sentimental. She collects things, lots of things with personal value or a unique story behind it. Then I picked “the one” up. Peculiar. Heavy without any weight. The latest frame of pictures and portraits below. “Umm, Mom! Who on Earth are these people?” I yelled. “Is there something I don’t know?” in a puzzled curious tone. “What!” she yelled back from down the hall. “Is there something you haven’t told us?

Lost Side of Family

Unknown family collage from the closet

I don’t know what you are talking about!” she screamed back. “Right, a perfect answer” whispering under my breath. I decide I should quickly pullout my phone, snap a picture or five, maybe it was eight, and have evidence for any unforeseen future inquiries… like DNA. Any sleuthing closet-cleaner worth his gumption would do the same!

Mom arrives, “What are you yelling about?” I turn the mysterious family photos to her “WHO — are — these — people, and why are they tucked in the back of the closet!?” as I glare at her. Cue the music soundtrack…

Fade camera-shot of Mom, her mind travels back in time. Me asking lots of questions, one or two prying, wrenching, and adding commentary… the story begins.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ § ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
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Would this possibly be” I began, eyes squinted… “the lost side of the family?” My mind raced, wondering what else I might find buried in other closets. Things whispered about. Details sketchy. Silence when little ears from younger generations approach. Yep, I’ve seen it all before. As we near our final stage in life, many feel the need to get things off their chest. Finding relief, solace, truth, and a clear conscience often starts with closet doors!

Mom’s breathing became nervous, labored. “I guess now is as good a time as any, huh?” My expression was blank, unsure what to say, what to think. The air was thick, so thick that it was hard to breath thickly, let alone wonder where did I come from. Where am I going?

Ethan's Aunt Outta-Here AudieWe started with my son’s aunt, Aunt “Outta-here” Audie. Most friends of the family thought she was highly athletic for a girl her age. She stood out from other girls and boys at school and on the baseball diamond. “Your son gets his baseball talent from him… I MEAN HER!” she quickly corrected. The Ozarks in Tennessee have many renown ball-players from remote hilltop, small-town families, she continued. “But I thought all of our family was either in Texas or Ohio?” She sighed, “Some things from way up in the hills and deep in the woods require… discretionary reframing.

Really. Isn’t that like… lying? Or at the very least… Congressional lobbying?

A bit confused I asked “Okay, then how does Rocky Top, Tennessee fit in to all this?” A grin stretched across her face and out came “Remember I was a flight attendant. Flight attendants get around, meet many fun flyers, and pilots.” Ahh, as the cogs are spinning in my head, “That clears up a lot of things.” I want to know about the woman in the big Kentucky Derby hat.

Aunt Mata Hari Pearl & Madame Prudence below

Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl (top) and Madame Prudence

And is this woman of the family a lady of the night or day?” Mom giggles, “No, no, no. That’s Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl and Madame Prudence below her.” Obviously I was close with my educated guess. Should I ask about them? Why would names like that be the least bit intriguing, right? “So… the two cancel out each other or balance each other?” Mom rolls her eyes, “Stop your accounting methods! They both have their gifted ways of civil duties.” Who was the more popular of the two I asked myself. Experience has taught me when to verbalize questions and thoughts, and when not to. This seemed to be one of those times. But wait, I did have a question!

Which one was a flight attendant?

Depends what airline you flew for.” she answered half-serious. She would know too. In the 1970’s Mom worked for an airline where the stewardesses wore very short shorts, white go-go boots, and snug blouses, under a snug thin vest, and which prided itself on love, because they were based at Dallas Love Field, of course. Or was it “in love”? “In some cases it depended on who you were flying with… on private jets, like with a huge T on the tail.” Oh yes, those jets. “Stands for Trump, right?” She waved her hand at me, “No! Testosterone!” She paused, “Or is it Tonnage?

Tiny? Testicles?

Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at their Wisteria Lane home

Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at Wisteria Lane home

We moved to the next hidden-now-found family members, Earnest and Gabrielle Cleaver with their young son Dexter (Morgan?). They seemed like the perfect suburbia couple with a very cheerful boy. “Well, at least they look pretty normal.” I told Mom. But looks can be deceiving as the cliché goes. “Yes, that’s true” she answered in a dejected tone, “until Dexter became a teenager.” I asked her what she meant. “We always thought Dexter’s fondness for knives was a boy being a boy, or the makings of a great chef.” Sure, or maybe a master outdoorsman, hunter, or…

Then one day Mrs. Cleaver opened Dexter’s toy-trunk. Inside were all his past dolls, but not as whole dolls!” What in the world could she be saying? What she said next would make even Alfred Hitchcock green with envy; or red. “She found in each compartment tray were stacks of legs, arms, torsos” she took a deep breath, “…and heads.” With a horrified grumble I asked with a glimpse of hope “I suppose he didn’t become a mortician?

Cousin Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration

Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration

Last we heard he eliminated three guards in the kitchen at the Polunsky Max-Security Unit in Livingston.” I waited, and waited some more; she stopped. “Texas?” I asked with a raised voice! She gave me this blank look then nodded. “Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver” she continued, “gave him up for adoption and foster-care we think.” I’m thinking I’m done cleaning closets around here! “Does he know us!? Does he know where anyone lives!?” I’m also thinking where the hell is my phone, car keys, and bank statement. “That’s why the lower-left picture slot is empty. They disappeared in 1977.” Well obviously it is very smart for us to hang-on to this family collage to eliminate any doubt of familial connections. “Have any authorities asked us for tongue-swabs or DNA samples for any unsolved cold cases?” Please, please say no. “Police were able to obtain a match from Uncle Wilbur.” My eyes enlarge, “Who tha hell is Uncle Wilbur!?

No one you know.” Well duh! Now I’m stunned. “MOM! I need to know now!” She takes another one of those deep sighs, “They found his body tied to a tree in the Crockett State Forest. That’s where they got the blood sample.” I’m still not comfortable with these answers. Surely they’ve caught him by now, “So cousin Dexter has been caught and returned to Polunsky?

No. I think he is still at-large.

Since 1977?” She gives me this scowling look, “Now be nice. Our Texas law-enforcement are super busyshe explains in gradual calming, motherly voice, “catching, arresting, and imprisoning thousands and thousands of known criminals and murderers in this state. It’s a full-time job! They’re very busy you know.” After her reassuring loyalty in police matters — where more Texans own multiple weapons of multi-functions and calibers than the National Reserve all combined — I suggest to her:

Neice Dorothy & Toto

Niece Dorothy & her puppy Toto

If you EVER hear or see anything about cousin Dexter, you tell me! Alright?” I revisit my review of the Lost/Hidden Side of the Family menagerie. What’s next? Could there be more?

Who’s this?” I point to the sweet little blonde girl affectionately holding the small dog. “That’s my niece Dorothy” she smiles warmly “and that is Toto.” Hah! Right. And somewhere in this closet will be flying monkeys with a total bitch from the West. Then Mom’s face turned sad and she added…

About a year after that photo was taken” she raised her foot, “Toto chewed off three of her toes and the middle-finger of her hand.” I shrugged my shoulders and thought maybe they should give Toe-toes to cousin Dexter and start another toy-trunk collection. TV-Guide reads, “Season Premier! Epic Crime-drama expected from real-life slice ’em, dice ’em, chew ’em up Chef-n-Canine Duo!” Hmm, yeah and Season 2 in next closet!

Cousin Carrie in NEWLY dry-cleaned prom-wedding dress

Cousin Carrie cleaned up and purified

Who is the Looker in the wedding dress?” Mom grimaced some as she began to answer, “That is your cousin Carrie (White?) and that is her NEWLY dry-cleaned prom dress converted to a wedding dress.” Ahh, of course it is — and is it weird that I’m attracted to my hidden, lost-and-found cousin? It’s just a picture. I must have some genes from Hilly Tops and Deep Woods Tennessee!? Is that even curable? What is wrong with me!? What else should I know (or not) about our family?

