"And deep into his fiery heart he took the dust of Joan of Arc."
My little butterbean turned one on June 10. He had a Cat in the Hat birthday party, right down to the green eggs and ham. Oh wait, wrong book. But my very creative daughter planned a very cute themed party, and Thing 1 had a great time despite a respiratory infection and conjunctivitis.
My daughter's ex and his (also now divorced) parents, sister, nephew (cousin Logan) and aunt all attended and as planned, I was civil but not sociable. My daughter's former mother-in-law greeted me with some warmth and moved to hug me, but I said hello and took a little step back. The ex-father-in-law arrived late and avoided me until I made deliberate eye contact and acknowledged him with a bare nod that was returned in kind.
This was the first time since things fell apart last November that my daughter had seen them, and I noticed they both hugged her and I suppose that is good. I also suppose they like her better, now that she isn't attached to their family, except of course for the unbreakable bond a baby makes.
Kandace and Jason got married near Keller, near Jason's family, and they were more involved in the onsite preparations than I was. Kandace and I did shop for her wedding dress together, and I did drive up to be there for her formal pre-wedding portraits. But other than paying a few bills, I just showed up for the party. I had the sense that Jason's parents were more helpful than I was, and I wanted to thank them, so some months later Neil and I visited and invited them to join us and the kids for dinner at the Melting Pot.
It was a weird dinner, and thank god for the fondue related activity or I'm sure conversation would have been even more forced. As usual, Neil played the Spanish Inquisition, asking a million questions. And as is not uncommon they showed very little interest in us, and asked us nothing. It's a conundrum, because I don't really like to talk about myself a lot, but I do resent complete disinterest.
Perhaps out of a sense of tit-for-tat obligation, Joe and Sue invited us to their house on Lake Granbury for lunch on our way home. Not that it was technically anything like on our way home, but we did go, and they fed us and took us out on a boat belonging to Joe's landscape business partner. And at one point I thanked Sue for welcoming Kandace and being so nice to her, and the woman actually responded, "well, I didn't have a choice, did I?"
This statement was so incomprehensible to me that I chalked it up to, to what? To something. She misspoke, or I misheard. Or she misheard my comment. Because even if it was true, and all it implied was true, you just don't say it out loud to the mother of your son's bride.
Still after that, I pretty much wrote Jason's parents off as ill-mannered, small-minded people and felt mostly relief that I would have to see them rarely. Because Kandace kept urging me, I became Facebook friends with Sue, and that just served to confirm how many worlds separated us. If I'm a little to the left of left, then Sue is a goodly distance to the right of right. Rabid conservatism and racism does not a good bedfellow make for me. One of the best things that came out of the kids' divorce is that I got to de-friend Sue.
I shouldn't have come as a shock (but it did) when, a week before the party my younger daughter called me up in a tearful quandary about whether she should go to the party. She felt very conflicted about seeing Jason and the inlaws, and her boyfriend had put his foot down and declined to attend. I said, look, we aren't the ones who have anything to be ashamed about, if anyone should feel embarrassed and uncomfortable about see us, it is them. Jason left Kandace, he is their son, and from what I learned, his dad had been setting an example of faithlessness for most of Jason's life.
Chelsea still had mixed feelings, so I told her I'd support her decision, just as I supported Kandace's decision to invite whomsoever she wanted to Ryland's party. But I also suggested that her sister could use as much family support as she could muster, in what has to be a difficult situation. That's when Chelsea opened up on Sue.
It's third-hand information now, but before the wedding, in response to some congratulatory comments from members of the wedding party, Sue made statements to the effect that Jason would just have to learn from his mistakes. These comments were repeated to Chelsea, who chose to repeat them to me, five years after the fact.
Since Kandace is a young lady that I think anyone would be proud and grateful to have as a daughter-in-law, I will choose to attribute whatever biases Sue bore to the profound chasm in their religious and political views, and not take it personally on behalf of my daughter. I can't say I'm not shocked though.
In 1998, when I told my parents that Jon and I were getting unmarried, my mom said, I never thought he was right for you. So why didn't you tell me that before I married him, Mom? Because you wouldn't have listened to me anyway, she said.
I thought about that a lot. And the conclusion I came to was that if I thought one of my girls was marrying the wrong man, I would not hold my peace. I would say something like, I love you and I will support you whatever you decide, but I have to tell you that I think you are making a mistake. And then I'd give my reasons. And then, if she decided to marry the man anyway, I'd do my best to stand by her, and not speak of it again.
I didn't easily warm up to Jason and I could never put my finger on the reason why. I didn't like or dislike him. The one thing he had going was that he seemed to love Kandace and I appreciated that he handled her well if she got moody. And honestly, over time, I became fond of him. I certainly never suspected that he'd do what he did. Whatever my feelings, I was hoodwinked by the illusion that he and Kandace loved each other and would one day celebrate a golden anniversary.
They only made it to wood.
Chelsea did come, Ryland had his party, and the rest of the weekend was uneventful. I stayed until Monday, which was the baby's official birthday. Kandace had taken the day off, but wasn't feeling well, so we only went out to get drops for Ryland's eyes and a few odds and ends from Walmart. I had considered staying until Tuesday, as Neil had gone on to Oklahoma on business, but I hit the road Monday afternoon, feeling guilty, but wanting to sleep in my own bed.
Babies do tire you out. I never take naps but I fell asleep on my daughter's sofa on Sunday afternoon, with a cat on my chest and a dog on my feet, watching Despicable Me. I got home Monday and slept for a solid 8 hours. What insomnia?
Not that night anyway.
I do miss the bambino though. He's definitely Thing 1 in my book.
"It was deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and then she clearly understood
if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eye.
Myself I long for love and light,
but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?"
(Leonard Cohen, Joan of Arc)