Wedding Update

One commenter I don’t know and some friends have asked about the wedding.  So here is a quick update.  B’s father died October 23 after a hard month.  We traveled to his home city on Saturday to meet and express our condolences to his family, and then again on Tuesday for the funeral.  B’s family appreciated our efforts to show that we cared about B and his family.

The wedding is on, it happens December 6.  That’s about 3 weeks from now!!!  Yikes.  The wedding will be at our church, officiated by one of the ministers who pastored my daughter through her eighth grade confirmation year in which she questioned and rebelled against everything and ultimately decided to refuse confirmation.  It will be a religious ceremony, although with a light touch on the religious end.  The minister has done weddings and has given them a nice set of ideas and choices to work with.  As both of B’s parents are deceased, we cannot have a “parents blessing” part without pain, but are talking about whether we can have some kind of family element.  So there will be a wedding, check.

Oh, music.  The most obvious person to ask was Daniel, a gifted pianist and long time family friend who was killed in August.  Another suggestion surfaced at church, a gay man who used to be music director at a Catholic church until he was fired for being gay.  He hasn’t answered yet, we asked again about the contact information and the correct spelling of his name.

Oh, guests!  Whoops.   B & E just published an invitation to their friends via Facebook.  I’ve been scrambling to try to get a list of B’s relatives as well as put together my own list.  I’m going to be emailing invitations today to my list, to be followed with phone calls and paper  mailings to people old enough to expect them.  Have to include an explanation about why this is so late.  No time for fancy engraving or double envelopes.  I’ve been emailing/calling B’s female relatives to try to get a list of names & contact information for the people on his side and calling my spouse’s female cousin to get a list of names & contact information for his side.  (Detect a gender pattern here?)  B’s sister is representing his family in executing his father’s desire to make the groom’s family’s contributions to the wedding events, so she and I have been emailing pretty intensely about possible arrangements for alcohol, rehearsal dinner, etc.  Although last night, as I was emailing back and forth with her and we were discussing what B would want, I realized B (who had come by and was using my spouse’s computer across the room from me) was also communicating via computer with his sister about the same issues at the same time!

Clothing?  It is to be “dressy but fun,” not traditional.  E asked her best friend (an experienced costume designer) to make her wedding dress.  They were here last night working on this: Friend is panicking as there is no fabric and E’s choices of what kinds of things she likes seem to have no common characteristic except that they are dresses.  A trip to the big city to shop seems scheduled.  Another friend will be making B’s outfit; I assume she is panicking too.

Reception will be at a game store, “Indian buffet, dancing, games.”  My spouse and B are in charge of finalizing the food plans.  My spouse is also negotiating with a baker about cake, and he and B will make the cake choices.  Flowers?  That’s getting worked on, and photography.  After sticker shock about the price of a professional (and, yes, I know why a professional is expensive), we are checking with needy friends who have taken photography classes.  Oh, and I need to call the church & the game store to make sure I understand how to get arrangements set up.  I just got reminded last night about rehearsal and its dinner — we’re working on that.  Every woman I talk to asks me about a shower for E: I tell her, “I’m not doing one.  I don’t think anyone else is, either.”  So, not your traditional organized extravaganza. But it will happen.

I’m getting emails from my grad advisees who need letters from me, and comments on theses.  And I’m supposed to be working on a book during my sabbatical.  Oh well.

Don’t expect to hear much from me until this is over.

Wedding Plans

It has been an intense couple of months, with personal life and public life bouncing into each other, and into me.  My mind and heart feel exhausted.  I’d like to tell you about one strand of this.  In late August, my daughter E and her boyfriend B told us they’d decided to get married within the next few months.  Within the next week, E became unexpectedly unemployed so job applications rather than wedding rose in importance for a while, our family friend Daniel was killed in an auto crash, and her fiance’s father told them he had a brain tumor, which he said was slow growing and no big deal.  (His mother passed away several years ago.)  We wanted to meet B’s family, but first I had a two week trip to California and then my spouse had a ten day business trip.

After some negotiation, the date was set for Dec 6.  Pulling a wedding together in a few months is an enterprise, even with our goal of keeping it relatively informal.  First there was where to have the wedding.  My daughter and B identify as atheist, so the first thought was a secular ceremony.  But as we were searching the web and discussing those options, I said to my daughter, “It is a shame you are not religious, because it would be homey to have the wedding at our church.”  She said she thought that would be nice, if they would not make her and B say things they did not believe, but it would be ok if other people blessed them.  Well I knew where that was going, as we are not exactly in a rigid church.  I emailed the minister and got back his reply, saying that it was “non-negotiable” that they offer a prayer of some type in the service (!), but they could handle this requirement “gently” with respect for E and B’s beliefs.  So the church is on.  The next week Daniel was killed and my daughter was at the funeral — itself a very moving event at which we railed at God and spoke our lament and heard a touching eulogy by Daniel’s older brother — and the next thing I knew she’d volunteered to teach Sunday school along with my spouse.  She says: “People say they went to church because they wanted a community.  When I was younger, I saw this as a weakness.  Now I see this as a strength.”  This does not mean she has abandoned her professed atheism, but she is interested in the Bible and her atheism isn’t much distinguishable from my theism.  As the youth minister said (she did have the sense to talk to E after she volunteered), “For someone who does not believe in God, she’s thought a lot about these issues.”