Uncle Clyde-Aunt Bonnie

Not Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde

And that is your…” she leans over and points to the other young couple, “Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde.” In a dismayed exhale I drop my head, close my eyes “No way!” Mom begins laughing “Gotcha! Relax. Their real names are G.W. and Madeline Kahn. They live somewhere in Eastern Europe.” She looks up, “Or maybe it’s Mongolia?” I start to put the picture-frame back into the closet. Once it’s out of the closet, can you put it back? Can one not know what has become knowable? Is there a pill for that? Is that what is meant by “I cannot recall” or “I can neither confirm nor deny that statement“?

Wait! Let me guess these two.” I pick out the other brunette and blonde below her. “These two have to be Virginia and Vita Woolf-… rather Woolfenmeow! Right?” With a curious expression, “Who are they?” Cue the closet-music…

Virginai & Vita WolfenMeow

Virginia and Vita Woolfenmeow?

Obviously our lost or hidden sultry seductresses and the 20th century’s steamiest love affair in verse, and in YOUR closet!

Mom gave a devious smirk, “Oh? I guess you never quite know what you’ll find snooping around people’s closed doors, do ya?” She pulled down the hat box untying its fastening strings, “We all have our hats and masks we wear I suppose.” Good points. They are closed for a reason and they are worn for equal reasons. What I find curious, exhilarating, telling, shocking, or… smelly(?) IS THAT reason. What tap-dances or lurks behind?

What’s in that box?” I inquire with hesitant suspicion. “This was Lady Chevalier d’Éon Blake’s judo black-belt she used around the necks of eleven Nazi SS commanders, deceased of course, but strangely as eunuchs, once she had them in highly vulnerable nocturnal postures.” I stared at her to see if I could catch another dubious smirk, but she was chokingly serious! “And this was your Aunt Millie ‘Boom’ Cnockaert’s wiring-kit and motorcycle goggles. They both became closest friends after the war and when…” she paused. “When what!?” I could not determine whether she was struggling to recall events, facts, news, family stories, or whether she was sorting out omissions and disclosures. Oh the things people say… or don’t say.

When… they returned to France and Chevalier insisted on being a woman, dressing as a woman.” Whoa. Should I be proud or scared of my lost-hidden-now-found family? I want to at least lay claim to this family Believe-it-or-Not picture-collage and hang it over the fireplace mantle, or perhaps somewhere inconspicuous, say on the front or back of the coat-closet door!

Why didn’t they come to America, the home of the free, home of the brave, civil and personal liberties galore!?” Camera-shot sharpens into focus from our time-traveling. Cue closing music soundtrack. Roll credits.


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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Dream

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Legacy

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When you die, how do you wish to be remembered
and by whom?

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konzack-tacquard-pedigree-chart

click here to enlarge

The five of us lounged in recliners and the two soft leather couches with wine or cocktails in hand. We had finished our saucers with portions such as artichoke dip with Mediterranean Herb or Sea-salted pita crackers. Fresh strawberries, grapes, broccoli and cauliflower bites and a crab-log dip were also available. After all, it was my small, modest birthday party — just as I like it.

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom?

We five had arrived at this question in a rather funny way. Ms. Lyncháge had been describing how when she and her late husband had friends over to their small farm cottage, his billy goats — particularly the bucks she explained — seemed to always mount the does just in time and en massé to show off the grandeur of raw masculinity to their human guests. Her and her late husband’s embarrassed… umm, excuses to guests about the loud pornographic show was essentially caused by the local water and/or the trees, bushes, weeds, or “Fescue-passion grass” as possible causes of untimely uninhibited goat-sex. “Is there much difference between goat-love and any other mammalian love?” I asked the room. My mother chimed in “Hah! As one of eleven children, I can safely say ‘HELL YES!’” She pointed over to a large picture of my maternal grandparents (below), specifically her father.

felix-blanche-bonnet

Grandpa & Grandma Bonnet

If there were a hundred different oral tales and stories about my maternal grandparents, the one that was always discernible was Grandpa Bonnet was cheerfully relaxed and content and Grandma Bonnet:  easily agitated. Apparently twelve times and over 172 years agitated, if combining all their children’s rearing years! Ms. Lyncháge, my Mom, and Mrs. Mortician all vehemently gave their personal agreements, and with all being grandmothers too, in unison proclaimed proudly and resoundingly “Keep your damn thingy AWAY from me!

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom?

Several months ago I learned from Mom more about the maternal side of the Bonnets:  the Preece side. It was widely suspected among my maternal grandmother’s family that two, possibly three Aunts were ladies of the night. This apparently was one cause (among many I’m sure) to why one Preece-branch was Pentecostal Church goers, and the other… umm, “something else.” As our family story goes, my Grandpa and Grandma Bonnet would not talk much about “that part” of the family. At family reunions I often heard from other maternal aunts, uncles, great cousins, great aunts and great uncles that “not much is known about that side of the family.” No matter how many times Why was asked, the answers were short and vague. A family conundrum having lived within a few miles or half-day’s slow horse ride from each other!

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom?

Last July while visiting two days/nights with my Aunt and Uncle — my Dad’s younger brother and sister-in-law — I learned some fascinating details about my paternal grandmother’s side (Konzack and Tacquard) going back five and six generations to Xavier and wife Robin Gauthier, who in the early 1800’s lived southwest of Paris, France in Baillou near Le Mans. It was known much of the Tacquard side lived in and around Vauthiermont near Switzerland before some moved toward Paris. I read a copy of a personal letter written in French by Robin Gauthier to my grandmother’s maternal family (the Tacquards) in Alta Loma, Texas transposed into English by one of my French-English speaking great great aunts; see following images.

Learning about such intimate details of our Gauthier and Guyot ancestors, as well as life in 1850s France was not just fascinating, but very personal. They descended from a Germanic origin which in various socio-familial ways, timelines, migrations and immigrations found their way from 1830-1840’s Europe to Galveston and Indianola, Texas. As the personal letter reads, the story of our Tacquard family is one of genuine enthusiasm and some hardships. It explains in part why so many traveled so far to Texas for new opportunities.

The majority of otherwise less known white-Texas history — for example, the truer history as opposed to those families from southeastern and midwest slave states from early America and their versions — actually originates from German, French, and some Eastern European, Italian, and Spanish heritage. These various Texian-Tejano families typically settled in early 19th-century townships and counties with familiar cultures and customs. Several Texas genealogical historians today record that these groups of Texas-Europeans fled their native continent to escape political, religious, and racial tyrannies. This stands in clear contrast to what southeastern and midwest slave-owning U.S. families brought to mid-to-late 19th-century Texas which is more widely told or written. Most all of my maternal and paternal ancestral family sides were, in various degrees, libertarians, reformists, agorists, abolitionists, and/or egalitarians. Click here for a brief encapsulation of the first Tacquards arriving in 1844 Indianola and founding the town of Castroville, Texas. They tried to stick together through time and travels, usually succeeding. My Konzack-Tacquard line had what might only be described as (by wide comparisons)… unconventional spousal, parenting, passionate and lively social relationships within their innermost circle.

Romance, dancing, flirtation, absorbing enchantment, and frankly sex were never viewed or practiced as dirty, evil, or sinful. On  the contrary, it was gladly embraced as quite natural, quite human; a necessary pleasure if you will. My paternal grandmother was a nationally competing ballroom dancer, and she was exceptionally graceful. Her mother, my great grandmother Lucile Tacquard-Konzack, I fondly remember as spunky, charmingly agile for her lofty age, forthright, and always ready to laugh. My father absolutely idolized her. She and her family loved life and those dearest to her. Every year the “Kiddo” Tacquard reunion, barbeque, spirited-beverages, and live music by bands that could play all the popular Texas 2-step and waltz songs, 1950’s jitterbugs and swings, as well as the traditional French-German polkas and schottisches out on Kiddo’s massive unwalled hay-barn with concrete foundation scattered with sawdust was a town spectacle. It was a gathering of all in-law families and close friends numbering in the hundreds. Through my adolescence into my 20’s this partying reunion was an event I feverishly looked forward to every July 4th holiday weekend! Some of my fondest happiest memories were there with everyone.