Anyway, so now we have a place for the wedding.  But what about the reception?  The church hall can be used, but the church does not permit alcohol.  B does not drink alcohol at all, and my daughter rarely drinks, so this is not a problem for them, but B thinks he has a lot of friends and relatives who think it isn’t a wedding if you don’t get drunk, and his father’s response to being told of the engagement was to say, “I’ll pay the bar bill,” seeming to imply a certain expectation about what would happen.  So we search for a reception site.  This is harder than you imagine unless you’ve done it.   Now I know why I’ve been to so many receptions in seemingly-improbable places.  Many public  spaces ban alcohol.  The ones that don’t typically have their own caterer and have definite ideas about what they want done, ideas that don’t mesh very well with E’s ideas of what she wants.  As B is vegetarian as well as a teetotaler, Indian food would be their preferred meal, but the Indian restaurants are too small for the desired crowd and the dancing E wants.  So after some searching and a lot of phone calls, the owners of the game store where my daughter works part time offered their store for the reception.  This is not many brides’ idea of a romantic site — it is basically a big shed with a lot of Dungeons & Dragons banners hanging from the ceiling and shelves with gaming equipment all around the edges — but it suits E and B well as they are gamers and met at the game store.   The owners are offering the space as their wedding present, although of course we will pay for cleanup etc.  So the reception now has a home.  Ready to move on.

This was decided on a Tuesday.  The next day, E and B leave for what they think is a one day trip to accompany B’s father to the Mayo Clinic for a medical appointment.  It turns out that he is in much worse shape than he has let anybody know.  The brain tumor has grown, he is confused and very ill.  So they and B’s siblings unexpectedly spend much of the next few weeks in Minnesota.  Things are looking bad for B’s father.  He gets better with re-hydration and is able to talk some with his children, but then has a surgery that could have helped but didn’t that leaves him more confused.  We put the wedding plans on hold.  We don’t even want to ask B what he wants to do.  One Friday night, E’s car quits on the interstate halfway to Minnesota where she is driving to rejoin B after having come back to town during the week to work; my spouse and I ferry a car up to her so she can continue the trip to Minnesota and then wait to bring her car back to town.  (Who knew?  A small town on the interstate has a Chevy dealer whose repair shop stays open until midnight on Fridays.)  When I get back at 1:30 a.m. I’m still wired from the coffee I drank, and I find B on line (E had arrived a couple of hours before and was now asleep), so I IM-chat with him about life and his father and death and marriage and stuff until 4:30 in the morning.  He told E it was our “bonding conversation.”  A week later I broach the wedding question with my daughter, we know it is a terrible time, but we need to decide whether it is a go or a no go.  And we could scale it back and just have a simple ceremony and not do a big reception.  She says they have talked about it and B says the wedding is on, no matter what, and he figures a party is going to happen anyway, so we may as well plan it.  So we are back in planning mode, we book the grandparents’ airplane tickets, but are subdued, knowing that this is not the most important thing in the world, and that we live in the intermingling of joy and sorrow.  B’s father gets worse, suffers a stroke that leaves him unable to interact with others and probably unconscious, and the doctors say to make arrangements to transfer him to  hospice care, there is no more they can do.  There are discussions of whether and when to pull the feeding tube.  My heart aches for B.

While this has been going on, I’ve been working nose-down getting updated racial disparity statistics prepared for several big presentations, and have pulled two all-nighters doing that work, and have been involved in a number of intense coverations about race.   Like everyone else, I have also been obsessing about the election and race, and spend hours reading blogs about the election and race.  Last spring I  agreed to do workshops about race at church this fall: the first one is next Sunday, I’ve gotten feedback from people about what they want that shows (as I expected) that people are all over the map in what they’d bring to the discussions.  So at this point, I am dazed, confused, and disoriented in my work-related life.