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These family traits were and had been passed down from generation to generation, especially through maternal family lines. My father learned about intercourse from a live demonstration by his parents at the age of sixteen. Tis true. Upon the death of my paternal grandmother, my aforementioned uncle and aunt, while sorting through all her private belongings, discovered in one of her favorite books several nude photos of herself taken at their nearby rural bayou-property. Shy, as I remember, was never a Konzack-Tacquard quirk. Life was to be fully experienced, not feared.

So returning to my present-day birthday party-guests, I shared these family customs, with some discretion of course, and I asked the room…

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom?

tacquard_1

My great grandmother Lucile Tacquard-Konzack, c. 1916

I would destroy or burn anything like that!” replied Mrs. Mortician. “Oh, I have already done away with” Ms. Lyncháge explained, “items of that nature between my late husband and I.” We all laughed at such family secrets. Earlier in the evening in the kitchen they had heard my Mom and I briefly talk about our Preece Ladies of the Night and more family secrets. And why not? When you are among close dear friends who are very trustworthy, what are “appropriate” necessary boundaries? What constitutes truly endearing adoring friendships? What should immediate and extended family descendants be expected to understand about multi-faceted dynamics and expressions of love? Who best to learn from?

Over the last couple years my mother continues packing or unpacking to move out of her house going through very sentimental personal letters and items she and my father exchanged while dating. Reading and reminiscing she tacitly expressed to me how passionate and sexual their earliest years had truly been. My personality (family DNA?) warmly thought “How natural; how very human. As it should be.

As a tribute from my own generation’s music, I offer this song I feel is my dance of life for my family of lifetime music-loving dancers going back at least five and six generations…

m1-edison-amberola-phonograph_1

A Konzack-Tacquard heirloom – 1913 Edison Amberola Phonograph

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom?

In my own personal lifetime, I too have created and accumulated MANY cherished romantic, fervent, even wickedly primal moments, and many with photos, in letters, and on video. During our separation and inevitable divorce, my children’s mother made me burn everything intimate and/or sexual we had between us, including all the Swinging-BDSM photos and videos. At the time I did so in the earnest hope I might save our marriage and my family. Today, I understand why she demanded it all be destroyed, but I don’t agree with her reasons. To this day I still have 3-5 recently past relationships of cherished, romantic, steamy memories safely and secretly stored away. Those 3-5 ladies know I have them and the others. To them, or any intimate partner in my future, I do not hide this. It is my way of expressing to them how much they meant to me and still mean to me. All beauty and passion should be free. All have opportunities to be just as adored, just as loved if not more. Come what may!

come-join-me

My hope is that she/they would embrace all my moving past life-moments and for my own personal reasons, cherished memories from a window of time that made me who I am. Very fun unforgettable times, past. Moments captured in a time gone by, but not lost. Nothing more, nothing less. Or are they?

If you pass into the afterlife, or pass from this life sooner than expected, suddenly… should those cherished, sentimental, romantic, passionate things be (or have been) destroyed forever, never to be known or treasured by even your closest most meaningful persons or descendants?

When you die, how do you wish to be remembered and by whom? What will your true legacy be?

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Footnote — if interested, this post: My Heretical Heritage, covers some of my maternal ancestory.

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And It Begins

Let’s not mention grandchildren right now. I’m only just grasping that my little Tori married her middle school Sweetheart!” I replied to my new father-in-law.

Holy Sh*t! I could soon be a grandfather! Noooooooo! This does not make me feel invigorated, or young, or ready. Her mother and I didn’t marry until I was 35-years old and she 25-years old. Why, why, why did she start two months into 21!? Her new husband is only 22! Who in their right mind thinks they’re truly ready for marriage so young? Really?

Then I met and spent time with the groom’s parents and family… and the laughter almost never stopped.

* * * * * * * * * *

Rewind Several Months and Hours

ringsOver Spring Break 2014 my daughter and son were with me and my family. What we all suspected was confirmed by Tori: she and Riley would indeed marry in May 2016 after they both finished undergraduate studies and received their Bachelor’s degrees. Everyone thought it a very good idea, especially me. I wanted to talk about so many things because I’ve essentially missed out on the majority of my daughter’s life due to our 2002 divorce and then their mother remarrying and moving over 300 miles away with both my daughter and son. I’ve missed out on 14-years to be exact, and counting. I had been LONG WAITING for the days she and I could become closer, talk more, without the subtle influences and distractions of her maternal family and religious fundamentalism. Now I must share her again and more. No, not what I had in mind!

But how does one compete with deep young love? How can I compete with a boy — now a man — who’s had my daughter’s heart since 10th grade? I am a little jealous. He has no idea how long I’ve been waiting for her! I raise my arms to the sky and let go a roar and scream that would make Tarzan cower!

Then the summer rolls around and SURPRISE! “We are getting married this May!” she tells me on the phone and everyone else. My jaw hits the table, my eyes bulge and I don’t breath. The very first thought that comes to mind as to WHY they feel they must rush it and push it up a year is… well, all of you are probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking.

She’s pregnant.

Tori begins to chuckle, “No Dad. I am not pregnant.” Whew! I didn’t even have to ask because given her mother, her father (me, not step-dad), and BOTH grandparents, out-of-wedlock babies run rampant in our families. Apparently we are all highly sexually energized and she has had this driven into her brain most of her life! 😮

Unplanned difficulty #1 avoided. Long exhale. Now for #2: I am so not ready for an expensive wedding a year earlier! I am a long-term but Substitute teacher working two other part-time jobs just to make ends meet! This is not going to develop well… for me. Traveling over 300-miles, lodging, meals, gas to and from, are not cheap especially on my meager wages. I’m stressed for the next several months, cutting more corners financially to save… somehow. I have no clue how.

Cats, Dogs, Cows, Elephants, and Even Whales!

Fast forward to May 22, 2015, the Friday before her wedding weekend. Not since around 1989-90 has north Texas — and many parts of the state — seen such record rainfall in a matter of hours and consecutive days. Getting 7″ to 10″ of heavy rain in two hours is unheard of in the annals of Texas weather. As I’m preparing for the trip down toward Houston, the local police and fire departments are explaining all the evacuation procedures for our park. Most all the lakes including the one I’m living on and near, are less than 1-foot from spilling over their dams. The river basin they pour and dump into runs all the way into downtown Dallas, beyond Houston, and into Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. My park, our RV park sits less than 1,500 feet from the banks of this river. Meteorologists are expecting the heavy storms to last until the following week. If I leave, I may return to a flooded out (or floated away) RV. I can’t miss my daughter’s wedding. I decide to go anyway. Saturday night is her (non?)rehearsal dinner.

wed_victoria_May2015-1

My daughter in her wedding dress

The trip to Conroe is about three and a half hours down… down river that is. My ex-live-in-girlfriend, who spent much time with my kids when they still lived in the Dallas area, is also going with me. For the first two hours we drive in such heavy storms that I can’t see more than 45-yards in front of my car. To say it was raining cats and dogs is a gross understatement! The entire animal reserve was coming down on us, even sperm-whales! Yes, that was an intended family pun. The highway (I-45) is normally a 65-75mph speed limit. During three different long phases of the trip, we move no faster than 40mph. We left the DFW area at such a time as to allow us two to two-and-a-half hours to check-in, unpack, shower, and relax before the huge dinner. Two hours until the dinner begins, we are not even halfway there… still on the interstate. My wonderful ex-girlfriend/soul mate suggests calling my mother and we quickly shower and change in her room since their hotel is much closer to the restaurant. Fantastic idea!