The presentations are over.  Back to the wedding, we need to triage.  What is most urgent?  OK, the liquor question can wait, but we need to make sure we have a caterer who is available.  Hopefully at least one of the five Indian restaurants in town can handle the volume.  Oh, and a dance floor.  How far in advance do you have to reserve a portable dance floor?  Eeek.  And pretty soon we need a guest list and invitations have to go out.  I’m also feeling pretty panicked about what I’m going to wear to this thing, as fashion decisions have never been my strong suit and I know I don’t own anything remotely resembling a mother of the bride dress and, anyway, my daughter is planning to have herself and B dressed in non-traditional clothing with perhaps a 19th century look, so I REALLY don’t know what I’m supposed to wear, except that she told her father he definitely has to be in a suit and possibly a tux.  And is there any way I can reach out to B’s siblings and his aunt and grandmother (none of whom I’ve met) to tell them that we care about them and their suffering and grief in this time of intermingled joy and sorrow and the onward press of life?

coming soon

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been busy.  I had less time to blog than in the past when I was in LA.  This is because my mother is doing a lot better (hurrah!), which means she is sleeping less and can get out more, and I spent more of my time running errands with her.  In process are a tape-delayed blog of the Social Psychology Centenniel conference and two posts about race, one about talking about race and the other about race names.

I’ve also spent a lot of time doing “public sociology” stuff, running a lot of Stata code to crunch a lot of numbers and prepare graphs to update my lectures for several talks this fall.  And spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what we will do about a wedding.

what to do

This is a followup to today’s earlier post.  My spouse and I went by, our friends were alone, we hugged them a lot and sat with them for an hour while they cried and talked.  I’m glad I went.  The younger generation is asking me what they should do.  I thought you’d be interested, as a lot of older people don’t know either.   Many of you have had to be on the receiving end of this, so you may want to tweak the advice I gave the kids.  Here’s what I wrote (edited to be generic):  You don’t have to do a lot. Showing up is 90%. They are going to feel terrible no matter what, but they will remember that other people cared enough to show up. You don’t need to — it isn’t helpful to — try to say anything to make it better. You can’t. You just say how sorry you are and listen to them and, in a low key way, tell stories you remember about the good times you had with them. They are likely to cry and this is normal. It’s OK to remember funny and happy things, it is OK to laugh. It is OK to cry. Offer to leave every 15 minutes or so. If there is food out, it is ok to eat it. (People bring LOTS of food to the houses where there has been a death.)   These things are not done on appointments.  The hardest thing is know whether to call ahead.  Talking on the phone is really hard when you are grieving (your voice chokes up) and calling someone to say how sorry you are is not good unless you are a really close relative or friend and you are manifestly too far away to get there.  So you just kind of go over, and if it turns out to be a bad time, you come back a different time.   Or, if they have someone to handle the phone, you talk to that person to find out if it would be a good time to come over.  Or maybe call just to ask whether it is ok to come over.

joy and sorrow

The intermingling of great joy and great sorrow goes on.  My daughter told us ten days ago that she and her boyfriend plan to marry soon — this is a joy.  Then she became  unexpectedly unemployed and she had to focus on that, diverting attention from wedding plans.  And there are various hassles with getting my son and his girlfriend moved into an apartment.  The roller coaster of life.  I was going to post about that when I had a chance.

But now the shock.  Dan, a childhood friend of my son was killed yesterday in an auto crash.   There was a five-year period when six boys gamed together every Friday night.  For the first few years, the gaming was hosted by the Dan’s parents, and then later it moved to our house.  Dan drifted away from the group about the time they graduated high school, and the other boys have not seen  him much in recent years.  My spouse and I remain friends with his parents through church and have seen Dan playing piano at church (he was a superb musician) and at his graduation party in May.   It is hard to think of much else.  Besides my son, I’m in communication with some of the other boys, including some who live elsewhere but happen to be planning to be in town this weekend.  And church folks are exchanging messages about how to help out and funeral planning.  I’ll be going over the parents’ house soon, food in hand.  I don’t know whether they will want me to hang around for comfort, or leave them in the hands of people closer to them.

life and death

I’m not sure but I think a man died within six feet of me yesterday.  This was on a jet that was just about ready to close its doors for departure in O’Hare.  They had not given up on him when they carried him out, but everyone involved was treating it as fatal.  I noticed the couple while waiting to board.  They stood out amid the jeans and shorts because they were very dressed up, he in a suit and tie and she in a dress.  They were middle-aged and looked vaguely Southeast Asian and spoke with some accent.   They sat one row behind me, across the aisle; I was on the aisle seat.  We were all seated, they were preparing to close the door.  The man one row back and on the other side started making strange coughing/wheezing sounds.  I looked back and saw him looking ill, a strange kind of gasping but I did not recognize it as anything dangerously bad.  (Later, I heard a flight attendant describe the coughing symptoms and say it sounded like a typical heart attack, while my seat mate said he thought it was more like congestive heart failure.)   Then his wife started calling for help.  The flight attendant came and she asked for a doctor.  A man two aisles up stood up to help.  There was some more talk and I heard someone say, “We need more help.”  More people came and then an announcement over the PA asking for doctors.  I heard someone say that the first volunteer was a psychiatrist.  Someone stood up and said she was a nurse, then several more middle-aged men came back from first class.  Continue reading “life and death”