With about 20-minutes to spare, we arrive at her hotel, unpack our suitcases, grab the key they left at the front desk, shower, change, pack our stuff BACK into our suitcases, run back out to the car, repack the trunk, then roll into the restaurant only 10-minutes late, somewhat dry and out of breath. My hands are sore from holding the steering wheel so tight. Simultaneously, my ex and I both say, “I need a DRINK!” We don’t mean water! We’ve had enough water for one full day. We’re about to devolve and grow ‘effin gills and fins!

The (Non)Rehearsal Dinner

My ex and I walk up to two rows of tables of 40 guests each. Our empty chairs are across from my Mom, her boyfriend, my sister, my paternal aunt and uncle, and next to the step-dad who is next to my ex-wife. Further down to my right is the maternal grandparents and two of the uncles and wives. To my left are cousins of the groom and their family. Everyone has started on drinks and appetizers. My daughter is the first one to stand and hug me. Her fiancé shakes my hand, they both hug and greet my ex-girlfriend. “I’m so glad you both made it!” she tells us. “We swam some of the way” I grinned. Then the groom’s father stands from across their table to shake my hand; we reaquaint ourselves from my daughter’s high school graduation three years earlier — in the back of our minds we’re thinking drinks, DRINKS please, as we smile and chat. He introduces his wife to my ex, they exchange greetings. We can’t seem to sit down just yet.

Then my son grabs me, gives me a huge hug “You two finally made it!” It seemed he had grown another inch or two since last Xmas. Ethan gives my ex a big hug too; he really liked her when we were together. My ex loved him immensely and missed them both. She too was amazed how tall he had gotten. We turn toward our chairs, but then face more family to greet and exchange formalities with — grumbling in my head, we still have no drinks. We can’t sit down to even order them. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be on their second or third cocktail.

After we’ve said hello to all of my family, I turn to my kid’s step-dad and shake his hand hello. Quick and pleasant, like it should be. Now we finally get to sit! But there are no staff to take our drink orders because they are serving appetizers to everyone. My ex and I look at each other with crazy-eyes, “are you kidding?” as we both laugh. We’re both ready to steal drinks from family or guests gone to the bathrooms! Clubbing someone over the head is not out of the question either!

Minutes later I finally corner one of our waitresses and order four margaritas, two for both of us. When they arrived not soon enough, you would’ve thought we were inhaling the finest nectar on Earth as we moaned with pleasure. My ex leaned over and whispered “I want to gulp my down, but I don’t want to look like a lush or alcoholic!” I looked at her with this puzzled expression, “Don’t worry” I explained, “the divorced-in-laws (i.e. my ex-wife’s family) probably think we drink too much and have too much fun anyway. I’ll gulp if you’ll gulp!?” Ahhhh, we both smiled setting our glasses down. She whispered again to me, “Did you bring in the bottle of tequila?” If it wasn’t so big, I would have!

Though those were very stressful hours on the highway — what highway we could actually see — the drinks, dinner, conversation, and food were superb. Unless this post becomes 4 to 5,000 words long, I can’t go into detail of just how much we enjoyed the evening. Those two-and-a-half hours were a lot of fun, especially as the groom’s father moved around talking with everyone and making us all laugh. He encouraged us all night to order whatever our hearts desired. It was exactly what we needed after the boat-ride down in the USS Professor.

The Wedding Ceremony

Some of you who know me well know that my ex-wife, the step-father, and the maternal family are ultra-conservative evangelical Fundamentalists. The wedding ceremony and vows was most certainly going to be representative of my ex-wife’s beliefs and as such my daughter’s and how she was raised by her mother. My daughter by now may or may not have the full picture of how… how can I put this(?)… over-bearingover-seeing” her maternal grandfather is and interjects his and his own family’s long-line of beliefs into her mother’s life as well as her own. But I knew preparing for this wedding she would get a more pronounced idea.

Yet, even I was amazed how super Fundy and overly-biblical the ceremony turned out to be. All sorts of Paulian theology and New Testament quotes were flowered into the marriage-ideals and vows as her maternal grandfather was the presiding minister. That surprised me greatly. I expected one of the staff members of her own church to do the honors! In hindsight, I can probably explain why the grandfather did it:  he happily did it for free since the “biological father” couldn’t afford the expenses of the wedding. With equal reason(s) the evangelical Fundy beliefs had to be presented.

It was a VERY serious wedding. Fortunately, the reception afterwards was not as… stuffy? (wink) I have included a few pictures of the ceremony here because my daughter looked amazing! Her new husband Riley is also a big futebol/soccer fan. We always have tons to talk about when together. I like that! Score major points there Tori. 😉

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Groom’s Father and Family

Now I’ve reached the most pleasant, the most enjoyable and relaxing part of the wedding weekend:  the groom’s father and family. Correction, the second most pleasant, enjoyable, relaxing part. Being with my daughter at her wedding and having my ex-girlfriend with me was clearly the first! But me and my Mom were wonderfully surprised by how much fun and how moderate the groom’s family turned out to be by comparisons. They knew how to have fun and laughed so easily!

They were all staying at the same hotel with my Mom, her boyfriend, my sister, and my aunt and uncle. Consequently, we had an opportunity to spend some time with them away from wedding-stuff and post-wedding. My Mom had the chance to spend much more time with them — my hotel was 30-minutes away in the next town, sadly. But we did manage to chat with them Sunday night.

As it turns out, my daughter’s in-laws are not so religious and serious. Or to put it another way, they are not so heavily convicted or obligated(?) to preach or “share the gospel of Good News” with everyone, especially sinners — which turns out to be good because me and my family are jovial “well-known” sinners. We were quickly drawn to them and as it also turned out, the groom’s father and my Mom’s boyfriend had a lot in common. Both of them grew up on the farm in the country. He up in the state of Iowa, my Mom’s boyfriend here in Texas. They both knew a lot about hunting, guns/rifles, and gutting, skinning, and cooking your kills. Listening to them all talk and laugh, I realized that they were just regular people who seemed not to care much about anyone’s religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs. It was so liberating to discover! For the last ten or more years I had assumed that my daughter, along with the close help of her mother and step-dad, would have to date a “like-minded” like-committed boy/man, especially to marry him. This may not be the case.

However, I can’t jump to certain conclusions, yet. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve missed out on the last 14-years of my daughter’s life. Riley’s personal beliefs and those of his family’s might be as hardcore as Tori’s mom and her family. They just didn’t show it over the weekend. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic start, from my perspective, for my daughter’s new life… and perhaps my future grandchildren.

* * * * * * * * * *

Above in the slideshow of wedding pictures, there is one with my son walking Tori down the aisle. That is when my eyes welled-up and I started sniffling. When she arrived up on stage, I had to wipe away one or two tears. Yes, as any father would say about his daughter at her wedding, she looked stunning. But not only do I mean it, but she truly does/did! She has inherited some great genes! Not only genes of beauty, but of high intellect too. Tori is indeed a fabulous girl woman and Riley, as well as his Dad, told me how lucky they feel to have her in the family.

Toward the end of the wedding reception, Tori was making her goodbye rounds before changing into their traveling/honeymoon clothes. We looked at each other, took deep breaths, smiled, and I told her…”And it begins.” I grabbed her and didn’t want to let go holding her for several lengthy seconds. I felt as if I might have to wait longer now. She chuckled at the thought of trying to escape me.

But then again, how long can a single, twice-divorced father hang on to his daughter when “a lifetime of love” awaits? What a strange funny thought. But for a husband and/or father, isn’t that life?

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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